How I was able to stomach opening this bnb on the Smith remains a mystery to me. I didn’t have a background in the business. No training whatsoever. Not even a Yelp page at the start. And after a really pathetic start to the year (this year, business was utterly flat), I thought maybe the good times til now were just beginner’s luck.
Oh, what the hell, I said to myself. I’ll eat up all the hard salami, guzzle the wine, slowly make my way through the hella pounds of tuna and salmon I have in the deep freeze and then I’ll just sell the place. Call up that Hollywood movie director who stayed here once and see what his best offer is. Buy a Westphalia and hit the road.
But after the slow and worrisome start to the year, the redwoods got hot. These days Walker Road is looking like a parking lot; RVs and rental cars crowd the pullouts on Hwy 199, and a twenty minute wait for dinner at the Chart Room is de rigor.
Me and the b? Well, the bnb~hiouchi switchboard and inbox finally lit up with calls, emails, and more calls. Up until just a couple of weeks ago I was still able to squander time on walks with Molly, wine with Bill, Renee and Reggie, dips in the hot tub with Meg, and even a trip to San Francisco to visit family. Now those moments of self-indulgent nothingness have been transformed into a race to deliver good, clean fun (with the occasional tequila shots) to a gaggle of mostly good, clean guests (with the occasional not-so-good, not-so-clean lodger…ok, just one).
As I continue to field calls and emails seeking rooms and as I fill in the remaining blanks on my schedule that signify availability, I continue to ask myself: What is all the fuss about? Where is the business coming from? And WTH am _I_ doing running this suddenly popular joint on the river?
What I’d done to prepare this former residence for its current calling as a bnb was basic, intuitive, and not terribly inventive. If there’d been a book to consult, I would have. But there was none. No formula. No recipe. So I did the only thing I could, which was to draw on my own experience. I referred to a lifetime of drinking coffee in cafes, chatting with barkeeps from Barcelona to Barra de Navidad, and sleeping in sometimes-too-hard/sometimes-too-soft beds in Palenque pensions as well as the occasional five-star hotel.
But providing a service is far different than receiving one. How easy it is to ask for a another mug of piping hot coffee or reach into a bottomless basket of muffins — far more challenging when I’m the one doing the grinding and brewing, doing the baking, making it all happen on schedule.
To make this bnb come to life, I was literally making it up as I went.
Which looked like this:
Buy three beds,
Buy three mattresses of similar dimensions.
Provision the shelves with paper towels, Windex, sheets, bath towels.
Fold ’em. Stack ’em.
Collect favorite Jamie Oliver, Mark Bitman, Melissa Clark recipes.
Print ’em, three-hole punch ’em, stack ’em.
Take an accounting of all mismatched plates.
Clean ’em. Dry ’em. Stack ’em
Fill in missing links — lamps, pillows, deck chairs — with a wallet-busting, shopping spree at IKEA.
Truck it back to Hiouchi.
Get a Yelp page up; ditto airbnb. Chill. Scan email. Wait for calls. Fret.
There were something like 50 steps needed to take prior to opening. But when I did, Ka-bang!, I’d birthed a bnb.
On reflection, the prep didn’t seem like much. I made lists, lost lists, hid lists, remade lists, and somehow got to an opening day in May 2012 that was humbling, mildly uncomfortable, but not murderous.
I call what I do, D-I-Y b-n-b, not for laughs or to make light of the effort, but because all it took was a goal, a hammered-out set of standards, two hands (more if you include Meg’s, Jeff’s, and Steve’s) and a check book. Yes, there were a bunch of moving parts that needed lion-sized taming and there’s the ongoing requirement not to get lazy, but, believe me, opening a three-room bnb is no harder than learning how to change the four spark plugs in your car.
It’s so utterly possible I should probably just shut up about it and get back to work.
Here’s some of the good people who stayed during the slow-poke days leading to now: