So you want to be an innkeeper…
Back in 1990, the inspiration hit that I wanted to be an innkeeper. I rushed home in the Dallas traffic, avoiding mass quantities of cars aimed at me like bullets from a machine gun and told Jeff what I thought we should do and that I thought we should go stay in one. His response was, “Now let me get this straight. You want me to go to a stranger’s house, sleep in a stranger’s bed and get up and have breakfast with a bunch of strangers?!!” Well, yep, that was about the gist of it.
We stayed in our first one in Jefferson, TX, and loved visiting with the innkeeper so much that when we drove home after our visit, Jeff said, “Looks like fun, let’s do it!”
Well, it took us 12 years to actually get to “doing it”, but 7 years after the fact we have this down pat. So let’s take a peek behind the curtain and see what a “day in the life” looks like:
Jeff’s an early bird. I have given him permission to drag me out of bed at an indecent hour as well – not to cook, but to walk! So for those of you that think we are up before the crack of dawn to start cooking and baking, think again. We are actually out there with a poop bag following Sophie for 2 miles.
Anyway, once we are back and cleaned up, we are in the kitchen by 7:45. A quick breakfast for ourselves (we don’t eat all this fattening food ourselves, you know) and it’s getting on with breakfast. Here at the Bridgeford House we serve a four-course breakfast. That’s a fruit dish, an egg or pancake (or French toast) dish, a side dish and a meat. There is also usually a garnish of some sort, plus juice and coffee. We have such a good system that we can fix a breakfast for 10 in an hour. Planning, planning, planning!
Once folks have eaten and gone (and they often stay talking at the breakfast table for an hour or more!), clean up is accomplished. (Usually somewhere about that time is another Sophie walk, so more exercise is expended, whether I want to or not.) We serve our breakfasts on fine china, crystal and gold flatware and much of that is hand-washed. I’m not kidding.
Daily sweet treats need to be baked next. Cinnamon scones (although I discovered by accident recently that butterscotch scones are wonderful, too!), gooey lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies…well, you get the idea. Those are all baked up by yours truly and wrapped on plates and put on the guests’ beds, new ones coming in or those staying over. For those staying over, we also change out used towels for fresh ones, check drinks and coffee supplies, empty trash, and straighten beds for a “turned down” look. This is known in the industry as a “fluff”. I just like saying that word.
For those guests that have left, an entire room turnover is needed. Fresh sheets and towels, restocking of supplies and an entire disinfecting clean of the bathrooms, followed lastly by a good and thorough vacuuming. On a good day, I have a housekeeper that does all this for me! On a medium day, I have my husband helping me (he works Monday-Friday at the Eureka Springs Chamber office). On a bad day, Sophie helps me.
Throughout our days, there is a comforting and constant reality to give us total job security – laundry. With five rooms and fresh towels provided daily to current guests (something we insist upon), laundry can pile up high enough to bury ten Sophies. I have learned to do laundry in my sleep and also during all other activities, so that it is barely noticeable. Oh, and you will be glad to know that I do find time to do our own personal laundry – not to worry.
Believe it or not, on some days, all these things except laundry (remember, it’s going on in the background) can be done by 1 or 2 p.m. Then it’s time to check guests in, if they are arriving in mid-afternoon, which most of them do. Getting them settled in and toured takes about 15 minutes or so each (depending on how talkative I am or how long they play with Sophie). How, you might ask, do I check in more than one room at a time, if they all arrive at the same time? The most valuable words in an innkeeper’s vocabulary: planning and keep it simple. We stick a note out on the door to have new arrivals make themselves comfortable until we return.
There is a lot of time in between these tasks doing website updates, answering emails (and the phone, of course), and hopefully making reservations. Depending on the particular innkeepers, these extra duties, loosely described as “shamelessly promoting ourselves” can take a lot of time or very little time. We happen to be pretty computer-savvy and like to make it as complicated as possible.
This is our life and we love it. This was a behind-the-scenes tour rarely seen by our guests – and that’s the way it should be!
Sam and Sophie (Jeff’s at work!)