Bed ‘n’ breakfast basics: Innkeepers connect visitors, community

July 2009 Posted in Community

By Kathy Cook HunterBirdwood Inn, like many area bed and breakfast inns, uses inviting settings and intriguing design to attract guests and give them a memorable experience.

Silverton – home to The Oregon Garden, gateway to Silver Falls, and a recent Budget Travel magazine Top 10 Pick for “Coolest Small Town” – has plenty of bed-and-breakfast innkeepers awaiting visitors.

The 2009 economy, however, has changed once predictable patterns.

“It’s been very slow,” said Sheila Rosborough of Water Street Inn, one of two longest running B&Bs in town. “We’re down, I don’t know what percentage. The customers are last minute, not signed up months ahead except for Oktoberfest. This is unprecedented – it has to be the economy.”

“But we’re doing the best we can, and we’re offering mid-week specials,” she said. “I’m hopeful because I’ve seen a big upturn in the past four weeks.”

White Oaks, an Old World style cottage, has been accepting guests for some time. Owner SK Sartell, with a background in design and cooking, knows it is important to get the word out. White Oaks is listed on 12 Web sites, including Travel Oregon, which is run by the state; Oregon Travel Planner; and BedandBreakfast.com, a map search of world.

“They see us on [the Web] and are attracted,” she said.

She makes sure a picture is included, and particularly wants to show the curb appeal of the house.

“If you don’t have an absolutely enthralling, eye-catching picture – if I can’t get their interest in three seconds, I’ve lost them,” she said. “You must have the right key words for the search engines.”
Chamber of Commerce membership is also important she believes.

“Local chambers are huge,” she said, “as well as the outlying towns.”

Sartell says White Oaks is currently busy about four nights a week.

Birdwood, another B&B on Water Street and also a chamber member, opened last year. Owners Scott and Bobbie Hancock have renovated their 1910 house and added colorful perennial plantings to the garden spaces. That’s no surprise, because Bobbie is a former nurserywoman. She offers gardening talk to interested guests, while her gregarious husband “can talk about anything,” she said. “He’s a very social innkeeper.”

They said customers are inquisitive about the area if they haven’t visited before.

“They like to ask questions and interact,” Scott Hancock said.

In building the business the Hancocks rely on making personal relationships with guests. They love Silverton, feel “lucky to live here” and love sharing the advantages of their close-to-downtown location.

People who stay several days become friends.

Bobbie Hancock works hard to accommodate people with different nutritional needs, too, her husband said.

As do most B&B owners, she serves terrific breakfasts.

They, too, have noticed the effects of the poor economy.

“Many people are watching their pennies,” said Scott Hancock. “They’re coming from valley towns, and many are here to visit relatives or for weddings.” They had a good business during spring, but June went to nothing, they said. July perked up with a number of bookings, however.

Eadie Anelli, operates The Silver Wolf Inn in an 1885 house once belonging to Silverton businessman Adolf Wolf. She said her prices are low so she gets lots of calls.

“People are calling all the time because they find hotels too expensive,” said Anelli. “I do find people aren’t willing to put out that much money.”

Anelli is a chamber member and said she benefits from word-of-mouth referrals. Like most of her fellow B&B owners, she has noticed business is different.

“I definitely can say I’m not getting as many calls this year,” she said.

Sandy Rose, who has a large home in the country, operates Wild Rose, a B&B business that includes renting out the entire house to family reunion and wedding guests. She and her husband are chamber members, and she says chamber membership is the key to their marketing.

“People go to the Web and if they want to come to Silverton, they find our place,” Rose said.
Business hasn’t been as strong as last year when they were booked all summer. “This year we’re not.”

Still, she said, B&Bs do a lot for a community.

“People who own B&Bs are better ambassadors for the area than a hotel. We know the roads and we can tell them places to see they might not have heard of.”

Ginny Merriman owns the longest-running B&B, the Inn on Pine, now in its 14th year.

“I think the business has been hurt by the recession,” Merriman said. “My business has dropped in the last six months.”

She said she pays the city’s lodging tax out of her pocket rather than passing it on to customers.

“That gives the customer a break,” she said.

In the past she organized a B&B tour through the Silverton Chamber and said she’d like to do that again in future to make the community more aware of what’s available.

She hosted Chamber After-hours on July 23 to give chamber members a first hand view of what the Inn on Pine is like.

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