A blog about toilet paper and facial tissue? Really? Stay with me, here…
When we first opened Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast, it was a start up. We moved to this large home from a home with 850 square feet when we bought it more than 20 years before. Finishing a walk-out basement added more space, but it was still much smaller than this home. Much smaller. Very few of the furnishings our children had grown up with were a good fit for Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast. We had to do a lot of shopping to furnish our B&B. We had to determine what shampoo to use, which towels we could afford, which sheets, etc. We also had a lot of marketing expenses, including brochures, a web site, etc. It was all brand new and a financial challenge. It was fun and exciting, but it was a challenge. What were the essentials? Where would we get the most return for our money? As the years have passed, my brain has learned to calculate expenses in “room nights.” How many room nights will it take to pay for… ?
Furniture, draperies, and room-darkening window blinds were high expenditures. We wanted items that looked good and that fit the style of our 120-year-old home, a vintage mansion in the heart of the historic district. I’d collected things like china and serving pieces, and my buddy Terry had started giving me Christmas presents “for the B&B” a few years before we opened. Furnishing The B&B was a lot of fun, but also a very expensive proposition. With no real background, it was hard to project how many room nights we would fill to help pay the bills.
We needed to provide good guest amenities. We started with the best products we could afford, but after investing in our home and all the furnishings, money was very tight.
We bought sheets and towels on January clearance at major department stores. We started out with an eight-cup coffee maker and a canister of coffee on the guest buffet. We ordered stylish, but inexpensive guest mugs screened with our Blessings on State logo. Then we upgraded to a one-cup version with pods. Not K-cups. We used “pods”. I don’t even remember the manufacturer. We bought specially bottled shampoo, boxed soap and bath salts from one of the less expensive suppliers that puts the name of your B & B on every label. And, we bought name brand Northern toilet paper and Puffs (and Kleenex) facial tissue. No house brands for us. It’s true that “supplier” products offer more for your money, but I was determined to stick with the highest quality in those two areas. I guess it was one area in which I could exercise some control and I wanted guests to have at least the same quality product I wanted to use. (If a guest is committed to an expensive shampoo, they’re likely to bring it with them, but they’re not typically carrying in boxes of Kleenex.) I remember when a visiting innkeeper was staying with us and commented on the decision to offer “real” toilet paper. I’d never considered anything else. I couldn’t afford really high-end sheets and towels, but I could buy quality tissues for a guest with a head cold.
Several years have passed, we have established our business, and and over the years the quality of our linens and other amenities have increased. Attending professional innkeeper conferences has provided connections with B&B suppliers that offer wholesale discounts to the trade. I believe that hotel and B&B linens should be high quality with regard to comfort, ease of care and durability, and now we’re able to focus on those qualities. I still look for the highest quality at the best value. We currently provide our guests with high end sheets and coverlets. Our guests have luxurious guest robes and high quality towels.Our bath amenities are now from a high end amenity line and today’s guests receive a whole array of bath and body items when they stay with us. We use a Keurig coffee machine on the guest buffet and guests may choose from a wide assortment of coffees, teas, hot cocoa, etc. to use in their beautiful hand-thrown Deneen Pottery Blessings mugs. Over time we have increased the number of room nights we fill, which has allowed us to pay for these upgrades.
When you live in a 120+ year old home, there are always expenses. We just spent money on a major plumbing repair which involved replacing vintage pipes. There’s always something. Care to guess how many room nights I’ll need to fill to pay for redoing the front wraparound porch? Or how about how many it will take to replace the roof? Go ahead! Take a guess!
I’d prefer not to think about it.