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Bed and Breakfast attracts out of towners, and locals too
When Kareen Stockton developed the business plan for a posh bed-and-breakfast in Manchester, she expected people would come from all over the country to soak in the atmosphere.
But after several months of operating the Little Clam Bay Bed-and-Breakfast, she was surprised to find it had become a destination for locals who want to sit in the lap of luxury for a night or two.
“I get people from all over,” she said. “But most of my guests have been from around Port Orchard. They’re celebrating a special occasion like a wedding or an anniversary. They want to get away from it all, and stay in a first-class place without having to travel too far.
“This is become a retreat for many of the locals,” she said. “It is where they come to relax.”
Stockton said that high fuel prices as well as expensive hotel rates have encouraged people to stay closer to home.
In some cases, her local guests have checked in, gone out to dinner, and stopped at their own home to feed their dog before returning to spend the night.
Stockton spent 27 years in Sammamish, running a farm and raising a family. She has also run a restaurant and several other customer-service oriented businesses.
When it “came time to downsize,” she decided a bed-and-breakfast was a perfect fit for her skills and abilities.
“I’ve always worked in customer service,” she said, “so I figured this is something I could do well. I know what people want and what makes them comfortable, even before they know it themselves.”
Stockton looked at around 70 properties around Kitsap before settling on her current location, which was then under construction.
She chose it for the workmanship of the house and the outstanding view. It has 1,200-square-foot, self-contained guest quarters to operate the business, and a separate area where Stockton could attend to her mother, who was then in the early stages of dementia.
She bought the house and decorated it with quality antiques, to result in a combination of modern and traditional.
The next step, however, was more difficult than expected.
“My idea was that I would just hang up a sign and open for business,” she said. “But when I checked with the county to see what was required I was told that I needed to get several permits. This started a nine-month process of frustration, anger and disappointment. I had to fill out the same paperwork several times. The requirements for a one-room bedand breakfast are as complicated as if you were opening a Holiday Inn.”
The house is hard to find, as the street was newly christened as Jessica Way (named after Jessica Torres, who was killed by a drunk driver in January). When Stockton moved in the road was unnamed, and the county gave her naming rights. She chose Blue Heron Lane, and approached her neighbors for permission.
The neighbors, Jessica’s parents, requested that Stockton name the road in Jessica’s honor.
Stockton agreed, but it will still be a while before the road appears in all the map search engines.
The facility is now legal, and opened in April. In the meantime, Stockton’s mother died and never saw the dream fulfilled. And in a theme familiar to all, the worsening economy forced her to readjust expectations.
“When I started this, I didn’t know that my mother was going to pass away or that the economy was going to take a dive,” she said. “But I figured this is still something that I needed to do.”
The nightly rate is $160, which is far less than an equivalent facility in a large city.
For this, guests have a large, private suite with “the most comfortable bed in the world.”
They get a specially prepared breakfast, wine and tea, and several other amenities.
“When people call for reservations, I ask them what they like and then I get it for them,” she said. “There were several bicyclists who were staying here and I prepared a special breakfast for them to eat before riding, and a carb snack before they went to bed the night before.”
While the price and size offers a stark contrast with a large hotel there is one other special quality — Stockton only has one guest at a time.
And she is the only staff member, completing the cooking, cleaning and customer service all by herself.
This won’t satisfy some excitement junkies, but the one-to-one ratio provides a perfect fit for a growing breed of traveler.
“I love having guests,” she said. “I am excited when they show up. I can find something in common with everyone I meet, and I love giving them a new experience.”