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Bed and Breakfast Innkeeper's Lifestyle; Finance,
 Marketing, Maintenance, Chef...

By Anne Krishnan, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

June 22, 2004 - When Monica Edwards cleans, she's tackling thousands of square feet. When she cooks, it's often breakfast for six or eight.

Edwards and her husband, Daniel, are innkeepers. As owners of Morehead Manor Bed & Breakfast, they open their 8,000-square-foot Durham house to guests who prefer the inn's more intimate experience to staying in a hotel.

"It's running a home to a different level -- you just have strangers staying with you quite often," Monica Edwards said.

The couple began traveling and staying at inns soon after their wedding in 1993. It didn't take long for them to resolve that at some point they would manage a bed and breakfast of their own.

Just four years later, they opened Morehead Manor at 914 Vickers Ave. in a three-story house that was built in 1910 for one of Durham's early tobacco barons. The innkeepers live on the 1,200-square-foot third floor, with four guest rooms on the second floor and common rooms and a kitchen on the first level.

"When you come downstairs, it's show time," Daniel Edwards said. "You don't know when you might get back upstairs."

Running a business out of their home means they also have to plan ahead. They can't leave spontaneously on a trip. Instead, they must check the calendar to make sure guests aren't expected and forward the inn phone to their mobile phones. They also may line up an innsitter to run the inn in their absence.

"Most people, when they leave their job, they leave it behind," Monica Edwards said.

"We are our work," her husband added. "It's all intertwined."

The job of an innkeeper is as unique as the person filling the position, said Lynn Carlson, president of North Carolina Bed and Breakfasts and Inns, which has 135 members across the state. Some innkeepers work mostly on the weekends, while others stay busy with corporate business during the week, she said. Some beds and breakfasts have one partner, like Daniel Edwards, working full-time at another job, while other couples work solely at the inn.

"It's different for everybody and that's the beauty of it," Carlson said. "You can create the sort of business that creates the lifestyle you want to live."

Monica and Daniel Edwards both held other jobs when they opened the bed and breakfast, but Monica took on innkeeping as her full-time career in 2000. In addition to his duties at Morehead Manor, Daniel Edwards still works as an officer for the Durham Police Department.

"I tell folks I protect and serve," he joked.

While Monica Edwards tends to focus on the finance end of the business, she and her husband share many of the marketing, cleaning and cooking responsibilities, Daniel Edwards said. He's also responsible for maintaining the property's grounds and coordinating Morehead Manor's murder mystery package, in which guests or community groups hit some of Durham's landmarks within a mile radius of the inn on their way to solving a fictional murder.

"You shift hats all the time -- entertaining guests, planning events and coordinating scavenger hunts," he said.

According to a 2002 survey by the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, the average innkeeper in North Carolina worked 35 hours per week. The national average was 43 hours. Monica Edwards says she works more like 56 hours a week -- eight hours a day, seven days a week.

With a full house of guests, she wakes around 6 a.m. to begin preparing breakfast. If her husband isn't working, he makes his specialties, such as pumpkin waffles with apple caramel sauce. Other Morehead Manor trademark breakfasts are raspberry stuffed French toast and garden vegetable frittatas.

Breakfast is served at 9 a.m., and the couple likes to sit with guests while they eat, finding out their plans and acting as Durham's ambassadors, Monica Edwards said.

"If you want to know about an area, the best place to stay is an inn," she said. Rates at Morehead Manor range from $115 to $180 per night, depending on the room size.

She then cleans the rooms and checks those that aren't in use to make sure they're ready for habitation -- dusting, setting out fresh flowers and organizing special packages, if requested, such as cider and roses for the inn's romance package.

Visitors generally check in between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and check out at 11 a.m. Edwards is flexible; she just asks that visitors let her know if they need other arrangements. If they're going to be arriving after 9 p.m., she asks them to call when they cross the city limits so she can be ready for them.

Once guests arrive, Edwards gives them a key and shows them around. They're then free to come and go as they please.

When they're not interacting with guests, the innkeepers stay busy baking. Either Monica or Daniel Edwards makes a fresh baked good every day for Morehead Manor's complimentary evening dessert. The inn's offerings range from lemon-poppyseed poundcake to sweet potato-coconut-pecan streusel cheesecake.

Monica Edwards also is active throughout the evening taking reservations by telephone and e-mail and sending out confirmation letters with directions. She cuts on the answering machine at 9 p.m., and if everything goes well, she's in bed by 10 p.m.

"I can't imagine me having a job that gives me any greater fulfillment than the one I have right now," she said.

Even when the inn doesn't have guests, Edwards spends her days coordinating events from book clubs to weddings with her customers and caterer.

"You name it, we've probably tried it at least once," she said.

Running a bed and breakfast encompasses the owners' lives, Carlson said, but she said it's hard to ascertain how much innkeepers can make at their jobs. For instance, while innkeepers don't get paid vacation time, their businesses provide them with a place to sleep and food to eat, she said. Inn size, location and capacity for hosting other events affect revenue as well, Monica Edwards said.

According to the PAII study, innkeepers in North Carolina say it would cost $757 a week, or $39,364 a year, to replace themselves with paid staff. More than half are dependent on outside income, the study reports.

"I don't think you can get rich running a bed and breakfast, but you can have a very nice lifestyle," Carlson said. "The best part is that your entertainment comes to the door and pays."

While Morehead Manor attracts a number of repeat guests, it also serves as some minority customers' first bed and breakfast experience. Some novices have questions about B&B etiquette, and they feel more comfortable being able to ask someone like themselves, Monica Edwards said.

Other guests are surprised that their hosts are black, and a few have reacted negatively, Daniel Edwards said. A number of guests have said they found that their preconceptions of African-American culture are incorrect, he said.

Black innkeepers make up a small segment of the industry, said Edwards, who also serves as president of the African-American Association of Innkeepers International, which has 24 member inns. Minorities make up 4 percent of innkeepers in North Carolina, according to the PAII study.

"We're meeting new people and inspiring others who will decide they want to make the leap of faith and become crazy innkeepers too," he said.

-----To see more of The Herald-Sun, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.herald-sun.com

(c) 2004, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

 
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