Learn how to live off the grid at LogHaven B&B during a getaway in Huron National Forest

March 2nd, 2017 by Sandy White

Learn more about alternative energy while staying off the grid at LogHaven B&B, situated on 80 acres just north of West Branch.

Though you’ll experience life off the grid at LogHaven B&B, you’ll find that this #MichBnB offers all the comforts and conveniences that guests expect. No hardships here.

Paul and Gail Gotter didn’t know much about alternative energy before deciding to trade their suburban Chicago life for the rural charm of property that had been in Gail’s family for four generations.

They made plans for a large log home, but the power company’s quote of

Breakfast table at LogHaven B&B

Guests will experience life off the grid at LogHaven B&B, but will find all the comforts and conveniences they expect.

$78,000 to bring electricity to the property was initially a setback.

“That’s what brought us to alternative energy,” Paul says. “We didn’t start out to be tree huggers.”

Using what the Gotters have learned in the process of building an alternative energy system, Paul developed and periodically presents a one-day seminar called “A Basic Introduction to Alternative Energy.”

Alternative energy course is not overly technical

“I’m not an electrician. I’m not an electrical engineer,” says Paul. His background in sales will be an advantage for most attendees: less ohms and amperes; instead, a more basic education, which a good salesperson excels at delivering.

Coming into the session, “if you don’t know what questions to ask about alternative energy, that’s a good sign,” Paul says. “For most of our purchasing life — buying a car, for example — we know what questions to

Paul Gotter

Learn what Paul Gotter learned about alternative energy in his one-day course.

ask. On the topic of building an alternative energy system suitable for a home or small business, most people don’t know the first question to ask. That was our experience, anyway.”

Paul will hold the seminar for as few as two people and as many as 10. It costs $125 per person and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a lunch included. Most attendees combine it with a stay at the B&B. Spouses are encouraged to attend, and a discounted price of $200 for two is offered. “It’s important that both spouses understand and agree about this” if they’re going to attempt it, Paul says.

The one-day session would appeal to:

  • People who are curious by nature. “They have no intention of acting on this but want to learn more.”
  • People who have or want to build a cabin up north or on rural acreage but available power is a long way away.
  • People who want to live as independently as possible and reduce their dependence on any type of outside suppliers.

Wind and solar energy power life at LogHaven

LogHaven B&B relies on a combination of wind and solar energy to charge the batteries that provide electricity to the house. The Gotters also have a back-up propane generator for times when wind and solar aren’t doing their jobs.

Off-grid living requires few life-style changes, but the couple follow two

Solar panels off the grid at LogHaven

One-day course will show you how wind energy and solar panels — silently doing their job adjacent to one of LogHaven’s long porches — can reduce reliance on the power grid.

common-sense conservation measures that are applicable anywhere:

  • Turn things off when not in use.
  • Use a power strip to cut the power to computers and other electrical items when not in use because, otherwise, it’s still drawing power.

Gail said in a TV interview: “You don’t have to live off-grid to be energy-conscious.” For the Gotters, “it’s just part of life. It’s not anything that we even think about anymore.”

Opening a B&B was an idea born of conversations with friends while porch-sitting after the house was built. With a porch that extends around most of the multi-gabled house and that offers views of passing wildlife and unpolluted night skies, LogHaven practically demands some porch-sitting time of guests. The family-friendly and pet-friendly B&B offers three guest rooms.

In addition to the availability of Paul’s alternative energy workshop, favorite activities of people who stay off the grid at LogHaven B&B include visiting local wineries, cross-country skiing, antiquing, canoeing/rafting on the Au Sable River, visiting Amish country, golfing, bird watching, and hiking in the Huron National Forest. Guests are also invited to bring their own horses for trail riding. A barn and pasture are available.

Contact Paul or Gail Gotter through their website or call 989-685-3527.

The road from academia to innkeeping on a big scale: An interview with the owner of The Hotel Saugatuck

January 24th, 2017 by Sandy White

Al Heminger, owner of The Hotel Saugatuck B&B, was interviewed by Sandy White for the Michigan B&B Association in November 2016, a few weeks after he opened Saugatuck’s newest bed and breakfast.

Not two years after acquiring the Huron House B&B in Oscoda with 14 rooms, you buy the old Twin Gables Inn and transform it into The Hotel Saugatuck B&B with 18 rooms. Most B&B owners confine themselves to a much smaller set of rooms in one house in one town.

Go big or go home?

What led you to become a bi-coastal B&B owner with 32 rooms?

Four, five, six years ago, I started thinking seriously about becoming more entrepreneurial. Everyone has a window of opportunity to do something

Al Heminger in front of a cottage on the property of Hotel Saugatuck.

