Business SPOT LIGHT
Hidden View Bed & Breakfast
By: Leslie Tharp, Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast, Leesburg, VA
You may wonder where bed & breakfast owners go for a quick getaway when they don’t have guests. When Wayne and I recently noted an open date on our calendar. I quickly checked to see if there was an available suite at Hidden View so we could take advantage of some much-needed downtime! We were in luck and booked the Haven Suite for one night! We couldn’t wait to get in that lovely lap pool and enjoy the fabulous views. As soon as our guests left the morning of our booking, we locked the doors and headed out. On our way to Hidden View, we decided to hit Harpers Ferry Brewery since we hadn’t been there yet. Yes, my Certified Tourism Ambassador persona kicked in needed to see what this place was all about so we could let our guests know what we thought. Beer, pizza, and incredible views. You can see the town of Harpers Ferry, and where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. Great place to visit if you are out that way or enjoying all the activities that Harpers Ferry Adventure Center has to offer! After lunch, we headed to Hidden View. When we arrived, Cheri and Ray greeted and gave us the grand tour. Amazing. It is such a beautiful B&B. They have five fabulous suites and many common areas for guests to spread out.
The grounds are spectacular with a walking path through the woods and around the property, beautiful gardens, a koi pond, a gazebo area, fire pits, views all around; and, did I mention the pool? We quickly found some rafts and lazily floated around as we watched a momma bird feeding her babies in a nearby birdhouse. It was just what I needed! Our room was cozy and quiet, the bed comfy, and breakfast the following day was perfect. A must-stay!! Thanks, Cheri and Ray, for such a lovely time! While there, we learned a little about them, and Cheri sent me their story below.
In 2014, during one of our weekend get-a-ways to a favorite winery near the mountains, we talked about what we would do as a career if money weren’t a factor. Ray, who loves being outdoors with nature and is excellent with plants, mentioned he would love to learn how to run a vineyard; going wine-ing probably helped to form that thought. Cheri, who loves organization and decorating, thought of real estate and home staging.
When we arrived at the winery, we were still discussing our dreams and sharing them with our friends who owned the winery. Finally, they looked at us and said, “we don’t see you doing that. We see you more as B&B people; and oh, by the way, the bed & breakfast right behind us is thinking about coming on the market soon. We think you should buy it.” So when we finished our wine, we decided to drive to the property and check it out.
This B&B was beautiful, and we instantly fell in love with it! It was a large, newer Victorian home with open acreage for a vineyard and stunning sweeping mountain views. We thought that this property could give us both of our dreams. That evening, while we dined, we were still so excited about the thought of this dream that it was all we talked about; and we knew before dessert — that we had to consider this further.
The next day, we looked into website articles like: “So you want to be an Innkeeper.” We compiled a fantasy list of what would make the perfect bed and breakfast for us: a spacious home with a view, plenty of outdoor space to enjoy, a property that we could turn into a destination location where people could enjoy staying on-site, and a place that offered our guests plenty of activities in the surrounding area, 4-6 guest rooms, lots of fireplaces, pretty grounds, and good owner’s quarters. We purchased books on the subject, attended seminars, and met with other B&B owners.
Once armed with more data on the industry, the business, and the local real estate market, we reached out to the proprietors of that perfect B&B and scheduled an on-site meeting to discuss their plans to sell it. It didn’t take long for them to realize that we weren’t ready to buy and for us to realize that they weren’t prepared to sell. However, sometimes things happen for a reason, and this was one of those times. The B&B recently lost its resident innkeeper, and since we wanted to learn more about the business, we all realized that we could help each other out. Ray and I offered to become their innkeepers to meet their needs in support of their guests. We called this our “interim program,” and though some friends thought we were crazy to work for free, we saw this as a rare opportunity to live the lifestyle before doing it. We started the very next weekend.
On our first day, the owner met us on-site to help us get familiar with where everything was; to understand their processes, what needed to be done, how they like to attend to their guests and their needs; and, of course, how to flip the rooms for new guests properly. Oddly, that was the last time we saw the owners in the year and a half that we ran their business. We took care of the shopping, menu plans, and preparations. Greeted the guest, gave tours of the house, and attended to their needs many times above and beyond what the business would have had us do. We helped guests plan their weekend activities and special events and sometimes invited them to join us when they didn’t have any plans. Our guests may have started as strangers, but before they left — they were friends, and many that we keep in touch with today. Our weekend’ work’ was also our ‘weekend getaway,’ and we loved meeting and socializing with the exciting variety of people that stay at B&Bs… we loved our job!
Unfortunately, when the owners were ready to sell, we could not agree on the price. So we attended to the last guests on the books for that year, then the business closed and never reopened. We were devastated and lost. We didn’t know what to do with our weekends anymore and felt lonely with losing new friends each weekend.
Months later, while wine-ing again, we passed a property with a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of it. Because of the winding driveway up the mountain, we couldn’t see the house from the road, so we kept driving to the winery. On our way back, we decided to turn onto the driveway to look. We were instantly hooked; it was even better than the first inn! That sparkle was back in our eyes! Thinking we were leading with our hearts and not our heads, we looked seriously at all available properties in the area to be sure this would be the right one. And after months of looking. We decided it was!
Things moved fast since we placed our offer, and they accepted. So we started to box up our home of 15 years, one that we truly loved and invested in, and with great neighbors; and put it on the market. It sold the same time we were moving to Hillsboro, VA.
But our work and investment on the new property were far from done. Turning this private home on 10-acres with its’ beautiful panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the valley between the hills, and neighboring farms and vineyards into a licensed and permitted 5-guest room bed & breakfast was the next project.
Walls came down to enlarge rooms, and walls went up so each guest room had a private en-suite bathroom. We painted, repaired the pool surround, refinished the deck, and added planting beds, gardens, fountains, and walkways. Installed a second septic field, whole house humidifiers, and a tankless water heater to ensure there was plenty of hot water. We removed carpets and replaced them with hardwood floors. And we also built out the basement as the owner’s quarters so that guests could have the ability to not only rent all of the rooms for their own needs but could also rent the manor and the property to support day guests for numerous types of events.
We then purchased furniture, new mattresses, and luxury bedding. We crafted rock walls outside to give the property a more natural presence and added many plants with more to come. Finally, we added a fountain to the side patio and a fire pit to the front field with fantastic sunset views.
We know that running and managing a B&B isn’t for everyone. It isn’t a get-rich endeavor. But, it is a labor of love. We love the home, property, and views. And, we look forward to sharing this perfect place with all our guests, soon-to-be friends, and extended friends and family.
At Hidden View, we look forward to hosting your stay!