First-time B&B guests: 10 experiences

This year’s #StaySmallStaySafe message seems to be resonating with travelers because innkeepers are reporting more than the usual number of first-time B&B guests, such as Kurt Slay and Heather Gillespie (above) standing in front of Hanson House in Grayling. 

Michigan B&Bs are chalking up dozens of five-star reviews remarking on the cleanliness and extra COVID-19-related precautions in place at B&Bs, as well as the usual raves about awesome breakfasts and warm hospitality. B&Bs also appear to be winning more converts from other forms of lodging, as suggested, for example, in an August five-star review of Glen Arbor B&B and Cottages in Glen Arbor: “My husband was never a fan of bed and breakfasts before we stayed here. He now has a change of heart.”

In mid-August, Dustin and Tiffany Newman became such fast converts that one week after their first-ever B&B stay, at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, the Newport, MI, couple returned and brought friends.

How B&Bs delighted these first-timers

Nicholas and Summer Benning at Maple Cove B&B.
Nicholas and Summer Benning at Maple Cove B&B. Summer was impressed with the gluten-free breakfast and treats.

Prior to Summer and Nicholas Benning staying at Maple Cove B&B in Leonard, Summer didn’t have a favorable impression of B&Bs. “I thought it would be a little weird and uncomfortable. I thought the the owners would always be around, sharing the space with me.” But when friends suggested the Pontiac, MI, couple try a B&B for their staycation, they booked a suite at Maple Cove.

The experience “totally changed” her opinion of B&Bs, she said. “We had our own space and amenities. I love that we didn’t have to sign any papers, go to a front desk or check in.” Every room was “spotless,” and their suite had “a Keurig with coffee pods, pool towels, a mini fridge, extra blankets and pillows, a fan, a hamper and much more that helped to make us comfortable.”

Cindy Genna and Chuck Higbee of Clinton Township, MI, also chose Maple Cove for their first-time B&B experience. Cindy had thought a B&B might be “more homey, more private, and cleaner” — and it was, she said, adding “I would eat off of Jan’s floor.” 

Innkeeper Jan Smith also surprised them with “little desserts and a welcome letter — you don’t get that in a hotel,” Cindy said. 

Guest book entry by first-time B&B guests Sayeda and Mohammed at Kalamazoo House.
Kalamazoo House B&B guest book entry by first-time B&B guests Mohammed Ahmed and his wife Syeda Ali.

Before B&B first-timer Mohammed Ahmed of Sterling Heights, MI, booked a stay at Kalamazoo House B&B in Kalamazoo to surprise his wife Syeda Ali for their 14th wedding anniversary, he asked inn owner Laurel Parrott lots of questions about the inn, the area, and the room. Hospitality-minded B&B innkeepers welcome guests’ questions, as did Laurel. In the guest book, Syeda wrote: “I love the decor and charm of this place” and “I hope to be back.”

The same day, Kalamazoo House also welcomed first-time B&B guests Nichole and Jason LaCross. The LaCrosses live right in town but wanted a night away to celebrate their anniversary, so Grandma offered to take care of the couple’s two children under five years old.

Four women pose on the balcony overlooking the fields at Pohl Bison B&B
On the balcony at Pohl Bison B&B, from left: Jodee Stipp of Marysville, Alicia Campbell of Detroit, Jill Caldwell of Fort Gratiot, and Anita Kolasinski of Columbus, MI.

After the Keith Urban concert scheduled for July at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant was canceled, Jill Campbell of Fort Gratiot, MI, got creative about the annual girls weekend with her daughter, sister, and aunt. Because Jill had had two positive B&B experiences and she was looking for something a little different, she proposed a stay at Pohl Bison B&B in Rosebush, a bison ranch less than 15 minutes from the casino. “I felt it would be more relaxing, more comfortable” than their usual hotel outing, but, she said, “I had to talk them into staying at a B&B.” What did the first-timers think afterward? “They loved it. We really enjoyed sitting on the deck and watching the bison roam and the little babies play.” The ranch-style breakfast also was a hit.

Breakfasts win over many first-time B&B guests

The food innkeepers serve often is the way into the hearts of first-time B&B guests.

