Wanted: life like Bob Newhart's
July 11, 2007 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Any advice for a couple who are disillusioned with their jobs and want to become innkeepers?

Have you left the rat race to become innkeepers and failed? Have you been successful? What resources did you need? What resources did you wish you had? How about suggestions for locations? I have found innkeeping/hotel management courses and anecdotal info online, but I'm also looking for personal experience.

We already know we won't make a lot of money; we're prepared for the scaling back of our lives. We don't want anything too big, nor too small. Ideally, we want this.

Or maybe there are similar jobs that we should explore -- something that makes us feel less like cogs in a widget-producing machine and more like human beings creating experiences for ourselves and positively impacting on others?

He loves the rural life and wants to be his own boss. I like to be around people. We have no children, but plan to.
posted by parilous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've not done it personally, but have spoken with some folks who do this for a living. If you run an inn you should expect it to take up most if not all of your waking hours, unless you can afford to hire help. The only way to lower your time commitment would mean empty rooms, which translates to no income. Also be aware that if you can ever afford a vacation yourself, you will have to take it during the off season. Not much of a roadblock except that when you have kids, your available vacation time likely won't jive with school vacations.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:57 AM on July 11, 2007

Try this before you ditch your jobs. Use your vacation time to run an inn for a couple that hasn't been able to go on vacation for years. If you volunteer to do this for free you can probably find someone to take you up on the offer.
posted by yohko at 11:10 AM on July 11, 2007

Family friends run this lovely place. In fact, they built it specifically for their B&B. They should be a great source of information and are very friendly.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:23 PM on July 11, 2007

No specific advice but remember the "grass is greener" theory applies here. No to dissuade you from pursuiting your dreams but remember every time you've come across difficult demanding people...those will be people that you will have to deal with in your new job.
posted by mmascolino at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2007

You'll want to check out Innsitting.com, which would allow you to do exactly what yohko suggested.

My aunt (dental hygienist) and uncle (public school teacher) were innsitters for a lovely B & B in the Shenandoah Valley. They did it a few times, but my aunt found it to be exhausting. Their days were spent cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. Some people were really nice, while others were snobbish and demanding. And many others just want to be left alone.
posted by kimdog at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2007

My parents have known a couple of couples who've gone the B&B route, but neither couple lasted more than ten years at it. One divorced. Anecdotal, just sayin'.

You should already know that you like to do all the stuff kimdog mentions, as well as landlord-type maintenance such as unclogging toilets, as well as networking and advertising and so forth. You should make sure that you like where you're moving to -- that it has all the stuff that makes you feel fulfilled outside the innkeeping aspect. You're an inveterate nature photographer buying a B&B in the Rockies, for instance.

It's possible to do this without, but a lot of B&Bs are ornate 19th century mansions and you would want some experience with restoration and remodeling, which are difficult enough to do for yourself.
posted by dhartung at 2:08 PM on July 11, 2007

My parents used to know a couple who ran a beautiful inn on Martha's Vineyard. We all got stuck inside once during a hurricane and spent the afternoon discussing what it's like to be an innkeeper. The woman loved her inn, but she found it frustrating that some of the patrons had little respect for the place they were staying. In other words, some people enjoyed the inn because it was charming and full of antiques and art, but others were loud and rude and didn't treat her stuff with care. They had a couple of chambermaids, but were still never very able to take time off during the in-season. I think they enjoyed having an inn, but didn't always enjoy being innkeepers. They sold the inn and moved to Maine.

I think my mother was entertaining the idea of being an innkeeper until she realized other people would be having sex on her sheets.
posted by hsoltz at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2007

Unfortunately, Bob Newhart was never really an innkeeper--it was all merely a dream .
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 2:56 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

As for locations, if you want a quirky, liberal, rural town with beautiful scenery and the nicest people you'll ever meet, try Eureka Springs. They have old victorian bed and breakfasts for sale all the time.
posted by Ugh at 3:36 PM on July 11, 2007

What most people crave is a measure of freedom combined with total control over their own lives. Running an inn combines all the hassles and headaches of a small business with the endless fun that is working in the service industry. Plus it depends on other people [customers]... and those other people are factors outside your control. This may be a recipe for suck...

Have you ever worked in the service industry? Because it is going to be just like that, don't kid yourself. Only worse, because those times when someone asked for a manager and you happily handed them off? Those times are over. You are the manager. Not just that, you aren't a manager enforcing some corporate policy... you are the owner, it's your policy!! You'll be dealing with people and while most people are interesting and even fun most of the time, you just won't be able to please a lot of them.

Try to catch re-runs of Tori & Dean Inn Love on cable. It's ostensibly about Tori Spelling, but for your purposes it's about people running an inn-- something they thought they wanted.

The one scenario that can work, is to own and run something like the Dragonfly Inn on Gilmore Girls. It's a manageable size, but you don't live there and you have a staff. But even that should only be done if you have hotel experience and marketing experience.

If you guys really want to do this, don't just innsit, though I think that is also a wise idea... get a job at the front desk of a motel or small hotel. Not a full-service place, someplace where front desk handles almost everything. I can't begin to stress how unprepared you will be if you do not have this experience for at least 3 months.

They have old victorian bed and breakfasts for sale all the time.

I feel that the above observation from Ugh inadvertently proves the point :)

I saw a book a the library about places to live for telecommuting/ entrepreneurship and it may be relevant for you. Here is their list of places to live cheap. I'd say pick a town with a college-- those towns rarely die because they stay young, they stay more cosmopolitan, and you'll have a steady stream of business throughout the year. I was thinking specifically of Grinnell, but I'm sure there are lots of others that fit the bill. You may also want to look for places along established long-distance bike or hiking trails... those often get used by foreign tourists and a particular sort of US tourist which may help you self-select your clientèle. Whatever you do... try to self-select your clientele, my advice is generally to steer clear of families with small children and rich people, but your preference will vary.

I don't mean to be negative. But I long for a rural lifestyle where I can be my own boss and I enjoy people, but I've worked in a lot of hotels so I just have warning bells. This may be a good choice for you, but do your homework-- not just about how to make the business work but about what combination of things in your work really make you happy.
posted by Mozzie at 6:18 PM on July 12, 2007

Thanks Mozzie, Kimdog, and others. Lots of food for thought in this thread.
posted by parilous at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2007

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