Al Heminger stands in front of one of three bungalows that were turned into duplex cottage suites, each with king beds, fireplaces, jetted tubs and large custom showers.

different with their life, and you don’t know quite when that window will open and when it will close. My wife Karrie and I knew if we didn’t strike out and do this, we’d always look back and say ‘what if?’ I do want to acknowledge that she and I are partners in the business, although she’s primarily focused on our three children. (From 2 years to 8 years old.) Also, my brother Tim, who is a engineer for Norfolk Southern, is an investor in The Hotel Saugatuck.

Had you worked in the hospitality business?

Not at all. When we bought the Huron House, I left a job as director of admissions at Howe Military Academy, a college preparatory co-ed boarding school in Indiana. I had also served as head football coach there.

Huron House led to Hotel Saugatuck

Is it fair to say your work at the military school did not prepare you for decisions about thread count?

True. But I had begun to develop ideas about the kind of accommodations Michigan needed more of. High quality but not pretentious. Appeal to the senses with jetted tubs, fireplaces, decorator touches and evening dessert delivered to your room. A lodging experience more personal and individualized than a hotel, but more private than smaller B&Bs can offer. Neither Huron House nor The Hotel Saugatuck offers much in the way of common areas. Breakfast is room-delivered at the time of your choice. Couples can choose whether to strike up a conversation with other guests or to remain in their own little world.

What led you to buy Huron House?

We looked first at the old Twin Gables Inn in Saugatuck, but the foreclosure process needed to play out. Meanwhile, the owners of Huron House

Hotel Saugatuck exterior in fall.

Click this photo showing two of the three bungalows to see a short video of The Hotel Saugatuck Bed & Breakfast’s exterior.

had cultivated it as a romantic getaway destination on the beach in Oscoda, and it was for sale. We thought it had a lot of upside potential, and that has proven to be the case. We refreshed and remodeled, improved the food, got some great photography, and reached out via the Web. More and more new people are discovering it year-round. Many guests return again and again.

How has the experience of creating The Hotel Saugatuck been different?

Much more extensive. When we closed on the sale in November 2015, the place had sat vacant for three years. Some of its structural and deferred-maintenance issues went back many decades. Five Dumpsters worth of trash came out of the basement of the main building. We had a Bobcat running back and forth underneath the middle cottage to shore up the foundation. It would have been cheaper to bulldoze and start anew.

Everything old was made new again

I see no evidence that this building dates to 1865.

We updated every system, installed new windows, and recovered, repainted, rebuilt or replaced almost every surface. Twelve suites were created here (the main building). The three cottages, which were built in the 1920s, became duplex bungalows with porches. All 18 suites of The Hotel Saugatuck have king beds and all-season fireplaces. In addition to a

Twin Gables room at Hotel Saugatuck

Designer touches abound at The Hotel Saugatuck. This is the Twin Gables room.

jetted tub, each has a tiled shower with rain shower head and body sprays. With an eye to sustainability, our renovation has followed the path to LEED certification, although we have not sought to be recognized for our “green building” practices.

A lot of the art on the walls reveals the past lives of this property.

We had wonderful assistance from the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society and the library. And for authenticity we also may have preserved a couple creaks in the floor.

You can’t be in both Saugatuck and Oscoda at the same time.

Talented innkeepers are in charge at each place. I spend most of my days working on operations, processes, quality improvement, and marketing. On those occasions that I interact with guests, if they ask what I do here, I tell them I’m the guy who pays the mortgage.

Going on four years after you got into the B&B business, how do you like working for yourself?

Every day is different, and I like that a lot. But I’m not working for myself. I’m working for every guest who comes through our door. All of us are.

What says ‘Valentine’s getaway’ to you? Candles, hot tub, wine, chocolate-covered strawberries? B&Bs really get it

January 19th, 2017 by Sandy White

Are you looking for a romantic Valentine’s getaway? It’s difficult to find a more ideal backdrop than a Michigan B&B — classy, intimate, cozy, private. And some of our #MichBnB innkeepers are going all out this year to help you make it a truly memorable occasion.

First, resolve to shake up that old, obligatory go-out-to-dinner routine. Spirit your beloved away for a night or two. Pack a bag and hide it in the trunk. Arrange for a sitter. Call his or her boss to conspire about time off.

Now, THAT is true love. THAT is the kind of romantic stealth maneuver that will be brag-worthy on social media.

Next, having decided to go big, decide where to go. You’ll find about three-dozen specials and packages offered by B&Bs all over Michigan’s Lower

Chocolate-covered strawberries

Lush strawberries dipped in dark chocolate are a Valentine’s getaway staple available at many Michigan B&Bs.

