“After raising families and pursuing successful careers, we are fulfilling a long standing dream of running a bed and breakfast”. This is a typical statement from empty nester innkeepers of a certain age, you may be one of them. Rick and I certainly were when we purchased our bed and breakfast, our son was in college. On the other hand there have been and continue to be many couples who have built and feathered their nests as innkeepers and have managed to be successful at doing both.
Rick and I had the pleasure of staying at the Saltair Inn Waterfront Bed and Breakfast in Bar Harbor, Maine last month and meeting innkeepers Kristi and Matt and their three (count them one, two, three) young children. The B&B Team conducts many aspiring innkeeping seminars throughout the year and our attendee couples are getting younger and younger and many of them have growing families. A question most of them have is; “Can we realistically raise a family and run a bed and breakfast?
We say yes you can and it can be a wonderful lifestyle for the entire family. Picture this scene; one daughter being swept out of the inn by Matt into the car at 7:30 to be dropped off at choir practice. Later that morning their adorable 5 year old son gets bundled up (dad put one jacket on his son, mom said ‘no not that one, it’s cold today’ and a warmer jacket appeared, sound familiar?) As I viewed this memorable scenario, a blog subject came to mind. I asked Matt and Kristi if they would agree to an interview and talk about their experience as active parents/innkeepers. They generously agreed. The following questions are based on the inquiries that many of our aspiring innkeepers ask us.
Question – How do you maintain the separation of your personal family space from the guest space?
Matt – Walls!
Kristi – We told our daughter Katie who was 5 when we moved here that the threshold separating our home from the inn was between the kitchen and the guest dining room. She started calling it, ’the big house and the little house’. The other kids naturally picked up on this and there has never been a problem.
Kristi – We searched to find an inn that had enough space in the owner’s quarters for us so we didn’t have to share space with the guests. As with any home we spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
Question – What is the hardest part of balancing your personal time from your innkeeping time?
Matt – Splitting up the time between the two of us, who does what, can be a challenge. One of us drops off or attends an event while the other stays at the inn. Together we often miss some of the big evening events but we make a point that one of us is always there.
Kristi – But we rarely see both parents at events, sometimes there are no parents attending their kid’s events. Many times one of us may take some time off in the afternoon to take one or two of the kids for a hike or something while the other stays here for check in, how many parents have the flexibility to do that?
Question – Do you ever take time off for just the two of you?
Kristi – Yes in the off season. We went to Phoenix for a week and left the kids with Matt’s parents. We are lucky to have them live nearby.
Matt – We take a two nighter here and there. But everything has to be planned ahead, spontaneity is out the window. We could try harder for the two of us to go out more often.
Kristi – Our daughter Katie (now 11) says to us sometimes; ‘You and Daddy should go to dinner tonight!’
Question – What about family time away from the inn? Is this important to you or not?
Kristi – Again we take time away in the off season. What is important is that we as a family or the two of us have breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day. Much more than other couples or families. This is a real plus to owning your own business where you live.
Question – What do your kids like most about the inn?
Matt – When we don’t have guests! Seriously, I don’t think they know any different, they were all so young when we bought the inn. Adam was born here, he definitely doesn’t know any different.
Kristi – At this time I don’t believe they realize the advantage they have of us being at home with them all the time. Dinners together, etc.
Question – Do you feel obligated or not to welcome families at your inn?
Kristi – No. The inn is really not set up for kids. There are plenty of other places in Bar Harbor with pools, playgrounds and rooms with multiple beds. This is not us.
Matt – Most of our guests are here for a vacation away from their kids. If they ask we tell them our kids don’t have the run of the inn. There has never been a problem. Many of our guests like the fact that we are a family business. They like seeing the kids going off to school and occasionally around the inn, especially grandparents and wanna be grandparents.
Question – Anything you both want to add?
Matt– We’re glad we did this when we did. We were both 35. We know we are much happier because we can be around our kids more than if we had stayed in our other careers. There are many more pros than there are cons.
Kristi – The hard part is owning an old house and the upkeep it takes. Raising our kids here is the easy part!
Thank you Kristi and Matt. To conclude I will add a quote from Trip Advisor from a couple that stayed at Saltair for 8 days last November. “One thing we really enjoyed about this inn was how well Matt and Kristi work together. They’re a team. I love that they’re raising their family and running a successful inn.”
Another quote, this one from Matt and Kristi that appears on their website. “It was a decision that we have never regretted, and likely never will.”