It’s no shocker that we enjoy living in our lovely old Harpers Ferry home. Why else would we voluntarily sell our houses in Charlottesville and leave behind jobs, churches, and dearly loved family and friends to move here? Despite a few (expensive) inconveniences over the past year, we still can’t believe how blessed we are to live in this place.
The thing we did not in any way foresee was the joy that our B&B business would add to our good life together. Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised, but we are.
Over the past year our B&B vision has evolved through hours of discussion culminating in a little hard work and lots of fun creative thinking. From redecorating the finished third-floor suite last spring to designing and directing construction of the garden-level suite this winter, we have been equally engaged partners every step of the way. (Next up is preparing indoor and outdoor areas for use as a small wedding/event venue!)
We also have fun applying experiences gained over the course of our careers. Christian has a master’s degree in business and spent much of his career working with General Motors’ marketing and sales teams. I’ve spent the past couple decades in the communications field, where I’ve gained expertise as a promotional writer with a few graphic design and photography skills to boot. It’s great to take all that know-how and use it for our very own enterprise.
What really feeds our souls, though, are these two things about running the B&B:
First, we didn’t totally know this about ourselves before we started, but we really like extending hospitality – making people feel comfortable and welcome in our home. We’ve delighted in attending to every detail that might improve usability, safety, style and convenience for folks who visit. People come to Harpers Ferry primarily for recreation and history and sometimes even work – rarely for a specific place where they will sleep at night. We enjoy the challenge of exceeding guest expectations with comfort, peace and beauty, so that staying here makes the overall visit even better.
Second, neither of us predicted how much we would love interacting with these complete strangers who visit. Already, we have met so many great people this way, and here we have to give Airbnb lots of credit. Its system of guest-ratings by hosts encourages our visitors to be very respectful of us and our home.
Airbnb also attracts people who want more social interaction. I’ve become even more attune to this benefit while recently reading Brené Brown’ book, Braving the Wilderness, especially her chapter “Hold Hands. With Strangers.” It’s a great read about the importance of seeking opportunities to experience “inextricable human connection,” especially in today’s polarized political climate. That connection is what we do here all the time, beginning with online communications before guests arrive. Unlike a traditional bed and breakfast, we let people prepare their own morning meal in the privacy of their suite. We don’t bring guests around a table for a home-cooked breakfast every morning, but we do welcome opportunities to chat with our guests at their convenience.
Since opening the Studebaker Suite this winter, we’ve become even more aware of the power of these interactions. With the private entrance in the new suite, both we and our guests have to make a concerted effort to interact – and some of our guests really do! We were incredibly touched when a pair of young DC political reporters invited us out to lunch to get to know us better last month. Other conversations happen on the front porch, in the street, in the garden and occasionally, by invitation, in the parlor.
We are sensitive to the fact that some guests want minimal interaction, and that’s fine. For those people, we feel good about expressing hospitality through our initial welcome and the suites themselves. One of our favorite compliments came from a guest who was bicycling through on the C&O Canal Towpath. We didn’t get to chat with him much, but he stayed one night in the pastel pink upstairs suite and wrote in his review that he felt “nurtured” here. That’s exactly what we are going for!
Speaking of reviews, we must confess that every five-star review submitted by our guests triggers a happy little hit of dopamine too. Those reviews confirm that our guests are finding joy here, too, reinforcing our natural inclinations.
It’s been said before, but we agree: When there is so much satisfaction in an occupation, it doesn’t feel like work at all!