Peninsula on these two pages: Look here for Valentine’s getaway ideas. But look here, too, for romantic getaway ideas that extend beyond Valentine’s Day.

Some innkeepers have devised convenient packages of amenities you can add to any room reservation. Some are including, at no extra charge, desirable add-ons like chocolate-covered strawberries or flowers or late checkouts. Here are two examples of some particularly generous all-inclusive offers:

  • Ginkgo Tree Inn, Mt. Pleasant:  Book a night Feb. 10-19, get a five-course dinner with chateaubriand and lobster, plus a half-dozen roses, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of sparkling wine.
  • Seymour House, South Haven:  Choose a two-night stay on the weekend before or after Valentine’s Day, and you’ll get a flower arrangement, truffles, plus an invitation to join innkeepers Mike and Patty for a Saturday late afternoon reception.

A few inns offer Valentine’s getaway discounts

Here are a couple examples of inns offering plain ol’ discounts, and who doesn’t appreciate that:

  • House on the Hill B&B, Ellsworth, just finished renovating all its rooms and wants to get some good word-of-mouth about the changes, so they’ve marked down all rooms except one to $149 per night Feb. 10-20. After your three-course breakfast, go snowshoeing on their 53 acres.
  • Knob Hill B&B, Flint, is dangling a 20 percent discount on a Feb. 14 stay. And 35 percent off overall if you stay a second night.

Some people can’t get away on Valentine’s Day itself, especially when it falls in the middle of a work week. Others wish to avoid crowded

Valentine's Day flower arrangement

Most innkeepers will be happy to order a flower arrangement to delight your beloved for any occasion. Just ask.

restaurants on Feb. 14. Fortunately, some B&Bs take a longer view. Two examples:

  • At Maple Cove B&B in Leonard, the innkeepers have declared all of February as the “month of romance” and each weekend will include different extras  in the regular price of a two-night stay. For Feb. 10-11, what they promise is pure poetry: “Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ll have flowers and bubbly waiting for you.” Leonard is a Metro Detroit suburb near Rochester and Oxford.
  • At Munro House B&B and Spa in Jonesville, book their “One Night Stand” package between now and May 1 for $70 in addition to the cost of the room. You’ll get dinner for two at Olivia’s Chop House (recently cited as one of the state’s best) and two passes to a local movie theater. Now, that’s a date.

The point is that some of Michigan’s best innkeepers have assembled an enticing array of options for a Valentine’s getaway. What sounds good to you? Check here. And here. You really can’t go wrong.

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Memo to overburdened organizers: Delight your group with a B&B event

December 22nd, 2016 by Sandy White

Meeting rooms are sterile, rental halls either airless or drafty, so next time why not plan a B&B event?

Share this with all those sainted people blessed with organizational abilities who always take on — or get stuck with — the task of organizing the next networking meetup, luncheon, retreat, or shower.

Instead of that same old conference room or back room at a restaurant,

Holiday table setting at Farmhouse B&B

Touches of green and red were incorporated in a holiday luncheon menu at Farmhouse B&B: organic greens with pomegranate; penne with a tomato cream sauce; herbed chicken. and cheesecake with wild blueberry or garden strawberry compote.

solve your venue dilemma and delight your attendees with a B&B event.

Our #MichBnB innkeepers will match your gift for organization with their gift for hospitality. All possess a passion for cleanliness and the comfort of guests. Most are detail-oriented. Some decorate spectacularly for holidays. Some are wonderful cooks and will enjoy the challenge of a luncheon or cocktail party. Others will open their kitchens to a caterer.

Many innkeepers enjoy hosting a B&B event

You’ll find that many a bed and breakfast that closes for the winter will open up to welcome a local group. It’s a perfect win-win. You get charming space for your meeting. The innkeeper gets the probability of future referrals from the guests you bring. And no overnight guests will be made jealous by the sight of a buffet table of which they’re not invited to partake.

You’ll need to plan way ahead for an event at Stone Chalet B&B Inn & Event Center in Ann Arbor on a University of Michigan football Saturday. Or at Antiquities’ Wellington Inn in Traverse City during the Cherry Festival. Or at Presque Isle Lodge in Northeast Lower Michigan during beach season. Or at Saravilla B&B in Alma on a parents weekend at Alma College.

Cranberries and pomegranate seeds add color to table setting

Innkeeper used cranberries and pomegranate seeds to provide sophistication and pops of color at a luncheon for 30 at her B&B in Gladstone.

All of these B&Bs offer ample space for group events and meetings. Check them out by clicking their names.

