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Monday, January 15, 2007

InnSide our Placerville bed and Breakfast

Here is a story that ran in December 2006 about some new innkeepers in California and what they are doing with their bed and breakfast dream. The timeline is really not so bad, Rita and I looked in January and had our first guests in June of the same year so I can't really see that it is much of a whirlwind....

Whirlwind Inn
Couple goes from bed-and-breakfast patrons to owners in less than year
10:00 PM PST on Thursday, December 28, 2006
By DOUGLAS QUANThe Press-Enterprise
When your business is running a bed-and-breakfast inn and your promise is to pamper, finding time to unwind can be difficult.
Such is the case of Karl and Connie Sweigart, the Temecula Wine Country's newest B&B owners. In the three months since they took over the 10-bedroom Mission-style Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast inn, they've managed a one-day trip to San Diego, but little else.
On top of their regular duties, the Sweigarts have been juggling talks with television producers who are scouting locations for a reality TV show.
The show, which will air on the Oxygen network, will feature actress Tori Spelling and her husband, Dean McDermott, as they attempt to run a bed-and- breakfast. If the show is anything like the Sweigarts' reality, it could prove an endurance test for the pregnant Spelling.
There's rarely any downtime. Spa fixtures need replacing. Guest towels have to be bought. Are there enough sausages? Is the coffee warm?
And, oh, who can forget the couple who, on their anniversary, locked themselves out of the bathroom in the middle of the night?
Story continues below

Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise
Connie Sweigart, top, center, who with her husband, Karl, own the Loma Vista Bed and Breakfast in Temecula's Wine Country, visits with some of her guests after serving them breakfast.
"It's 24 /7," Karl Sweigart said on a recent Saturday morning as he and his wife served eggs Florentine and French toast to a houseful of twentysomething guests.
Not that they are complaining.
After years toiling in the corporate world -- he was a human-resources director, she was an event planner/caterer and a real estate agent -- they were ready to be their own bosses.
Karl has even eschewed his monthly trip to the barber and let his locks and beard grow.
On a Whim
The Sweigarts' transformation from boardroom players to biscotti makers was achieved with breathtaking speed.
It started in February, when the couple, then living in Fountain Hills, Ariz., were guests at Loma Vista and learned that the 5-acre property surrounded by citrus groves was for sale.
Somewhere in the parking lot -- after they checked out and before they reached their car -- Connie, 51, turned to her husband.
"Honey, guess what we're doing next?"
Karl, 57, didn't put up much resistance.
"She has fabulous intuition," he said later.
In March, they sent the owners a notice of their interest in the property. They saw it as not only a way to free themselves from the corporate world, but also a worthy investment.
The Temecula Wine Country is booming. The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association represents 22 wineries. About two-dozen individuals, companies or investment groups have expressed interest in starting one, said Linda Kissam, the association's executive director.
After sending the letter, the Sweigarts did research by staying at several bed-and-breakfast inns in Southern California and Arizona. Connie read the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Running a Bed and Breakfast."
On Sept. 14, they welcomed their first guests.
Not So Glamorous
At least half of all B&B owners in the state are preretirement couples who have fled the corporate world, guesses Stephen Willey, president of the California Association of Bed and Breakfast Inns and an innkeeper for 30 years.
Many aspiring innkeepers discover that the start-up costs -- purchasing the land, making sure the kitchen complies with county codes, designing a theme -- are prohibitive.
Most owners either have landed a large inheritance or have assets tucked away, Willey said.
Then there's the fatigue.
The average innkeeper quits the business within five years because of burnout, Willey said.
B&B guests are demanding more creature comforts and services these days. And B&B owners face increasing competition from large hotel chains that are providing more personalized services.
It's not enough anymore to pamper guests with a comfy bed and a nice meal. B&B owners have to be ready to recommend good restaurants and local attractions or to arrange for a massage therapist. Wireless Internet connections are a no-brainer.
"If you've got a headache and don't want to clean the kitchen, tough," Willey said. "You've got to accommodate these people."
And you've got to do it with a smile.
Running a bed-and-breakfast inn is not always as glamorous as it seems, said Valorie Ashley, 56, owner of Ville De Valor in Julian. Ashley leads a seminar for aspiring innkeepers on behalf of the B&B association.
To be successful, she said, you've got to be a self-starter, people-astute -- and a little crazy.
The Sweigarts seem up to the task.
They strive to greet guests at the door, no matter how late the arrival. When the couple can't be there in person, they'll leave a note along with the keys at the door.
But there's more to the couple than frilly linens and new-age music. They are still businesspeople and are taking the talks with the TV producers very seriously.
The producers also have been scouting locations in Idyllwild and Temecula and a decision is expected soon.
The Sweigarts know the publicity could be great for business. And renovations to the property could be part of the deal.
Not wanting to jinx their chances of landing a contract, the Sweigarts have obeyed producers' wishes not to talk more about the project.
They know that when the stress level mounts, they can't convey that to the guests.
"We're not fast-food," Connie said. "We just have to slow down."
Reach Douglas Quan at 951-368-9479 or
More About Innkeeping
The California Association of Bed and Breakfast Inns will hold its annual conference and trade show Jan. 28 through 30 in Irvine.

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