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.
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:
“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
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,
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.