Archive for the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ Category

From Aspiring to Innkeeper

September 18th, 2017 by linda

Is it time for you to go from Aspiring to Innkeeper? Are you happiest doing what makes someone else smile — like pampering them, cooking your favorite recipe for them, making sure their bed is covered with the finest linens or brightening their room with fresh-cut flowers? If that’s you, MBBA can help turn you from an aspiring innkeeper into a full-fledged bed and breakfast owner/operator. MBBA is offering the only 2017 “how to” workshop in all of Michigan on November 5.

Aspiring innkeepers need to get there.

An aspiring innkeeper needs to understand that as charming as it may be to entertain, show off your decor and dazzle guests, true hospitality is an industry. Innkeeping is a business that requires a range of knowledge from bookkeeping to stain removal. It requires knowing how to cook for a variety of appetites and diets in the span of a single meal. It requires marketing skills. And marketing involves understanding websites and search-engine optimization, writing newsletters, posting on social media, creating blogs…. it can seem endless.

Here’s how Debi went from aspiring to innkeeper.

Debi went from aspiring to innkeeper by studying with MBBA for 6 years while renovating her B&B.

Debi Hillebrand, Innkeeper
The Lewis House, Whitehall

“People always ask if I “knew what I was getting into” now that I’m in my third year as owner-innkeeper of The Lewis House. Actually, I did. I became an “aspiring innkeeper” member of MBBA and started attending the workshops and annual conferences long before we opened our doors.

“Not only did I learn the nuts and bolts of running my own inn, I gained a whole group of mentors who are just a phone call or email away when I need advice. MBBA members have a vast knowledge of innkeeping and a sincere willingness to share. I can’t imagine trying to start my inn without having taken advantage of that!”

Kim goes from aspiring to innkeeper by “shadowing.”

Kim is going from aspiring to innkeeper by job shadowing as part of learning the B&B ropes.

Kim prepared individual Dutch Babies for each guest when she job shadowed the innkeepers at Adventure Inn Bed and Breakfast.

Kim Brown and her husband, a disabled vet, have six children all in or out of high school. So she’s planning her next chapter. She’s learning to be an innkeeper and will be an eager workshop attendee on November 5. She’s also “shadowing” an MBBA-member innkeeper, learning on-the-job. Between shadowing and opening her own B&B, Kim plans to work as an “inn-sitter ” — an interim innkeeper that spells full-time innkeepers who encounter emergencies that require them elsewhere or who just need to get away.

Over Labor Day weekend, Kim ran the show at Adventure Inn B&B, on the Lake Huron shore just north of Port Huron. Long after the guests had departed, Kim kept on with laundry, turning over rooms and ironing napkins for the next guests. Her motto: “An interim innkeeper should work so the innkeeper can come home refreshed, renewed and with no worries.”

If you aspire to be an innkeeper, join us as a member – and/or

Michigan’s only aspiring innkeeper workshop:
Dream ‘Inn: A Journey to Innkeeping
November 5, 2017
11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (includes lunch)
Doubletree by Hilton Inn, Grand Rapids
Learn the ABC’s from veteran innkeepers:
A =  Advertising, Attitudes and Ambiance
B =  Breakfast, Beds, Buying Products and Best Practices
C =  Cleanliness, Comfort, Clutter(free) and Coping
Plus!
Join us Sunday evening to celebrate 30 years of innkeeping in Michigan!
Plus!

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.

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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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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5-star reviews: What B&B innkeepers will do to wow you

September 12th, 2016 by Sandy White

How do Michigan bed and breakfasts with 5-star reviews earn all those 5-star reviews?

Dave from Midland, MI, says the innkeepers are the key ingredient. In a TripAdvisor review about the Chelsea House Victorian Inn in Chelsea, Dave wrote: “We have stayed an a number of B&Bs over the past years. It has been our experience that the quality of the hosts makes all the difference in how much we enjoy being at a particular B&B.”

For innkeepers who have the hospitality gene, the ways they cater to guests are, to them, so effortless that they don’t realize they’re doing anything unusual. But guests notice, even the small things. A couple examples:

Mike Venturini of Munro House B&B, which gets a lot of 5-star reviews

Mike Venturini at the front door of Munro House B&B, Jonesville. No matter what the hour, he’s wearing a smile and a University of Michigan shirt.

  • At Munro House B&B in Jonesville, no matter how late you need to arrive, owner Mike Venturini opens the front door with a smile. And then, by 6 or 7 a.m., he’ll be in the kitchen making a full breakfast. Mike’s cheerful attitude: “Guests come first, no matter how much it may inconvenience the proprietors.”
  • When a prospective guest called Frankenmuth B&B asking how to get from Flint’s Bishop International Airport to Frankenmuth, long-time innkeeper Bev Bender didn’t hesitate. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Tell me when your flight gets in, and I’ll pick you up.” Thirty miles one way. To Bev, it is just part of the service.

How to find a Michigan B&B with 5-star reviews

Search this site first because all Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association (MBBA) member inn are periodically inspected and approved by independent, trained reviewers. And what is MBBA’s promise to guests? That “you can rest assured of quality lodging, warm hospitality, enjoyable breakfasts and an exceptional experience.”

But we know you read online reviews, too. So, if you agree with Dave from Midland that the innkeepers make all the difference, peruse TripAdvisor and other review sites for nuggets like the following, all excerpted from recent published reviews. Click each inn’s name for more info.

The Heather House, Marine City: “One morning the men in our group planned an early round of golf and informed Helen. She insisted on preparing them a delicious, hearty meal and had them out the door on time! This is the kind of attention the innkeepers give their guests.”

Dove Nest B&B, St. Joseph: “We had a flat tire while we were there and John jumped right in to help my husband change the tire.”

More from Dave of Midland about Chelsea House Victorian Inn, Chelsea: When we called to book a room for our 59th wedding anniversary getaway, “Andy asked it we planned to attend the play at the Purple Rose Theater. We said we did. He asked it we had tickets. We did not. Andy then said he would place an order for tickets for us, which he did. Next, he asked if we

sunset over Arcadia Bluffs golf course

The guests had arrived on bicycles, so Bear Lake B&B’s innkeepers drove them to Arcadia Bluffs golf course, so they wouldn’t miss the sunset, complete with bagpiper.

would like to eat at the Common Grill before the play. We said we would like that, so Andy said he would put us on the wait list for 5:30 p.m. on the evening (of) the play. Needless to say, that was quite a favorable introduction to the Chelsea House Victorian Inn!”

‘The wedding fairy’ wowed them

Candlelite Inn B&B, Ludington: “At one point I asked if they had Sprite or 7Up. They didn’t, but within ten minutes, Gary knocked on my door with two 7Ups and stocked the fridge.”

Bear Lake B&B, Bear Lake: “Cindi and Greg … walk the extra mile for their guests. Just like that, they took us to Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club to enjoy a gorgeous sunset. We had traveled on bikes, so this was really an exceptional offer for us, which we did not expect at all.”

Hankerd Inn, Pleasant Lake: The reviewer had rented nine rooms for a wedding, including a cottage where the bride and bridesmaids dressed for the wedding. “You cannot imagine our surprise and delight to return from the reception to find that the wedding fairy had come in while we were gone and straightened up a cottage left in a whirlwind!”

Next time you want to experience a Michigan B&B with 5-star reviews, start your search here. Pick a city. Any city. It would be hard to go wrong.

B&B Beds are Best: Try One on for Size

August 29th, 2016 by linda

As the first “B” in Bed and Breakfast implies, Michigan’s B&B beds are best. They are uniquely luxurious, surrounded at some inns by opulence and at others by simplicity. They are also guaranteed fresh, clean and comfortable if the inns are members of the Michigan Lake to Lake B&B Association. That’s right: they are guaranteed by the association’s promise that each of its members is “Quality Assured.”

Don’t take our word for it: let pictures tell the story.

B&B Beds are Best for Simple Comforts

B&B Beds are best

A Dove Nest B&B

Visiting A Dove Nest B&B in Michigan’s Thumb is like retreating to a wilderness sanctuary without having to sleep in a tent. Instead, guests enjoy sweeping views of deer and wild turkey in their natural habitat of lake and marsh from the private deck outside Robin’s Roost. Here, the essence of simple comfort is luxury in its own right, proving B&B beds are best.

