2013 has seen a wonderful influx of first time B&B guests and I often find myself easing them into their first bed and breakfast experience. Most are pleasantly surprised, even those who are Baby Boomers and may have traveled the world, but (and who likes to admit this) not all care for the experience for one reason or another, or for multiple reasons or simply because they had no idea what to expect. I get it, not everyone is going to love your inn, especially not as much as you do. However, I’d like to spend a little time educating anyone new to the B&B experience and why I think we are better than your average hotel/motel.
1) HISTORY – The majority of B&Bs are in historic buildings. Blake House was completed circa 1847 so guests should expect an old house. Some call it quaint. Others have called the house incredible with it’s tall ceilings, original (and well used) hardwood floors, and thick stone walls. These are all elements not found in your average hotel. No B&B is like another and no room within the B&B is like the other rooms. Uniqueness is one of the attributes of each B&B and guests should know that they are getting a different experience each time they stay at a B&B, even if they stay multiple times at the same B&B (and we love return guests!). On the other side, with an historic house, don’t expect perfection. It takes a lot of work and constant attention to maintain a lodging accommodation, let alone one in a very old house. Most inns will have some sort of “project” or renovation going on during your stay. It could be as small as replacing door hardware or as complex as replastering horsehair plaster walls. I like to think that anything that is renovated or replaced on the house adds to its charm and ambiance. Not everyone agrees and many want all the modern conveniences (like private bathrooms with whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, wi-fi, cable TV, central heat & a/c, etc.) in an historic property. At Blake House, we can offer most if not all modern conveniences, but guests should keep in mind that not all rooms can offer everything on their list of desires. In some cases, the original room does not allow for certain modernizations without destroying the historical integrity of the room or property. I say, rough it a little and if your room doesn’t have a fireplace or whirlpool tub, you’ll still have a wonderful time.
2) INTIMACY – Bed and breakfasts are much smaller than hotels (4-12 rooms versus hundreds). By nature, guests are in closer quarters to other guests, but privacy and safety should be a given at any B&B. At Blake House, we abide by safety, fire and health regulations as well as requirements set by any Association we belong to (like the Asheville B&B Association). The second part of the equation, the breakfast, is made fresh daily with local foods wherever possible, and with guest restrictions in mind. Each B&B serves breakfast their own way, whether as a same time sit down affair, a block of time sit down, or a hot continental/buffet. This allows guests to chat and mingle with other guests, sharing their Asheville recommendations and information about their lives and experiences. This is not a requirement at all, but it’s traditional within the B&B for guests to talk to other guests. You can’t imagine how much of a resource the guests are to each other about things like great restaurants, places to hike, things to do, goings on during their stay, etc. It’s difficult for me to understand sometimes when guests choose to stay at a B&B, but make no effort to be friendly or even talk to any of the other guests. That is part of the experience and something that many look forward to. So if you are new to the B&B experience, expect that other guests are more friendly and likely to talk to you. If you don’t like people, well maybe you want to stay at a hotel where you won’t have to talk or see anyone. At the B&B your room may be off by itself tucked away in the house, in a separate cottage or cabin or it could be in close proximity to other rooms. Have a care. You don’t need to whisper by any means, but stamping up the stairs at 1:00 in the morning and slamming your guestroom door are not good ideas.
3) KNOWLEDGEABLE, PLEASANT, HELPFUL STAFF – At a B&B, you will meet staff who have more intimate knowledge of the area, good places to eat, places to avoid, directions to where you need to go, and an overall pleasant and helpful attitude. By nature, innkeepers are happy people; that’s why we got into this business. But we are human. If you come in with an attitude (and not a pleasant one), we will still do our best to help you, but let’s not get carried away with the negativity. If you are a glass half empty personalty, a B&B may not be the right place for you. It is the Innkeeper’s (and their staff’s) goal that you enjoy yourself. If there is something not right, bring it to the innkeeper’s attention immediately. If it can be fixed, rest assured the B&B staff will go out of our way to assist you. Waiting until after you leave to complain never accomplishes anything. As a first time B&B guest, ask questions. Innkeepers tend to be verbose (maybe we all like to hear ourselves talk) and enjoy talking about our property and its history. And we love guests who are interested and curious about where they are staying. There’s nothing worse for an innkeeper than guests who never say a word. Not speaking makes us think you aren’t having a good time. So let us help you have a positively memorable time!
Finally, I’d like to insert some personal expectations for anyone who comes to stay at Blake House. Every innkeeper’s expectations are different so I can only speak for myself. The exchange between guest and innkeeper/staff goes two ways and we take that seriously. I have gone above and beyond for some guests (like dropping one off at the airport because her cab didn’t show up, taking one guest to the car repair shop 25 minutes away while his car was being worked on, buying special tea for a guest who really wanted a certain kind and asked nicely, and stayed up until midnight washing a guest’s clothes the night before checkout when her son had a little too much fun and threw up all over his clothing). We may see hundreds of guests throughout the year, but there are always standouts, whether positive or negative. Our best guests are those who interact with us and other guests, those who come in with a positive attitude and expectations that they are going to have an exciting time in Asheville, and those who bring their pooches with them (when possible). We are Asheville’s Dog Friendliest B&B and we truly mean it when we say that we love all dogs, no matter their size or breed. On the opposite side, guests who arrive who are upset because it’s raining (sorry we can’t do anything about that), who expect the cold, boring, every room is the same ambiance of a hotel, who are picky eaters, or who expect us to go out and buy them special accessories or room amenities just for their stay should really consider staying elsewhere. We can recommend a place more suited to your needs. We expect and want guests who are looking for an adventure and something off the beaten path. That’s what Blake House and many B&Bs can offer. Uniqueness, personal hospitality, and going the extra mile versus bland and impersonal service. Seems like an easy choice to me.
If you’re still not sure, call the B&B you are interested in and speak to the people who will be taking care of you. Get a feel for the staff and the property before you ever show up. We promise to ease you into your first B&B with joy and hope to convert you into a repeat guest, whether at our B&B or at the plethora of others to choose from. Here’s a great article comparing the average B&B with an average hotel if you need more reasons to give a B&B a try.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Leslie, Jennifer & Daniel