Monday, October 26, 2009

The Quilters are Coming!!!

...and the railroad enthusiasts and the volleyball players...and the barbershop quartets...

Earlier this year, Lancaster welcomed the opening of our long-awaited Convention Center. While it's still working out the kinks of trying to service a whole new market of visitors and convention-goers, I believe it's going to be a good thing for Lancaster County tourism. Do the math - some of these conventions host thousands of people. The AQS Quilt Show and Contest , for example, is supposed to draw 17,000 people to the area. The Convention Center has only 300 rooms. So, as an innkeeper with a B&B only about 10 minutes from downtown, I'm wondering how I can get a piece of that pie.

Granted, the AQS quilt convention is one week out of the year, but these people will most likely come early, stay longer and come back if they feel welcome here. So another member of our Bed & Breakfast Association and I met with the organizers of the convention. We were not able to make any appreciable headway with any of our suggestions (a LONG story...for another blog, maybe) , but it did give us a new outlook on how these things are organized. We're still trying to get a meeting with people at the convention center, and that will eventually materialize. But in the meantime, each B&B will be encouraged to do what they can to make themselves attractive to the convention-goers.

Location is certainly a big factor when considering lodging options during a convention. Sure, you can stay right at the hotel (if you're one of the lucky 300), but then you don't get to experience all of what Lancaster County has to offer - Amish culture, superb shopping, great food, beautiful countryside. And staying at the convention hotel will not only set you back over $150 a night, but in addition, you'll have to pay for parking ($14/night), breakfast ($20+pp), and oh, don't touch that bottle of water in your room or it will show up on your bill at check-out.

On the other hand, stay at a local B&B and you'll get a special convention rate , but of course breakfast is included, parking is free and so is the bottled water you'll find in your room! So, when you're attending a convention at our beautiful, new convention center downtown, don't be afraid to think a little 'out of the box' and reserve a room at one of Lancaster's finest - a bed & breakfast!

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Little Marriage TLC

If you didn't know who Jon & Kate Gosselin were, you probably do by now. Their names and faces have been showing up all over national television, magazines & tabloids and even in our local newspaper. It's a shame that what once was a great show about a very unusual family has now turned into something that should more appropriately be called 'Jon & Kate Set a Court Date'.

Our 10 y/o daughter loves this show. About a year ago, she begged me to send an e-mail to invite Jon & Kate to stay at our B&B . At the time they were still living in Lancaster County, but have since moved to Berks County, about an hour from us. As crazy as I thought the idea was, I did send that e-mail. Of course, to no one's surprise (except our daughter's), we never heard anything from them.

So what does this have to do with the B&B industry in Lancaster County? Well, for one thing, I like to think that as an innkeeper, I provide that much-needed retreat from the world. Bob & I are big proponents of the philosophy that 'happy couples make effective parents; and effective parents make well-adjusted kids'. It's really a trickle-down effect. If parents put a priority on working on their marriage, then they'll be more satisfied people in general. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time with this person you've chosen to marry. Problem is that many parents do nothing to grow and support their marriage relationship for the 18 or 20 years while raising the kids. When the kids leave the nest, the couple looks at each other and says, 'who are you?' and then realize that they've grown into two different people. I guess with Jon & Kate, the time it took them to get to that point must have accelerated by a factor of 8.

While supporting our children physically, socially and emotionally during their formative years is very important, neglecting the marriage relationship during this time is most likely not going to lead to a desirable result. That's why it's important for couples to get away from the kids for a little while. Now, I'm not suggesting a mandatory yearly 3-week vacation in Tahiti while the kids are parked at grandma & grandpa's. It need not be that elaborate, lengthy or expensive, and this is where we come in. A lot of Bed & Breakfast properties do not accept children and this is one of the reasons why. We're trying to create an atmosphere where adults can come to get away from all the kid-centered aspects of their lives.