B&B beds are best

The Painted Turtle Inn

This guestroom at The Painted Turtle Inn in St. Joseph is a perfect example of simplicity made elegant. There’s nothing ornate to distract from a good night’s sleep. Clean lines and soft dove grays lull you like the lap of waves from Lake Michigan, viewable from every one of the inn’s five guestrooms.

B&B Beds are Best for Luxury and Opulence

Take The Kalamazoo House as a prime example. Wow! If a guestroom makes you feel transformed into a prince or princess and onto the page of a fairy tale, you know you’ve discovered the very definition of luxury and exactly why B&B beds are best.

B&B Beds are best

The Kalamazoo House

B&B beds are best

Castle in the Country Bed and Breakfast Inn

Webster’s definition of “luxury” is a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth; or something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available.  Surely this bed at Castle in the Country looks comfortable. The view inside and out is rich and welcoming. It’s probably not just like your bedroom at home… it’s definitely a place of ease that’s not always available in our day-to-day lives.

B&B Beds are Best for the Fanciful and the Artistic

Even for the elegant Historic Webster House in Bay City, this “modern medieval” guestroom is unique. You’ll likely not find another like it anywhere. It’s more proof that B&B beds are best.

B&B Beds are Best

Historic Webster House

B&B Beds are Best

Sherwood Forest B&B

Sherwood Forest B&B is just a block from Lake Michigan beaches. Wouldn’t you expect a beach theme — sails and anchors, paddles and fish nets? Each guestroom at this Saugatuck/Douglas B&B is distinctive: each is completely different from the others. “Tree Tops” is featured in the photo above. Another room is starkly “black and white,” another has a safari theme, another is Victorian…. take your pick from six!

The MBBA will feature photos of its member inn’s beds and guestrooms all this week on our Facebook page. We’d love you to visit us… and “like” us at the same time.

If you liked this blog post, you can subscribe here to receive it regularly.  We’d love that too.

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Finding “Real” B&Bs

March 3rd, 2016 by linda

Finding real B&Bs can be difficult. You can be easily confused by AirBnB.com listings, for example. Some of them are real B&Bs, meaning they are legal, licensed, insured and pay taxes like good citizens. But many are part of a new fad called “home sharing.” They operate under the radar of local laws that require protections for you — little things like fire safety, health safety and insurance. They would like you to think they are legitimate, but they are copycats riding the coattails of a legal and regulated bed and breakfast industry built on quality hospitality, superior service, cleanliness, luxurious beds and baths and the best breakfasts in the world.

If you are looking for real B&Bs, you’ll know you’ve found them when you see this or something close to it in their directory listings, their advertisements and on their web pages. This particular statement below is from the website home page of The House on the Hill B&B:

Finding "real" B&Bs is confusing unless you know to look for a statement like this on their promotions.

This statement is excerpted from the website home page of The House on the Hill B&B    in Ellsworth. Click on the image for details.

Finding "real" B&Bs is as easy as clicking on the link to the Michigan Lake to Lake B&B Association's website.

The House on the Hill is one of more than 90 “real” Michigan B&Bs you’ll find by clicking this trusted resource.

The logo indicates this B&B is a member of the state association, which routinely inspects its members to ensure they meet exceptionally-high standards of safety, cleanliness and professionalism, to name a few. Like Michigan, most states have B&B associations and most of them have an inspection or review process. If you’re looking to book at a Michigan B&B that displays the association’s logo, you know it’s legitimate and law abiding. It signifies a guarantee of satisfaction. Look for a state association’s logo on a B&B’s website wherever you travel.

Finding real B&Bs means finding their state association’s “seal” of approval…

“Real” B&Bs are not always licensed and inspected if they are in rural or unincorporated areas. That’s where the association’s seal of approval comes in handy. But in most cities and towns, B&B’s are required to procure special land-use permits and be regularly inspected by the various departments of health and safety to continue their licensing from year to year. They must show proof of insurance — specialized insurance that applies to the commercial lodging establishments they are. Illegal home shares may call themselves “b&bs,” but they can’t declare themselves legitimate.

Now you know why it’s important to make sure the bed and breakfast inn you are booking clearly states its legitimacy. If it doesn’t, how do you know it’s a “real” B&B? Now that you know their dangers, you won’t want to stay at a fake.

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We’ll explore more about the difference between “us” and “them” and other topics too. 
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