But many others can accommodate indoor or outdoor events more spontaneously. Explore your options at laketolake.com.

These elegant and Pinterest-worthy photos by innkeeper Renee Richer depict a holiday luncheon for 30 she hosted for the local Chamber of Commerce. (Read here about her Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast, surrounded by 300 acres of fields and forests near Gladstone and Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula. It will make you want to stay there at any time of year.) Renee may be a Harvard-educated biological sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette, but clearly she’s an inspired hostess and cook as well.

Innkeepers so often bring that sort of intriguing combination of talents and knowledge to what they do. It’s just one more reason to book a B&B event.

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Giving a Michigan bed and breakfast gift certificate? How to make it more surprising, clever, and fun

November 28th, 2016 by Sandy White

More people these days want experiences, not things, which is why several people on my list are getting a Michigan bed and breakfast gift certificate this year.

Disguised in a tie box, a bed and breakfast gift certificate

Disguised in a tie box decorated with a questionable tie, he’ll find instead a Michigan bed and breakfast gift certificate and a sweet note about a romantic getaway I’ve planned. Tons more fun than a tie.

It’s so easy to do — just fill out a form or make a call (888-575-1610)— but I do want to put some creative thought into presenting my gifts. Even a touch of my own quirky humor. When you give a gift certificate, don’t you want it to be memorable?

Handing over an envelope can seem so impersonal. I want my recipients to know that I picked out a #MichBnB gift certificate for them because I want them to have more adventure in their lives, or more romance, or more relaxation. That’s why opening my gift will be their first step on the way to having fun.

How to package a bed and breakfast gift certificate

Construction-themed eating utensils for baby.

More fun to open: Clever eating utensils for baby, manufactured in Ann Arbor, will be packaged with the B&B gift certificate for the expectant couple.

A couple of Millennials we know are expecting their first child in mid-June. We’re throwing in with several friends to get the expectant parents a bed and breakfast gift certificate so they can have a getaway before the baby comes. Babymoons, usually taken in the third trimester, have become so popular that many Michigan B&Bs cater to the needs and whims of expectant moms and dads, like these found in a search for “babymoons.”

When I give a bed and breakfast gift certificate, or any other kind of gift card, I usually add a lagniappe, a French word (pronounced “lan YAP”) that means “a little something extra.” It’s a way of personalizing the gift and amping up the thoughtfulness.

When they open the package, they’ll see a gift for the baby — something to ooh and ahh over — and then taped behind it, they’ll find the real surprise: their ticket to a romantic getaway.

They aren’t required to use it before the baby comes either because — did you know this? — by state law, a gift certificate purchased in Michigan cannot expire for five years. And they’ll have so many options for using their bed and breakfast gift certificate almost anywhere they want to go in Michigan. Go ahead, pick a city.

If you dare, have a little fun at the recipient’s expense

Do you see that package up above festooned with the hideous tie? I’m going to stick that on the Christmas tree a few days before we open presents.

He’ll be praying that the tie inside is decent. He’ll be practicing his “grateful” face.

A packaged apron with an image of a dog with goggles and skis

When you look at this apron from the right perspective, it practically screams, “Let’s take a winter B&B getaway.”

But there’s no tie inside, just the gift certificate, and I know he’ll enjoy telling friends about the tie he didn’t get for Christmas.

How about you? Does the woman in your life have a sense of humor? The woman who’s getting the Michigan B&B Association gift certificate that will solve your gift-giving dilemma?

If so, I have a spare idea for you: In a gorgeously wrapped package, hide the gift certificate under, say, an apron like the one in this photo, or some humble kitchen gadget. A box grater will do nicely. I don’t recommend choosing a chef’s knife for this diversionary duty because as soon as she opens the package, her eyes WILL narrow to slits. You WILL get “the look.” And if she’s holding a knife, the photo could be misinterpreted on social media.

But she’ll shriek with laughter when she opens the gift certificate envelope. And you’ll be the darling one who teased and pleased her and, one day soon, will whisk her away for a romantic B&B adventure.

Order your gift certificate now. No time like the present.



Got the B&B dream? 11 essential tips for aspiring innkeepers — plus a time-sensitive invitation

November 7th, 2016 by Sandy White

What can you expect if your B&B dream comes true and — on some exciting future day — you finally become an innkeeper? We asked some of the most experienced #MichBnB innkeepers to share some things they’ve learned about operating a bed and breakfast.

Let’s start with Janet Meteer, of Bridgewalk B&B in Central Lake. She offered a succinct overview of the innkeeping life: “Plan to work hard. Innkeeping is so much fun, all the great people, conversations at breakfast

Breakfast served at Bear Lake B&B is the stuff of B&B dreams.

