often have guests ask us if we enjoy what we do and if being an innkeeper is
what we thought it would be. Others ask
if this is our retirement (ha!).
of all, yes I enjoy being an innkeeper and it is what I thought it would
be. Our primary goal in building and
operating a bed and breakfast inn was to have the opportunity to meet people
from different backgrounds, geographical locales, professions and
avocations. In that respect, innkeeping
has exceeded my expectations. Our guests
are interesting and friendly folks. They
come to our area to enjoy themselves, be it wine tasting, hiking, exploring the
Gold Country, or just relaxing at the inn. My job is to help them in any way I
Retirement? I don’t think so. This endeavor was more to redirect our lives
from a “9 to 5” job to another career, and to live in a beautiful environment.
Innkeeping is not glamorous; it is a lot of hard work. But it is infinitely interesting and
ultimately extremely enjoyable. We live
in a beautiful part of the Sierra Foothills.
Daryl and I have been visiting this area since we were teenagers—long
before there were any wineries. We
thought Fair Play was beautiful and fantasized about living here. But what would we do for a living? The area was cattle ranching and walnut
orchards. We knew nothing about farming
or livestock. We thought Sacramento was
too far to commute (although we later found out that a high school classmate of
ours had been commuting from Fair Play to the Valley, about 60 miles one way, for
35 years). So, oh well, Fair Play was a
nice place to visit but we probably needed to live closer to civilization
forward a couple of decades. We raised
our family in Elk Grove when it was a very small town. After our children went out on their own, I
had the opportunity to relocate to Southern California to work at the South
Coast Air Quality Management District in the Technology Advancement
Office. Daryl was working for Franchise
Tax Board and was able to transfer to a district office in Santa Ana. We were working and enjoying our jobs, the
weather and the beaches. But after
several years we started thinking about the next phase of our lives. We knew we wanted to return to Northern
California. We could keep working for
the government. (I already had 30+ years
in state and local government.) That
really didn’t sound like much fun. We
wanted to change our lives and do something completely different. On a wine tasting/buying trip to Amador and
El Dorado Counties, we noticed quite a few “for sale” signs on some beautiful
pieces of property. When we returned
home to Orange County, we started talking in earnest about plans for the
future. We both had jobs where we met a
wide range of people in different professions.
We enjoyed that part of our jobs immensely. So, what could we do that would continue to
give us the opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds,
professions and geographical locations?
Somehow, through hours of discussions and calculations, we decided that
innkeeping was the answer.
didn’t know anything about innkeeping and knew we needed a lot more information
before making the leap. We went to
several “aspiring innkeeper” seminars and learned lot about the industry and
the job of innkeeper. We started
carrying a notebook and tape measure every time we were away on vacation or
business. Every hotel, motel and B&B
room was scrutinized and measured. We measured dining rooms, sitting areas, and living rooms. We
had an ongoing list of the good and bad of overnight accommodations. And we started a list of what we thought
would be important to guests in a B&B. We found that B&Bs are endlessly
variable—in size, amenities, furnishings and style.
started looking for property in the Foothills, both Amador and El Dorado
Counties. We didn’t see any “historical”
or significantly interesting existing houses or other buildings. That led us to the decision to build our bed
& breakfast. It would be exactly the
style we wanted, and we could build a contemporary, durable and energy efficient house.
took us four years to find a piece of property that fit our criteria—on a
public road, 10+ acres, bare land, hopefully an existing well--in the Fair Play
or Amador wine areas. During that time,
we searched through home building magazines, looking for a plan we could use as
a basis for our bed and breakfast. We
purchased our property, and spent the next couple of years cleaning it up and
establishing some amenities (a picnic area and a place to pitch a tent; a
makeshift solar shower). We came up from
Southern California every opportunity we had to work on the property. Although our property did have a well, we had
no electricity and no way to use it. We
brought water with us in several gallon milk jugs. On Saturday afternoons, after trimming trees,
clearing walking paths, etc., we would take a shower and then visit area
wineries. We spent a lot of time at
Granite Springs Winery, where Karen or Sheri would let us fill our water
jugs. We went to the other existing
wineries (6 at the time) as well, establishing friendships that continue today.
September 2000, we relocated to El Dorado County from Orange County and started
the County approval process for building and operating a bed and breakfast. We commuted to work in Sacramento until 2002,
when we retired from our State jobs to pursue our dream full time. Our decision to retire and pursue the project
full time was a wise one. Going through
the bureaucratic building approval and Special Use Permit process was
excruciating and was a full time job in itself.
We were very familiar with local government in Southern California. Both of us had attended many City Council and
Board of Supervisors meetings there, representing our employers. But the “good ole boy” rural government is
very different. (And that’s all I am
going to say about that!) We finally
broke ground in July 2003. Construction
activity at that time was very active and we could not find a local contractor
to take on our project. So, with the
help of a retired contractor friend, and the willingness of our son to join us,
we became owner-builders and put together a rag-tag crew. Amazingly, we were able to complete
construction of the “big house” in a little over a year, and received final
approval from the County September 4, 2004.
were a few “minor” things to complete—floor coverings, baseboards, the B&B
kitchen sink. We opened with one room
complete—the Vineyard Suite. We worked
our way through each room over the next six months, and completed the Fair Play
Cottage a year after that. And we have
continued to improve the buildings and property since then.
is a wonderful career. Our commute is
very short—walk through the door from our private quarters into the inn. We enjoy living in a small, rural
community. There is never a lack of
chores—cleaning, laundry, and gardening.
But the best experience is meeting and getting to know our wonderful
guests. We enjoy hearing about their
families and travels and getting to know them as friends. An important part of the B&B experience
is food. We plan our breakfast menu very
carefully. I like to cook and bake. I am always looking for new and interesting
recipes to prepare for our guests. I am
happy to share the recipes I use, and sometimes our guests give us new recipes.
as a retirement pastime? No way. But as a second or third career, it is
wonderful. If you are thinking you might
want to be an innkeeper, do as much research as possible. Hospitality 24-7 is not for everyone. But if you enjoy meeting people and
entertaining, ironing napkins (whoops, maybe that’s not part of the fun), you
too might have a B&B in your future.
Think about it.