Monday, October 11, 2010

The Reality of Innkeeping

In the new movie RED, Helen Mirren plays an FBI “super killer” who has retired and – become an innkeeper. (The acronym stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.”) I will be interested to see what type of innkeeper the actress portrays. The NYT article says she based her character on Martha Stewart, to get that steely determination just right. Martha is indeed a homebody, but I don’t think she would last long as an innkeeper.

Yesterday I wrote about what traits are required to be a successful innkeeper. I know lots of people dream of starting a small bed & breakfast, cozy, always; profitable, in theory. We have even had guests (two years ago) who came with the obvious intent of checking out the profession up close and took a few notes.

This summer a friendly American couple, who were watching me really carefully, admitted they were entertaining the idea of becoming innkeepers after several other professions had failed to provide personal satisfaction. I told them not to wait too long. Youth, stamina, energy – all are important attributes to bring to this job. Innkeeping is not really "something to do in retirement."

Sven is 72 and I’m 63, so we are over-the-hill as ideal folks to run a B&B.

We came to innkeeping almost by accident. Sven had retired from 32 years of teaching. We left Paris, France to care for my elderly mom, in her charming old Cape Codder, and soon craved stimulation. We started booking the cottage (above photo by guest Herma Boyle) as a B&B accommodation. This first taste of innkeeping - and, the income innkeeping can provide - led to opening up two other rooms in the main house. As Sven likes to quote from the Koran, “If the mountain is not coming to Mohammad, perhaps Mohammad should go to the mountain.”

But we did not intend to remain innkeepers forever. In fact, I often feel like I'm a writer masquerading as an innkeeper.

For some reason, innkeeping seems romantic, warm and cuddly like an image of a happy family in front of a fireplace. Actually, that’s how the guests should experience it. For B&B hosts, the reality is much different: lots of hard work. This is why I had to smile when I read the rumor that Oprah intends to open a B&B in Hawaii after retiring from her TV show. One can assume she will hire staff to do the work …

Have you ever dreamed of becoming an innkeeper? Has this blog made the idea more or less attractive to you?