Long after serving delicious breakfasts like this, the owners of Bear Lake B&B retain memories of interesting guests, thanks to a system they devised.

and friendships that are made with your guests and the guests with each other sometimes. The flip side is cleaning, cooking, making beds, ironing sheets. And, my worst job, paperwork. However, after almost 23 years, I would do it all again.”

You heard her: She “would do it all again.” All of the following innkeepers would say the same. Each B&B name is a link. Click to read more about these great places to stay, where you can observe how first-rate innkeepers make hospitality look effortless.

Want to immerse yourself in building a solid foundation for your B&B dream? Register for a one-day workshop for aspiring innkeepers, Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids. It’s organized by the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association (MBBA). Click here for details.

Prepare now for launching your B&B dream

Did you realize that B&B innkeeping entails almost every activity common to any business? Marketing, sales, accounting, procurement, and more. Here are 10 more tips from Michigan innkeepers.

Promote, sell, repeat: “Make sure you budget enough money for promotion. Many new innkeepers miss this. ‘If you build it, they will come’ only works in the movies.” Jeff & Linda Gamble, long-time owners of Big Bay Point Lighthouse B&B, in Big Bay, in the Upper Peninsula.

Jan Leksich, innkeeper, Victoria Resort

Jan Leksich, Victoria Resort B&B: “Expect adventure.”

Marketing methods evolve: “Be open-minded about the latest ways to market. Learn the meaning and practice of ‘search engine optimization.’ Social media will be your best friend. Soak in as many webinars as you can on the subject.” Marci Palajac, of House on the Hill B&B in Ellsworth, joined MBBA’s Social Media Committee, where innkeepers learn from and inspire each other.

Set up systems: “Research and compare credit card processing and reservation systems, so you get exactly what you need. If you do not need a terminal for credit cards, as I do not, then don’t be talked into one.” Marcia Neigebauer, Delano Mansion Inn B&B, Allegan.

Make it memorable: “We have a notebook labeled ‘Interesting People.’ We enter names and bits of info we find interesting about each guest. It is fun to go back during a slower time and remember all the people we’ve met. Take time to enjoy your guests, and do small little things for them before they ask.” Cindi McPherson, Bear Lake B&B, Bear Lake.

Set boundaries: “Develop policies and stick with them. Obviously, there are times you will want to be flexible, caring and forgiving. But for the most

Sandy & Matt Werner realized their B&B dream

Sandy Werner and Matt Werner, Hexagon House. Be businesslike in setting and following policies, Sandy advises.

part, set your policies for cancellation, check-in times, number of guests per room, etc., and enforce them. Otherwise, the guests are running your business and your life instead of you.” Sandy Werner, owner/innkeeper, Hexagon House B&B, Pentwater.

Get backup: “Have a good four to six people that you train ahead of time in the running of your B&B — people who are willing and able to fill in. You WILL need breaks, vacations, and times to visit family. You need a back-up team. Develop a manual that explains every detail as to how you want your B&B to operate.” Sally Van Vleck, Neahtawanta Inn, on Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.

B&B dream = lifestyle + business + adventure

On money, lifestyle, and attitude: Three bits of wisdom from longtime innkeeper Mike Venturini, Munro House B&B and Spa, in Jonesville: “1) I do not want my inn to be full every day for months on end. It interferes with my lifestyle. 2) A reliable housekeeper is my second-highest monthly bill after my mortgage and is the one bill I am always happy to pay. 3) A good mood is just as contagious as a bad mood.”

On the life: “Expect a new adventure everyday, and experience meeting lots of new people and making new friends.” Jan Leksich, Victoria Resort B&B, South Haven.

Future innkeepers, even if you cannot attend the upcoming one-day workshop, consider joining MBBA as an aspiring member so you can keep up with the latest news and opportunities. How to join? Just click.

Bad B&B dream, or shocking Halloween story, complete with cat? Travel industry pro tells all

October 29th, 2016 by Sandy White

Was it just a nightmare she had during a dark and sleepless night, or is this Halloween story about a REAL bed and breakfast? You decide. I’ll tell it just as this travel industry pro relayed it to me, around a campfire, while clutching a glass of wine.

Okay, it was a photo of a campfire. On Instagram. But the wine was real, a pinot noir.

Drawing of black cat with back arched

Her husband’s reaction to seeing “the coffin” in their bathroom at the B&B.

Panic set in, she told me — after hours on the interstate and winding mountain roads —when her husband walked into their ensuite bathroom and spied “the coffin.”

