One of the best things about operating a bed & breakfast is that you get to meet so many interesting people. And often the kind of guests who want to stay at a bed & breakfast – as opposed to a sterile chain hotel – appreciate the human connection. They’re more apt to be the “Buy Local,” explore-the-unique-quirkiness-of-a-city rather than just-catch-the-guidebook-highlights type, if you get my meaning.
Honestly, in a sense, Peggy and I love owning The Livingston Inn because we want to meet these people – the ones who’ll appreciate this beautiful, Gothic Revival mansion nestled into one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madison. People who want to stay here. People who’ll take one look at it and say, “Wow – look at that. That’s awesome!”
Our job, then, is to make them feel welcome, attend to their needs as much as possible, and basically be good ambassadors for our business, as well as for the wonderful city we live in and all it has to offer.
This really hit home for us over the past week, when we had not one but two sets of vegan guests staying with us. If you know any vegans, or have friends or family members with food allergies or sensitivities, then you know how difficult it can be to eat on the road. But at a bed & breakfast, and with the right kind of hosts, there’s a flexibility and a distinctive desire to be of service to the individual guests who are staying with us that makes everyone feel better about the experience. We feel gratified that we could accommodate our guests in a way that made their experience ‘value added’ – but not in a monetary way. And they feel good that they met people who helped them navigate specific challenges or aspirations in their travels — not as a job, but as a true desire to help, to connect, to solve problems or find solutions. We thrive on this. It truly makes us happy.
While you may find this level of service in many hotels, I’m pretty sure you won’t find the same genuine engagement. We want anyone who stays in our inn to feel like they’re guests in our home. We’re all about hospitality, but more the kind you find when you stay with friends you wish you could see more often. We like to think it’s warmer, more authentic. And we hope you feel that way. We hope you feel that if you ran into us on the street in a week, we’d remember you — and we’d want to know what’s going on with your kids, or your thesis, or your job.
Peggy and I love these opportunities to engage in this way, and to bring a little light and humanity into vacations or business trips – as well as yummy muffins and a comfortable bed. We also have faith that this is what we were meant to do. So we know that the universe is looking out for us, and will see that this endeavor is a success. This feeling also came full circle in the last few days, when our recent guests told us that they’d stepped into the lobby of a national hotel chain and just knew they couldn’t stay there. They wound up at a coffee shop downtown — Bradbury’s on the corner of Hamilton and Webster Streets (great crepes and coffee!), started up a conversation about collecting vinyl records with an employee, and when they asked for a recommendation on where to stay, he mentioned a friend had stayed at The Livingston Inn – and absolutely loved it.
The fact that they felt so much more comfortable here than at the big chain hotel, and that we were willing and able to serve these vegan guests homemade granola, fruit and soy milk for breakfast and direct them to the Green Owl Cafe (Madison’s only completely vegetarian restaurant) for dinner just made it all the more special – for everyone.
That’s The Livingston Inn.