In the early 1980’s my brother and I remodeled an old three-story home into eight condominium units. Desperate, when the units didn’t sell, we converted it into a bed and breakfast and I ended up as an innkeeper.
We modeled our service off of an inn we visited in Wilmington, North Carolina: leaving a mint and glass of brandy when we turned down the beds and serving continental breakfasts.
Our first guests, a chef and his new bride, were anxious to spend the first night of their honeymoon at our inn in a romantic room warmed by a fireplace. The next morning, with a tray loaded with melons, muffins and coffee, I knocked on their room door. Believing I heard “come in,” I stepped through the door and found the beautiful bride standing in the middle of the room in her birthday suit. I’m not sure who screamed louder; I did a 180-degree turn, and with the tray balanced on one hand above my head, ran back to the kitchen. Needless to say, Terri delivered the breakfast.
To familiarize people with inn we decided to go into the catering business. The third story of the property consisted of a large open room that was large enough to hold small catered parties. Perfect except for one small detail: the tables, chairs, plates, glasses, wine and food needed to be transported to the third floor.
Without an elevator, the only way to deliver supplies to the third floor was the fire escape, a 3 and 1/2 story climb. I would start with the tables, followed by the plates, glasses, silverware food and wine. After the guests departed and the kitchen cleaned, I would drink the leftover wine and carry everything back down the staircase. Working on a roofing crew in August, was never as tough as catering a reception at the inn.
We booked an elegant cocktail reception for the evening of April 15th: an important date to my CPA wife, who hosted an end of the tax season party the same evening. I was irritated Terri wasn’t going to be available to help with the “paid guests” party and she was irritated I didn’t appreciate her need to celebrate the passing of the IRS deadline.
I would need something from the downstairs kitchen and Terri would require an item from upstairs. Both of, charming during our respective events, would growl and glare as we passed on the stairway. Eventually growls and glares turned to outright hostility and then laughter as we realized the absurdity of the situation.
The more successful the inn became, the harder it became to manage. We literally lived above the store; our days started before daylight and ended after the last television broadcast. We would take one evening a week off to go out and too tired to sit through dinner, we would have dessert and a bottle of wine.
There are lessons to be learned from keeping an inn: when you deal with people, you need to learn patience; you sell yourself as much as you sell rooms; hard work pays off and knock twice before entering someone’s bedroom.
A quote from the T.V. Series Frasier
Frasier: Thank you, Roz. Niles, tonight let’s go to Orsini’s for one glorious farewell dinner.
Niles: Why not? I’ll make the reservations. We’ll take Dad and Daphne.
Frasier: Great. Will Maris be joining us?
Niles: Ohhh…sadly, no. She had a bad experience there one Christmas Eve. An Italian soccer team was sitting at the next table, Maris announced she was in the mood for a goose, and–perhaps inevitably–tragedy ensued.