Just then, she veered, as good storytellers are wont to do, to assure me that the horrors she was about to describe could never happen at a #MichBnB member inn. “From what I’ve experienced, it is more than meeting quality assurance standards and passing inspections that make MBBA B&Bs the best,” she said. (Why choose a quality-assured B&B? Click here.)

Eager though I was for her to get on with the story, I hung on to every word, suddenly remembering my deadline for this page.

She continued: “I have memories of poached pears, warm scones, vegetables from the garden and all the fabulous breakfast dishes your members serve. Your innkeepers care about being among the best and want to outdo each other in the friendliest kind of way.”

I was lapping that up, of course, and she, evidently, her wine. I refilled her glass.

They contemplated a detour to the ER

Okay, it wasn’t really a coffin, she said, but resembled one. Shoehorned into a one-time closet was a deep, imposing whirlpool tub. Her husband arched his brow.

She recalled the scene. “It was the only means of bathing. The walls went straight up on three sides. No grab bars, no non-slip mat. No tile either, just drywall. One was expected to maneuver over the lip of the tub on the narrow side. My husband, with his hip replacement, and I stood there contemplating a vacation-ending detour to the ER.”

She added, “Never in my life have I gone three days without showering.”

Trepidation mounted not long after the sun went down, as the innkeeper turned off all the lights in the common areas, turning what had seemed like

black cat with unblinking yellow eyes

Gray cat, black cat — let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good Halloween story.

a well-cared-for Victorian home into a creepy one. (As befits a Halloween story, I was thinking.)

Though unsettled by the pitch-blackness, our weary travelers wanted only a long night of sleep. But their delight with the feel of lovely bed linens evaporated when they climbed onto the mattress. “World’s worst bed,” proclaimed this travel industry pro. “It made loud and raucous noise getting in, getting out and turning over, When one of us turned over, the other woke up. That’s how much the bed rocked and shook and slammed into the headboard.”

An innkeeper who swore like a sailor

Did you complain, I asked. Have a little tete-a-tete with the innkeeper?

“I would not have known what to mention first,” she said.

For example: All drapes drawn, day and night, obscuring spectacular Smoky Mountains views.

Also: An innkeeper who swore like a sailor and plunked herself down at the breakfast table to regale guests with her life story. “We were a captive audience. She never asked a single question of any guest. However, we learned everything about her life, from diapers on.”

But was breakfast otherwise a delight?

“First morning: Eggs like you find in a cafeteria, just lumps, scrambled with no other ingredient. Plus exactly two pieces of bacon per person and a clump of grapes.”

“Second morning, my husband watched her make the casserole. A can of sliced mushrooms, drained. Ditto, a can of green chiles. Then a bag of pre-

In contrast to this Halloween story, a beautiful breakfast as served at Castle in the Country B&B

Fresh, colorful, compelling: What a B&B breakfast should be like, as served at Castle in the Country B&B in Allegan.

shredded hash browns, a bag of pre-shredded cheese, and a shrink-wrapped bag of cubed ham. She did crack the eggs.”

My storyteller digressed again. “I have had simple breakfasts at Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association inns, and I have had elaborate, artistic breakfasts at member bed and breakfasts. But every one of them has been many times better than at this B&B, where, inexplicably, at least 10 culinary awards and certificates adorned the walls.”

And where butter, jams and other condiments all were served in their original store containers, a marked contrast to the cloth napkins and fine bone china at each place. (Want some great B&B recipes? Click here.)

But what about the cat?

The wine was almost gone when I suddenly remembered: “What about the cat? You mentioned a cat. Black cat?” How perfect for a Halloween story, I thought.

“It was gray, a purr-er and a kisser, and would have been cute as heck had it not always been nosing through our luggage, strolling all over the kitchen counters, and drinking from the sink.”

“Okay, but ‘black cat with unblinking yellow eyes’ makes a better Halloween story,” I said. “Have some more wine. And never tell me how much of this tale was true.”

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Before you open a bed and breakfast, 8 must-read tips from innkeepers

October 23rd, 2016 by Sandy White

If you know people whose dream is to open a bed and breakfast, help them make their big decision and avoid failure. Show them the following tips from savvy Michigan B&B innkeepers.

Composite graphic illustrates what's at stake before you open a bed and breakfast

To avoid crashing as a B&B innkeeper, start by attending an informative one-day workshop Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids. Click photo for info.

An operations tip from innkeeper Steve Gibson, who acquired the 10-room Kalamazoo House B&B two years ago: “There are so many moving parts to running an inn that good organization and well-defined tasks and checklists are essential. It may not be an airliner coming in for a landing with lives at stake, but it’s your reputation at stake with every room flip.”

