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The Busy, Busy, B&B Business

But it opens doors to friendships from around the world

By Dawn VlahandreasSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / October 7, 1996


With guests checking out at 11 a.m. and in at 4 p.m., there's precious little time for the day's work: there's the laundry, changing the bed linen, vacuuming, and shopping for breakfast. And, yes, you'd better love to cook.

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Time for a vacation? Or even an afternoon off? Forget it - or at least expect to plan a long time ahead.

Such is the routine of the bed-and-breakfast owner. It's not always the romantic, easy life dreamed of by overworked couples on a weekend getaway.

Dropping out of the 9-to-5 routine and running a bed-and-breakfast definitely has its rewards, as long as you're not trading one set of work stress for another.

"You have to be here all of the time," says Dick Jungwirth, who owns two B&Bs in northwest Oregon.

"And it makes it a little difficult when people don't tell you when they're going to show up. Or when people don't show up when they tell you they will," Mr. Jungwirth says.

Yet the B&B industry continues to grow throughout the United States.

In 1980, there were approximately 1,000 B&Bs in the US serving 1 million guests a year, according to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, (PAII), a trade organization that serves B&B and country inn owners. In 1995, that number had increased to more than 15,000 professionally run, licensed B&Bs and country inns, serving 37 million guests a year, according to the association. And that doesn't count the 10,000 hobby-style homestays.

It's a $4.1 billion industry, including rooms, restaurant meals, entertainment, shopping and incidentals. It's worth $1.6 million in rooms alone.

"People are becoming aware that these places actually exist," says Trish Ainsworth of the association. "They're tired of the sterile, cookie-cutter hotel room."

She says the beauty of the B&B is that every room is different, as is the way guests are treated compared with that of a chain hotel or motel.

To be a professional in the business means long hours, lack of privacy, and a restrictiveness that keeps the owner close to home.

Mr. Jungwirth opened his first bed-and-breakfast, The Gardner House, 13 years ago. His neighbor (and now a competitor) suggested he open a bed and breakfast in his 1893 Victorian home and flower shop because it had a separate, wheelchair accessible room on the ground floor.

The neighbor's bed-and-breakfast, The Bird and Hat Inn, had guest rooms only on the upper floors.

Guests from all over the world

Jungwirth's ground-floor guest room is now The Well House, a suite with a separate sitting room. He has a second guest room, The Madonna Room, on the upper floor.

He recently purchased The Stayton House, a 1905 Queen Anne home across the street. The lower floor will be a restaurant, and the upper floor already is a B&B with two guest rooms that share a bathroom - perfect for a family.

"We get people from all over the world," Jungwirth says, especially in his busy season from July through January.

It's quite an ordeal, when the houses are full. Jungwirth wakes at 5 a.m. to start breakfast. It's not just bacon and eggs. It's eggs Benedict, quiche, crepes, and a gourmet cracked oatmeal imported from England.

"You have to be able to cook well. And you have to present things well," Jungwirth says.

Breakfast is usually at 8:30 at Jungwirth's B&B, and then kitchen cleanup begins. When the guests check out, he changes the beds, washes sheets and towels, cleans the bathrooms, vacuums, and does whatever other housework needs to be done. Then it's time to check in new guests.

Rooms range from $55 to $65 a night - enough to pay for the upkeep and repairs of the two houses. And there's always something that needs to be fixed on a house that's over a century old.

Diane and John Sheiry, owners of the Waverly Inn in Hendersonville, N.C., have a social hour every night for the guests of their 17-room B&B. Nothing fancy. Fruit juices, some cheese and crackers, and nice conversation.