Dream Job found at B&B in Vermont: Chris Hardaway finds owning a Bed and Breakfast in Vermont fun, challenging.
by Chris Hardaway
We packed the house and the dog and headed to Vermont last June. I determined that I can’t hold a job, (must be an attention deficit disorder; couldn’t be because I’m inherently lazy). My wife Terry determined that 15 years as a paralegal and one year returning as a first grade teacher is enough. So we decided to return to Terry’s roots in New England to open a bed and breakfast in Vermont. While it sounded idyllic, we were prepared for cleaning bathrooms and lots of laundry.
After six months of searching and negotiation1 we found The Quail’s Nest in Danby, Vermont, which has a population between 900 and 1,200 depending on when you ask; and where the Danby-Mt.Tabor Voluntary Fire Company makes do on $17,987.37 from fund raising events, $13,000 from the town of Danby, and $5,679 from donations; and where there are about 180 children enrolled in school; and where, in 2002, there were 11 marriages, 3 civil unions, 7 births, 7 burial permits and 2 deaths (I can’t explain the discrepancy between the latter two).
Grocery shopping is a 20-minute trip to the fourth largest town in Vermont (Rutland, pop. 15,000). We have opera: none; symphony: none (although the VSO is alive and well); Starbucks: none; The Gap: none; Nordstroms: none; gas station: none; stoplights: none; DSL: yes; cable: yes; trash pickup: well, no, but a nice young man comes by occasionally and takes it to the town dumpster for a few bucks, or I throw it on top of the Jeep and take it. The water is municipal, gravity fed; the sewer is septic and the power electric and propane.
Danby is a wonderful town. We are excited about being here. Contrary to our prejudices, the local population has been the most friendly group we have run in to. Many are transplants. But the night we moved in we had three rooms occupied and we (read Terry) had to get breakfast ready for six people. We did okay, and got into a routine, my bouts with attorney paranoia notwithstanding (I imagined getting sued for everything imaginable).
On day five, we were luxuriating in our small owners’ quarters when, at 5 a.m., the power went off. Called the power company. The recording said this was the scheduled shutdown from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. for maintenance and didn’t you get that card we sent last month warning you of this? Well, no. We weren’t here yet. But eight guests were expecting breakfast at 8 a.m. I’m thinking breach of contract and Acts of God, but Terry handled it magnificently —perking coffee on the gas stove, handing out scrambled eggs instead of waffles, with me hoping I wouldn’t have to go into the basement of this 1835 house and light a pilot which really is pushing the envelope of my handiness.
Niekko, our Siberian husky, is adapting as well. He has been licked by a cow, chased by a horse, and discovered the mystical world of electric fences (he now literally jumps in Terry’s lap when walked near the aforementioned fence).
So can we make it just running the bed and breakfast? Probably not. It has a low occupancy rate, and we’re off the scenic Highway 7 that runs through the Green Mountains, as opposed to the Interstate on the east side of the State.
Still, we’re excited about access to the Long trail and the Appalachian Trail just three miles away. There’s hiking and cross-country skiing (also downhill, although I don’t know why anyone would come from Colorado to ski Vermont). We’re anticipating that people will take sleigh rides this winter. Boating, canoeing and kayaking look like big draws, although we don’t have large lakes. Biking the valleys of the Green Mountains looks like fun. Then there’s the fall leaf season, which promises to be gorgeous. The Highway 7 corridor is replete with antique shops and, of course, Ben and Jerry’s is a couple of hours away.
I will be teaching two classes at the Community College of Vermont in Bennington in the fall and will be clerking for three months in the spring to fulfill the requirement for waiving in for licensure. Terry will be quilting when she’s not busy being the brains of the outfit.
While the original website for the Quail’s Nest said breakfast served in period costume, Terry has informed me that her costume at that time of the day will be bunny slippers and a robe, and so far my waiter outfit has consisted of shorts and a clean shirt. The website is being changed (check us out soon at www.quailsnestbandb.com) or e-mail us at email@example.com.
In sum, the guests have been very nice, the local folks welcoming and warm, and we’re going to the grocery every day for fresh food to feed up to 15 people. If it’s a mistake, it won’t be our first or last. But we’re having a good time so far. It’s been wonderful, green, lush, rainy, misty, and small scale. Regrets? Sure, leaving good friends and associates behind and lunches at Mori’s. We hope anyone who ventures east will stop by and see us.
1Couldn’t resist a footnote. Don’t know if The Docket even uses footnotes. In investigating bed and breakfasts, we talked to some sellers in our price range and found that they weren’t making any money. The most common reason we got was that we were "buying a lifestyle." Well, we can’t eat "lifestyle," so we persevered. It reminded me of when I started teaching adjunct at DU Law, and they asked if I just wanted to sign over my stipend to the scholarship fund, assuming that I was a financially successful attorney, and I said, "Well, no."