The B&B Team is incredibly fortunate to work with a number of inns who exemplify excellence in Innkeeping. Whenever we see innkeepers doing all the things that make inns great, we are so pleased, especially when we’ve been able to play even a small role in that success.
This past weekend we held a seminar for aspiring innkeepers, people who are thinking about starting a bed and breakfast, at The Lakehouse Inn and Winery in Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. This was a wonderful setting for a seminar, because the location, itself, is so demonstrative of how to do everything right, one step at a time, over a period of years.
At breakfast our first morning, Sam Fagnilli, the owner and winemaker (and carpenter, architect, visionary, and resident handyman) explained to our attendees how they had started in 2000 with a rundown building with a poor business but a location they were seeking: a home on Lake Erie. Being larger than they needed for a house and more than they would have spent for a house had they found it, they decided to make it a business to pay for itself.
Once they had a few rooms open, they soon realized that they needed a draw to their inn. Located on the Wines and Vines Trail district of northeastern Ohio, they decided that wine would bring people, so they started making wine and opened a winery. That led to a core part of their business model.
With no quality restaurants in the area and none open in the winter, they had to feed guests an evening meal, so they opened a small restaurant, initially only for guests. Eventually that led to a separate building with patio dining open to the public. The tasting room and barrel storage eventually found a home below the “beach house” they renovated and turned into a luxury accommodation. Soon a beach-front dining deck complemented the tasting room. In recent years terraced stone walks and patios overlooking Lake Erie have further added to the property’s attraction. And weddings have added to the cash flow.
Did I mention that all of this was paid for by cash flow from the business, not borrowed funds? Today the inn has eleven guest rooms, wine making facilities, wine tastings, small restaurant with large patio dining, and a loyal clientele.
Last year they had the chance to purchase a small property across the street. In what was the living room of the old house, we held our Innkeeping classes this weekend, and we’ll not see it that way next year, as they will be turning the house into a good sized meeting room for indoor functions and a day spa. They’ll create additional parking for weddings and large events as well as summer staff housing on the property, solving past challenges at the same time. Once completed, they are going to expand the restaurant facilities to enclose what is currently open-air patio dining to make it a year-round facility with wine tasting in the winter months. Can you say “destination property?”
For the eleven years that this family has owned The Lakehouse Inn and Winery they have defied the odds. Every year they have grown their revenues, and there’s an important reason why. They believe, as we teach, that you can never stop moving forward, or you start moving backward. They have always paid attention to and studied their business, looking for opportunities to fill-in weak times and arenas. They understand the linkages that create reasons for people to come to their inn and provide memorable experiences. They have always attended PAII conferences to learn and get great new ideas. And they truly understand the meaning of hospitality. So, to Sam and Karen, Andrea and Lance, Nathan and all the staff at The Lakehouse Inn and Winery, kudos for showing us Excellence in Innkeeping.