Our foray into Innkeeping is both funny and serendipitous. It started in the winter of 2009 when Sara and I were given a gift certificate for a free night in Green Bay. In planning our trip, we opted to extend our stay for a few days in Door County where we stayed at a romantic Inn in Fish Creek.
While our stay was delightful, it was the innocuous discussion about running a B&B that left its imprint. We expounded upon how fun it would be to work together and meet interesting people. We discussed the attractiveness of building a business together and leveraging our diverse but complimentary skill-sets. And undoubtedly, we talked about our love for food and hosting others.
As time passed, this fascination with a B&B manifested itself each time we traveled. Inevitably, the subject would come up and the conversation would take-off. With each occasion we convinced ourselves that a B&B was the perfect opportunity but nothing imminently viable. We did after all have four teenage boys, a newly refurbished Victorian hiome and two jobs that commanded our full attention.
Fast forward to October, 2012. We had just returned from a weekend in western Wisconsin and feeling rather settled in Oconomowoc set out for an evening stroll around Fowler Lake. We had walked this route hundreds of times. Yet, it was a beautiful night and a walk offered fresh air, exercise and time together.
As we headed past downtown, we approached the corner of Pleasant and Walnut and noticed this amazing corner property for sale. We had seen and admired the home many times. Curiously, we pulled a flyer with no notion of moving, selling or opening a business.s.
As we examined the sheet, I remember commenting on the price and its relative affordability. Without pause, Sara noted all the characteristics that would make it a great bed and breakfast – a beautiful home in a great location with a nice yard in an attractive community that is easily accessible to Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. It had all of our B&B must-haves.
From that innocent spark, our minds exploded. We couldn’t think or talk about anything else.
The next day, I set-up a showing and loved what I saw. The house was more impressive on the inside than outside. I immediately called Sara and set-up a second showing. Two days later, with little sleep and a spreadsheet full of calculations, we made an offer that was ultimately accepted.
It was crazy and exciting and scary and stressful and liberating. We were going to be Innkeepers.
After six months of planning and deliberation, we finalized the sale and on August 10th we opened our first B&B. It was a dream come true.
Within 12 months, we had become the top rated B&B in the state and the first two suite “Diamond Collection” property in the history of BedandBreakfast.com. We were booking every weekend, consistently exceeding 50% occupancy and getting tons of repeat guests. We had accomplished a lot but a fire was still burning within.
The dream of owning a B&B had been met but could we do more? Could we take what we had learned and successfully apply it to a larger property? Could we take a home with a completely different architecture and make it as enticing as Pleasant Street? Could we take what is generally regarded as a mom-and-pop business and turn it into an income generating business? We believed we could.
With that in mind, we set out to explore the market. We knew that the Lake Geneva area was a perfect location but we didn’t know what opportunities would exist. We just started searching. When we stumbled across the Allyn Mansion, we knew instantly we had found our second B&B. It was beautiful and well cared for and impeccably decorated and large and in the perfect location Not to mention, it had been a successful B&B just a few years before.
To be frank, the Ally Mansion was begging to be re-opened. We’re just lucky to be it’s steward.