What follows is a small sample of what aspiring innkeepers will learn at an informative one-day workshop in Grand Rapids. Click for details. Mark your calendar for Sunday, Nov. 13.

While you’re clicking, read more about each inn whose innkeeper is quoted. You’re sure to find a great #MichBnB for your next getaway.

Before you open a bed and breakfast…

... here are seven more considerations offered by Michigan B&B Association innkeepers.

Temperament: Innkeepers “must have a friendly personality and be able to communicate with all types of people.” Lourdes Offenbacher, Waterloo Gardens B&B, Chelsea.

Marci Palajac, innkeeper, House on the Hill B&B, Ellsworth

Marci Palajac, innkeeper, House on the Hill B&B, Ellsworth

Motive: “Be sure you are getting into the bed and breakfast business for just that reason: a business. It is a mistake to open a B&B for the sake of people paying your mortgage. You really have to have a passion to want to open a bed and breakfast, or else you will burn out from the idea real quick.” Marci Palajac, House on the Hill B&B, Ellsworth

Starting up: “Look at other B&B websites for ideas on packages, ideas for the website. Use a good photographer for your photos.” Marcia Neigebauer, Delano Mansion Inn B&B, Allegan.

Search is king: “Don’t fall in love with a name for your B&B before securing the internet domain name and searching for the name on Google to see what other search results come up.” Nicholas DeGrazia, Adventure Inn B&B, near Port Huron.

Renovating: “A second-floor laundry will help you to love your work longer. Also, reliable zoned air conditioning is more important than you might think.” Mike Venturini, Munro House B&B and Spa, Jonesville

Income: “Sometimes innkeepers will need supplemental income to help make ends meet.” Bob Alderink, Ludington House B&B, Ludington.

The life: “Expect a new adventure everyday and to experience meeting lots of new people and making new friends. Jan Leksich, Victoria Resort B&B, South Haven.

Experience the B&B difference during your next Michigan getaway. To find a great Michigan B&B, click here.

Meanwhile, keep up with the latest news — and special offers. Click Blog and News to get more…

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Are you a B&B person, or should you choose a hotel? Answer these three questions

October 18th, 2016 by Sandy White

Take this short quiz to know if you should choose a hotel or a bed and breakfast for your next romantic getaway.

Man's and woman's feet sticking out from covers

Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association innkeepers respect your privacy.

1) On a romantic getaway, do the two of you value your privacy at times, or do you require anonymity throughout your stay?

For all-day, all-night anonymity, choose a hotel. Nobody knows you. Nobody will remember you. Nobody cares.

For privacy in a romantic setting, choose a bed and breakfast. True, one of the common definitions of a B&B is “lodging in the home of the innkeeper.” So, yes, you’ll be staying in someone’s home.

But when 94 percent of our #MichBnB member innkeepers list their B&Bs as “suitable for romantic getaways,” do you think those innkeepers care if the two of you seldom leave your room? On the contrary. They want you to enjoy yourselves. B&B innkeepers design their rooms, down to the smallest details, for your comfort, convenience, and delight. You’ll have a more memorable romantic getaway yet plenty of privacy in a bed and breakfast.

You have so many Michigan B&Bs to choose from. Pick a favorite city.

Choose a hotel or B&B? Two more questions

2) When you’re out in public, are you open to, and interested in, meeting and talking to new people? OR, even if you might be somewhat of an introvert, do you often realize that you’ve been energized by a conversation with total strangers?

Bed and breakfast fans don’t choose B&Bs so they can meet new people, but they tend to be open to starting or joining a conversation. Regular B&B goers assume, based on past experience, that those folks out on the patio or across the dining room will have interesting stories and experiences to share. The discovery is part of what’s special about B&Bs.

Choose a hotel if all you want is Cheerios

Is that really your idea of breakfast?

If you’re not open to meeting new people and to being surprised by what you find in common — or, to be fair, perhaps you’re just not in the mood for that— choose a hotel. You can stare at other peoples’ shoes while riding in the elevator.

3) For breakfast, how about some self-serve Cheerios and toaster waffles?

The answer is clear by now: Choose a hotel. Or stay home.

A self-respecting B&B innkeeper, whether serving a full or continental breakfast, finds ways to surprise and tantalize your palate. You might even get flowers, soft music, cloth napkins, and candlelight.

Find your next romantic Michigan B&B getaway, or your first. Click here.

3 tips on B&B location for aspiring innkeepers and 3 tales of “What were they thinking?”

October 11th, 2016 by Sandy White

For people who dream of owning a bed and breakfast, choosing a B&B location is the critical first choice. Innkeepers can change a lot of things after they select and buy a property, from room configuration to decor to breakfast menu. But they can’t change B&B location.