It's interesting that, even at 10 years old, our daughter gets this! She understands that while mom & dad love her very much, they still need time to themselves. Prior to owning our B&B, we were never able to really have a 'date night' on any kind of regular basis. And we still don't, but every year around our anniversary (20 years this week), we would make sure that we took at least a long weekend to reconnect. Our daughter looks forward to this time, too. She stays with cousins, aunts & uncles and grandparents and gets a little spoiled (it takes me a few days to get her back to reality when she comes home). We're fortunate to have a great support system not too far away.

Do you have relatives you can count on to take the kids for a night or two? Maybe some good friends? We have friends who do not live close to family, so they 'swap' kids with another couple on a routine basis so each couple can take some time to be together. Again, it's not an elaborate vacation, but just a few days away, without the kids, to reconnect as a couple. They return feeling, refreshed and ready to be the best parents they can be.

So, it's really too bad that Jon & Kate ignored our invitation. I'm not suggesting that one night at a B&B would have solved all of their problems or prevented them from ending up where they are today. I do believe, however, that an attitude and desire to grow a strong marriage will help when encountering the inevitable challenges along the way. I sure hope you'll put your marriage first.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Classic Memories

Just the other day, I got an e-mail from one of our local theaters announcing a new show called Rocketmen. It features the music of Billy Joel and Elton John and is at the American Music Theatre from April 17th to June 6th.

Now, I'm going to be showing my age here, but I grew up with this music. Not only that, but I could probably sing Elton John lyrics before I could walk. Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but when I was a kid, my parents had an 8-track player and Elton John was one of my mother's favorite artists. There was a time that I could recite for you not only all the lyrics of all the songs on each tape, but I could tell you what order they came in and between which songs the tracks changed. That was a sound like no other! That big 'click' in between tracks. Sometimes it occurred right in the middle of a song. By the time I was 4 or 5, I could operate the thing. I wonder if my parents marveled at the technology that was available to me at that age that they didn't have. Sort of the same way I marvel at our 10-year-old with her i-pod (only on a much larger physical scale).

I find myself quite surprised at the memories that certain sounds hold for me, especially music. There were two places that we would go on vacation on a yearly basis - my uncle's mountain lodge cabin in Northern Pennsylvania and we'd rent a cottage in Conneaut Lake, Ohio. It seems, as I remember, anyway, that there was always music playing in the background. And it was GOOD music; Classic music. Notice I didn't say classical music. My husband finds it quite amusing that the only exposure I had to classical music as a child was whatever I heard on the Looney Tunes cartoons. There's a lot more to that story, but that's another blog for another day.

When I think of the music of Elton John and Billy Joel, I can hardly imagine anything in the music stores these days ever being considered as classic as that! Music 'artists' of today come and go so quickly - but Elton's first album was in the late 60's and he's still going stronger than the Energizer Bunny! Wonder if he has a pink bunny-eared costume. Classic music of the 60's and 70's was much like the cars of that same time. When I was in high school in the 80's, every guy I knew was trying to restore or purchase a muscle car. They just don't make cars like that anymore. I really don't believe that someone 20 years from now is going to want to own a 2009 Ford anything, but the 1965 Mustang is a completely different story!

So, if you're a friend or fan of the "Classic" anything - cars, music, or food - you can find it here in Lancaster. Come re-live some of your classic memories or create some new ones! Of course you're going to want to stay at a 'classic' bed & breakfast, so don't forget to make your reservations. We're here to help make your stay a memorable one.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Get by with a little Help from my Friends!

Looking back on the past 18 months of innkeeping, I can't help but wonder about all the little (and not so little) things that have helped us get where we are. We're #3 on the current Trip Advisor listing for popular B&B's in Lancaster; we're doing pretty well with occupancy while keeping up with some much-needed renovations; reviews also look good on I Love Inns and I usually fall into bed at night quite satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.

Yet there's more to innkeeping than all positive reviews, the improvement projects and the guests. Yes, it's true that I wouldn't be an innkeeper with out an inn or without guests (who wouldn't come if the reviews weren't good). One of the most important 'little things' is my association with other innkeepers - near and far. Just a couple of months after we took over the B&B, we were invited by some neighborly innkeepers to join the local bed and breakfast association. We were already members of PAII, but had learned that Pennsylvania does not have a state association specifically for bed & breakfasts.

I cannot tell you how vaulable the association with these local, fellow innkeepers has been! They're a wonderful group of people. Each has his or her special gifts and talents; each property is unique in its own way; each inn and innkeeper has something valuable to offer. If you were in a room with these people, someone would have to tell you that they were competitors and sometimes I think they forget that they are. The cooperation, for the most part (well, we all have our opinions!), is second to none. In fact, right now we're working on a sort of round-table discussion of sorts to brainstorm ideas for helping each other out given the current economic condidtions, i.e. determining what special skills and talents each of us has that might be of some assistance to another. For instance, we have a tile saw that we purchased last year in anticipation of renovating our bathrooms. Bob is pretty adept at using it. So, we would offer our talents and tools to help someone else out who needs a small repair.

Our association organizes all kinds of opportunities for fellowship and continuing education. We have retreats, dinners and let's not forget our monthly meeting! Any excuse to have potluck! We've developed close friendships with several other innkeepers. As I mentioned previously, we're new to this game and it's only through my association with these other innkeepers that I've learned of some of the other wonderful things that have taken place in the association. There was an innkeeper undergoing treatment for cancer. Well, the others stepped up and provided breakfasts so that the ill innkeeper did not have to close her doors! When one member experienced the death of a close family member, the association sent flowers. Other examples include get well cards; congratulation kudos; and two of our members were even nominated by the rest of the group for awards given out by our local visitor's bureau. There was no one who sulked that they themselves weren't nominated or recognized, but everyone gathered round our awarded fellow members to share in their joy!

So, thank you, Authentic Bed & Breakfasts of Lancaster County! We consider ourselves very fortunate and blessed to be a part of the family!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What's Goin' On?

So, here we are in the 'middle' of winter. According to that famous Pennsylvania groundhog, what's-his-name, we've got 6 more weeks of winter. blah! That puts us well into March before we have any hope of thawing out. Personally, I'm sick of winter and being cold; tired of snow boots, hats, gloves and ear muffs; grown weary of getting shocked every time I get out of my car.

However, there are some redeeming qualities to the winter months for those of us who live in, and those of you who visit, Lancaster County. Because there are fewer tourists, we can take advantage of less traffic, more open and available seating at restaurants and shows, and a generally slower pace of life than we experience from June through October.
A couple of weeks ago, we were finally able to go to one of the new restaurants in town that we've been wanting to experience. Fenz Restaurant has a very hip decor and fantastic food. Entrees range from $12- 28 and there are plenty of wonderful appetizers to choose from as well as an ample (and reasonably priced) wine list. This place opened this past fall and my guess is that come summer, you'll need reservations at least a week in advance.

Another Lancaster offering that we've been able to sample during the winter is the Rainbow Dinner Theatre. This is not someplace you go to for the cuisine, as it is pretty much a run-of-the-mill, feed the masses buffet. The talent, on the other hand, is something NOT to be missed! The producers have done well and keep their audience in mind regarding content of the shows as well as length and other physical attributes of the stage. There's no bad seat in the house.

Next weekend, of course, is Valentine's Day. Today I did a little checking to see which of the restaurants to which we commonly refer guests, still had reservations available. I was surprised to find that most places are almost completely booked for Saturday and both Friday and Sunday are filling up fast as well. Did someone say there's a recession going on? Looks like there are many people who are refusing to participate.
While my schedule of bed and breakfast guests is still somewhat light, I've made a list of Lancaster County offerings that I want to take advantage of. They include - Herr's Snack Factory Tour, Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, a Ghost Tour, Lancaster Newspapers Newseum, the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum, Susquehanna Glass Factory, the Ephrata Cloister, President James Buchanan's Wheatland , and the Conestoga Area Historical Society. We've been here 18 months and I've still got so much to get out there and see!!

Of course, we've always got room for you, whether you want to enjoy Lancaster County during the cooler winter and spring months (don't forget, Mud Sales are going on!) or if you want to wait a while until the daffodils, tulips and iris start blooming. We hope you'll join us soon.