Cocoa Cottage innkeepers Larry and Lisa pose on the patio with their first-time B&B guests
Cocoa Cottage B&B’s aproned innkeepers Larry and Lisa stand behind first-time B&B guests Jan and Robert Emmers, who were traveling with their friends, Barbara Frankel and Joel Silberblatt.

The promise of chocolate lured two Farmington Hills, MI, couples, longtime friends and frequent traveling companions to Cocoa Cottage B&B in Whitehall. We talked to Robert and Jan Emmer, who had had plans for a cruise in May and a trip to Italy in June as delayed celebrations of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. The coronavirus rendered both trips out of the question, but they still had the bug to travel. The two couples decided to stay small, stay safe at Cocoa Cottage.

“The innkeepers live in the B&B, so we knew they would take care of all the health protocols,” Robert said. For example, innkeeper Larry Robertson escorted them to their room, “but stayed outside. Anything we needed during our stay, they would leave outside the door.”

Larry and his wife, Lisa Tallarico, served the foursome “amazing” breakfasts each of the three mornings of their stay, always including something chocolate, Robert said. “Lisa also gave us a bottle of homemade fudge with a label commemorating our 51st anniversary.”

Innkeeper Paul Crandall recalled the breakfast entrees from the two mornings Kurt Slay and Heather Gillespie (top photo) were at Hanson House. “The first morning we served poached eggs and cheese with fresh garden herbs. The second day, because one of the guests had dietary restrictions, we served another keto dish, a stuffed zucchini featuring sausage, peppers, shallots, mushrooms, squash, parmesan cheese, and eggs,” adding that the latter entree is “time-consuming to prepare, but beautiful and delicious.”

What a solo traveler learned about B&Bs

Many solo travelers choose B&Bs because they offer more creature comforts and make them feel, well, more comfortable.

First-time B&B guest Christine Kunik stands on the veranda of Ginkgo Tree Inn B&B.
Although Christine Kunik of Nashville could not stay with family on her recent trip home to Mt. Pleasant, she considered Ginkgo Tree Inn B&B a homey and comfortable substitute.

Christine Kunik of Nashville, TN, grew up in Mt. Pleasant and was looking for a home away from home while she visited family in the area for two weeks this summer. Because of COVID, she and her relatives made plans only for socially distanced, porch-sittin’ visits. Although Chris had a background in the hospitality business and she had toured B&Bs, she had never stayed in one. 

B&Bs are “usually a little more expensive,” she said, but Ginkgo Tree Inn B&B provided good value at the same or a better price than a hotel. Besides, she wanted to pamper herself a bit, she said, and to be served a scratch-made breakfast.

“I feel like I found a second home,” Chris said. “A couple of times, I would sit down at the dining table and chitchat” with inn owners Jean and Dave Prout.

Jean even invited Chris’s family members to visit on the Ginkgo Tree Inn’s veranda and surprised them with a plate of freshly baked cookies.

Why an airbnb simply cannot compare

Tia Le dining on the patio at Grey Hare Inn
Tia, the new Mrs. Daniel Le, smiles at her husband before breakfast at Grey Hare Inn.

Daniel and Tia Le of Novi became first-time B&B guests on their honeymoon this summer — and in a big way. They spent two nights at Spring Lighthouse in Elk Rapids and four nights at Grey Hare Inn on Old Mission Peninsula. They say they’ll always remember the sunsets over Grand Traverse Bay at Spring Lighthouse and at Grey Hare Inn, its remote location off the main road, its vineyard views, and the magnificent night sky, unblemished by light pollution.

What did they conclude about their stays at these two romantic B&Bs?

Daniel said, “A real B&B is nothing like an airbnb,” with which they have experience. “In an airbnb, you’re just using the space,” he said. “A real B&B is shared space, with privacy, but it is a warmer and more personal experience” in that they got to meet and interact with innkeepers Darci Bartlett at Spring Lighthouse and Karlee Kowalewski at Grey Hare Inn. “Instead of texting with somebody you never get to meet” — the airbnb experience — at a real bed and breakfast “you observe the innkeepers actively engaged” in providing hospitality.

“With the added perk of a well-made breakfast,” Tia said.


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