Heritage Hill Inn Draws Business ‘Road Warriors’
GRAND RAPIDS — The thing about bed and breakfast inns is that they’re almost always in beautiful old homes and, by definition, lots more interesting than your basic motel room with a TV and view of the parking lot.
Peaches Bed & Breakfast is an 86-year-old red brick mansion on Heritage Hill, and it looks as if a time machine had just plucked it forward from 1916, to set it down on Gay Street just south of Fulton.
“And I want to stress that it’s Georgian and not Victorian,” says its owner, proprietor and operator, Jane Lovett.
She explains that means the building has lots of big windows and a consequently airy and well-lit interior. The décor is spare and clean, with no turn-of-the-century gingerbread.
Peaches is not only Lovett’s business, it’s also home for her and her husband, Doug Wondergem, of Grand Valley State University, and their young Dalmatian, Firenzy.
But if Peaches harks far back into the last century, Lovett has it fully wired for the 21st century. That’s because 60 percent to 70 percent of the firm’s clients are what Lovett laughingly calls corporate road warriors, every guest room has a desk, phone and data port.
Moreover, like any bed and breakfast that wants to survive and profit, Peaches exhibits itself to the world through a Web site that describes the firm’s amenities and includes a three-tier city, street and neighborhood map which shows out-of-towners how to get to the front door.
The Web site also features a photo tour conducted by the pooch, who shows off the guest rooms, the ballroom-turned-entertainment-center, an exercise room, and a library with its volumes secreted by leaded-glass doors.
“If you spend more than a few days a month on the road,” Lovett says, “we don’t have to tell you certain aspects of travel life wear thin.” She said tourists and road warriors alike enjoy what Peachs offers, not only because it’s such a welcome change from cookie-cutter accommodations, but also because it is so close to an increasingly exciting downtown.
One of Peaches’ clients, Cathleen Meriwether, terms the B&B “a gracious home on one of the loveliest streets on Heritage Hill.”
Meriwether, who is director of lawyer recruitment and development for Warner Norcross & Judd, told the Business Journal she sends many of the firm’s recruits there when they come into town for interviews.
“Jane is a fabulous cook,” she said. “Every recruit I send there remembers their visit to Grand Rapids fondly and comments on how vibrant and friendly the downtown area is,” Meriwether said.
“As a recruiter,” she added, “that’s exactly the impression I want my recruits to have.”
Peaches also was a temporary recruitment residence both for Davenport University’s new president and Davenport’s new treasurer.
Lovett is happy to report the mansion isn’t one of those fabled properties that was trashed over time and then lovingly restored to its original grandeur.
Instead, she said it apparently was lovingly maintained from its completion in 1916 when Chester Idema and his wife moved in.
Lovett said the home is in nearly original condition, as evidenced by its blueprints, which are framed and hanging in the ballroom.
The business can accommodate a maximum of 10 guests and the rate is $88 a night.
Lovett says inn keeping is a labor-intensive business and that she enjoys the occupation immensely — though she adds dryly that laundering linens and towels is the least enjoyable aspect of an enjoyable business.