B&B road sign

Are there signs that some B&B locations won’t be successful? At least one veteran innkeeper says yes.

One #MichBnB innkeeper advised succinctly: “‘Build it and they will come’ only works in the movies.” Even if that’s not the exact quote from “Field of Dreams,” the takeaway for an aspiring innkeeper is: Keep the emotion out of choosing a location. Don’t think how much you want to live way out in the country. Don’t focus on how inexpensive the property might be. Don’t romanticize reviving an old house. Instead, ask:  Will sufficient numbers of guests want to pay to stay in that house in that setting and with the attractions nearby (or not)?

No-nonsense advice on choosing a B&B location will be available from Michigan’s two primary inn real estate agents as just one part of a one-day, informative workshop for aspiring innkeepers in Grand Rapids Sunday, Nov. 13. Click here for more info.

While you’re in click mode, check out the four thriving B&Bs mentioned by name below.

B&B location strategies to consider

Gerry Shields, innkeeper at Saravilla Bed and Breakfast in Alma says: “College towns, particularly those with private colleges, are really good for the inn business. Except for perhaps a few slow summer weeks, colleges and universities are always bringing visitors to campus who need a place to stay, and many come back again and again.”

Shields notes one downside to the college-town B&B location strategy:

Failed log home B&B

This failed B&B location in Northwest Michigan is described as Mistake #1 below.

“Don’t plan on a long Florida vacation in January and February because you’ll be busy.”

Remember, too, that although you are serving breakfast, guests also need other meals. You may want to live in the woods, but, as Mike Venturini of Munro House B&B and Spa in Jonesville says, the availability of “good restaurants nearby is one of the greatest amenities guests enjoy.”

B&B location also could affect an innkeeper’s personal job satisfaction. Sandy Werner, owner of Hexagon House B&B in Pentwater asks: “Do family and friends live near you? With elderly parents, siblings, and grown children, it’s tough to maintain relationships and attend personal functions if your extended family is not in the area of your bed and breakfast. It’s been one of our toughest challenges.”

Three B&Bs doomed from the start, and why

As an owner of the Glen Arbor Bed & Breakfast for the past 16 years, Patricia Widmayer often drives between Chicago and Glen Arbor via US 31. Over the years, Widmayer observed the birth and slow deaths of three B&Bs that popped up along that highway in the 60 miles between Ludington and Benzonia.

What primary flaw did all three have in common? Bad location. “I felt so

Nice home that failed as a B&B

Failed B&B location in Northwest Michigan described below as Mistake #2.

sad for these folks who invested hopes and dreams and money,” Widmayer says.

Widmayer took photos of all three in case she ever had the opportunity to advise an aspiring innkeeper.

Mistake #1: A log home built to be a B&B.
Major flaw: Five or six miles west, Ludington offers wonderful Victorian B&Bs with nearby experiences, and places to dine, so why would someone stay in a field along the highway two miles north of the turnoff from US 10, and near to nothing?
Wrong thinking: With all the lovely lakes in Northwest Michigan, did the owners really think the pond behind the house would be a draw?
Kiss of death: The portable, lighted-arrow sign at the road.

Mistake #2: An expensive new structure with stone pillars
Major flaw: A roadside location one mile north of Manistee’s Little River Casino and several miles north of town.
Wrong thinking: Why would travelers prefer this isolated, though lovely,

Failed B&B location.

This ranch house B&B location is described below as Mistake #3.

home over casino resort excitement or the charms of waterfront condos, B&Bs, and other accommodations in Manistee?
Kiss of death: Traffic whizzing by at 60 mph.

Mistake #3: A ranch house on a rise
Major flaws: Bleak views of U.S. 31, treeless fields, and a long-abandoned gas station where semis park. Also, to find a restaurant, guests would have to drive a number of miles to Bear Lake or back to Manistee.
Wrong thinking: Who wants to stay at a place reminiscent of a motel, absent any other attraction?

In conclusion, aspiring B&B innkeepers will learn vital, money-saving strategies and tips at the one-day workshop Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids. Click for details. Even more useful, timely information will be available for those who stay an additional day and a half for the annual Michigan Bed & Breakfast Association educational conference. Click on that, too.

If you know someone who dreams of owning a B&B, please share this post and also make sure they also know about this page of Michigan B&Bs for sale.

In addition to the useful, sometimes entertaining news we publish about staying at Michigan B&Bs, we also plan more articles with valuable information for aspiring innkeepers. You don’t want to miss it. Click this icon to get all the updates.

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