No lazy days of summer for bed-and-breakfast owners
June 16, 2014
Muffy Vhay takes a break from sprucing up after the departure of guests from Deer Run Ranch Bed & Breakfast on a hillside above the east shore of Washoe Lake.
At the kitchen table, her husband, David, works on selling some of the first cutting of hay from the 60 irrigated acres that travelers pass on their way up to the two-room bed and breakfast.
The hay business, he says, is keeping him away from work on a nearby residential renovation projects — Vhay also is an architect and builder — while Muffy Vhay isn't able to do much at her pottery studio during the busy summer season at the B&B.
"By the end of the summer, I'm a noodle," she says. "We work really hard through the summer. If we stayed full every night, I would be a basket case."
If you want to make money at it, you have to be willing to do most of the work yourself
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Like other B&B owners in northern Nevada, the Vhays say ownership of an inn is a difficult way to make a living — but a wonderful way to create a life.
About two dozen bed-and-breakfast inns are operating across Nevada, says Dee Helming, the owner of Union Street Lodging, a B&B in Austin, and executive director of the Nevada Bed and Breakfast Guild.
The guild focuses on raising money to freshen its presence on Web sites such as TravelNevada.com, a marketing tool of the Nevada Commission on Tourism. It's important work.
While B&B owners in northern Nevada often draw on history as they position their inns with visitors, the advent of digital marketing tools such as the guild's http://www.Nevada BandB.com or the larger international http://www.bedandbreakfast.com are critical to their success.
For instance, the Web accounts for about 90 percent of the bookings at Miles End Bed and Breakfast at Kingston, a community of 113 people about 30 miles southeast of Austin.
For all the technology, co-owners John and Ann Miles still like to talk to talk directly with potential guests before they book one of the four cabins at Miles End.
"We want to make sure it's the right fit," says Ann Miles. "Our guests are looking for more than a room for the night."
John and Ann Miles do most of the work at Miles End themselves, and they've made a living from the inn during the six years they've been in the business. Along with nearly every lodging facility in the Austin area, they're getting a significant boost this summer from the World Landsailing Championships scheduled July 12-19 at the nearby Smith Creek Playa.
But even when there's not a big special event during the summer, the couple still need to take three months a year away from the B&B to recharge themselves after hosting a steady stream of visitors.
Two separate balancing acts dominate the thinking of many B&B owners.
On one hand, they seek to find time for themselves even as they help make visitors comfortable — often developing meaningful friendships with their guests.
And for many, there's a constant question whether it's better to hire a employee or two or to do all the work themselves, protecting profits that often are thin.
For Paul Yandre and Jeff Teague, co-owners for seven years of Cobb Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Virginia City, there was no question. They hired a housekeeper to clean the 1876-era mansion's six restored guest rooms, and they hire an innkeeper to keep an eye on things while they travel.
"You're not going to get rich at it," says Yandre. "If you want to make money at it, you have to be willing to do most of the work yourself."
The work that Yandre and Teague put into Cobb Mansion — first an expensive restoration, then a meticulous guest experience — has paid off with steadily increasing occupancy rates that includes substantial numbers of visitors from the Bay Area.
"We have tremendous numbers of repeat visitors," Yandre says. Among them are visitors from Europe who account for a growing portion of the visitors at many B&Bs in rural Nevada.
At Deer Run, Muffy Vhay says visitors from Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere in Europe have found their way down Eastlake Boulevard and up the path to the ranch house.
The state, Miles says, exerts a powerful draw on travelers from around the world.
"Europeans love the vastness of the West," she says.