Buying a Bed and Breakfast is a lot like having a baby. There is the long build up of months filled with patience, preparation and even a lot of pain and suffering, (especially towards the end). It is an emotional roller coaster for the whole family and at times it feels like you are the happiest you will ever be and at other times, you find yourself in a lonely and dark place. Everyone is thrilled for you and cannot wait to see it! You spend hours shopping and visualizing what it’s going to be like.
And like a baby, the moment you own your first B&B, you are stunned and overcome with incredible joy. Then slowly that joy turns into an overwhelming amount of work and hardship.
Maybe some B&B transactions aren’t quite like that. And maybe for some, births aren’t that way either. For me however, both of my kids came into the world like that and now my third baby, Good Medicine Lodge, is feeling the same way.
Ryan worked hard while we stayed at Whitefish Mountain Resort, finding us a long term rental. We were thinking we would only need it for one month, which is what the owner’s agreed to. We had been told that our SBA loan’s thirty day window had begun and we could now count down the days to our closing. It was the beginning of September and in thirty days we had so much to accomplish. Now that we were in the condo and our kids in school, we put our head down and got started. We were working with a CPA team to set up accounts, our lawyer on all sorts of stuff, endless SBA paperwork, certifications, licenses, permits, a new front sign, business cards, marketing consultations, 401K administration, employee packets, insurance policies, inspections, and so much more….We especially had big ideas on our new website. It had to be the best out there. We couldn’t take any shortcuts. It had to come across powerful but also well-balanced with high visuals and a quick download time.
Luckily, one of Ryan’s college friends happened to be a website designer. We interviewed him for our project and he said everything we wanted to hear. We had a few marketing teams try to talk us out of going with a friend, especially one that isn’t only specialized in hotel booking sites. But I had a good feeling about our partnership with him. There was just something that told me he could do anything we asked of him and that he was a very good listener. It didn’t hurt that he was also incredibly easy to talk to and just an all around nice guy.
Barry Costa, from Costa Designs, delivered so much more than I could imagine. When I received the first edition of the site, I was beyond thrilled. It was exactly what I was after. I had a vision and he totally nailed it! We of course had to do some tweaking on content and some of the layout but overall it had everything!! We worked endlessly getting it just perfect. I will need to capture new photos of the B&B as we move in and are able to make updates to the rooms and spaces but all in all, it totally exceeded my expectations.
With everything heading towards the right direction, we were pretty anxious to work shifts at the B&B. We really wanted to see the place but also had a lot to learn. Technically, the current owner’s would need to train us for about a week or so as that was part of our contract. We decided to work a few half day shifts to understand the day to day operations, the maintenance and cleaning schedules. It was approaching the slow season, so this arrangement seemed to work out great. It was so much fun!
I watched the employees make the famous cookies that the current owner’s have made into a staple at the Inn. I helped put some fruit plates together as the other two ladies working in the kitchen put the main courses together. They were making a strawberry and brie pressed breakfast sandwich along with a baked ham cup with egg for the guests that morning. There were also fresh muffins that were baked that morning.
The kitchen is pretty incredible. It is a commercial grade kitchen that is of pretty good size. They have a couple ovens, a huge stove, cork flooring and a beautiful view of the backyard. I could easily get used to starting my day in this warm setting with fresh baked goods and incredible coffee smells surrounding me.
Speaking of which, Ryan is a huge fan of coffee. He has like five things in this world that are everything to him. Bikes (of course), music, fitness, food and coffee. (Oh and probably his family too, so six things). Before we moved out to Montana, he was constantly out in the garage roasting his own coffee beans and pouring impressive golden creme espresso shots from his fancy little machine. One of his biggest priorities for this new venture is to find the very best coffee to serve our guests. The only catch is that it has to be local.
He has tried all sorts of companies. At one point, just before we moved we had about 9 bags of coffee from three different vendors and we were making two to three batches at a time. It was fun to try them out and compare.
He finally settled on this one company, Black Coffee Roasting Co. They are out of Missoula, about 2-3 hours from Whitefish. There are a couple of other roasters closer to us, but this one just had it all. They use organic beans, they believe in Fair Trade, they are environmentally conscience but what he loved most of all was their dedication to good roasting practices and freshness. Those are two things that surprisingly are hard to find if you can believe that. I loved their hip packaging and brilliant marketing, so it was a no brainer for me. And they are willing to let us sell to our guests who might want to take some home with them.
While chipping away at our to do lists and school activities for the kids, we were also able to squeeze in quite a lot of Whitefish Fall fun, well, for the most part.
My favorite season is Fall. It’s one of those things that I truly missed when I lived in California. Oakland gets a mini version of it, but it’s typically an Indian Summer with high temperatures, high winds and some dry leaves and foliage. There is a slight change in the air that sort of resembles Fall but just misses the mark. There is nothing like a beautiful quintessential Fall day in a place like where I grew up in Ohio, Michigan and now I can say Montana. The beginnings of that cold fresh air, the brilliant colors of the leaves changing, the gentle mix of cold and rainy one day to breezy and sunny the next. I love it all. For seventeen years, I thought about how much I missed it when pumpkins started to make their way to the markets. But to live it for the first time after so long, was just an incredibly magical moment for me. Especially living in this wild vast landscape with huge skies, enormous mountains facing us from every direction. There are rustic barns resting against the gold and green landscapes. The colorful reflections off the lakes and rivers. The hiking and biking this time of year is just so rejuvenating.
I missed wearing sweaters and hiking boots!! Not to mention, our adorable dogs rolling in the piles of crackling leaves. It really doesn’t get better than this!
Well, maybe I shouldn’t get too crazy at this point in the story because there was a little downside to this season. Our whole family did end up getting incredibly sick. First it started with Caleb, our two year old. Of course, he just started at a new preschool and brought home some kind of super bug. He was sick for a total of five weeks! We even took him to the doctor wondering if there was anything they could do. But they couldn’t. It was just this nasty never-ending cold. Ryan and I ended up with the same thing, just an adult version of it, meaning we felt like we were dying. Typically my colds last seven days but this one weeks! Both of us had it for three or four in total, yikes! Dylan had a much smaller version of it, maybe a week tops. It was a rough stretch for us all. Caleb didn’t sleep, but he usually doesn’t so I guess that’s not really worth mentioning. He was a little more cranky than his normal. We tried not to push ourselves too much but we definitely missed many incredible bike days. So there were a lot of walks and hikes, instead.
Just when we were recovering and on the mend, we ended up with a freak snow storm. About a week earlier, Canada reported record breaking weather that was on it’s way down to us. Our site appraisal had been postponed a week due to the flights being cancelled. The snow didn’t actually hit our town but it was reported that it hit Glacier National Park’s east side with a whopping 4 feet of new snow. Things calmed down for a few days. Weather started to heat back up a little. And just when I was enjoying a perfect Fall day, this crazy storm blew through and all of a sudden snow was falling. When I picked up the kids from school they were elated. They ran all around picking it up and throwing it, making snowballs and smashing them. Their hands were ice cold but they didn’t care. They were the happiest kids in the world. It was a moment I had envisioned for many years for my kids, especially Dylan who had asked for snow every single year since he could talk.
(to be continued……..)