2/23/2013 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent
ROME, N.Y. — Marjorie and Fred Myers have been involved in agriculture their entire lives. So, it only made sense to keep Fred’s family farmstead well maintained by opening a bed and breakfast as another stream of income.
Fred grew up on the farm, which his parents purchased in 1940. Opening Belle Maison Farm Bed and Breakfast allowed the couple to once again fill the rooms formerly occupied by five children — and better afford the upkeep of the large house.
Rooms start at $75 per night.
While Fred, 75, is busy selling cattle microbial products part-time, chairing the Central New York Holstein Show (this is his 13th year), and tending their few heifers, Marjorie, 68, bustles around the farmhouse taking care of their guests. She is also president of the Central New York Bed & Breakfast Association.
The couple opened the doors of the B&B in 1998, after Marjorie had been laid off. It took a little TLC to get their home in the shape required to open it to the public.
“It was an old farmhouse and was good enough for family but not to have guests,” Marjorie Myers said.
The couple installed a bathroom upstairs, added another bedroom in former attic space, renovated two other bedrooms, upgraded the septic system and, most recently, built an open front porch.
“It’s a beautiful, wide space,” Myers said. “I have some lovely wicker furniture and the guests can eat out there in the summer.”
Beyond Fred’s enjoyment of farming, keeping a few head of cows around also helps enhance guests’ perception of a true farm B&B, along with the horse, chickens and farm cat, and the pastures surrounding the house.
A frog pond also adds to the bucolic appeal.
“The pond is filled with frogs,” Myers said. “We try to cater to families. The kids love to go to the pond with the net and catch frogs.”
A woodland trail for hiking and for winter sports, including cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on their 100 acres, gives guests rural recreation.
The couple has hosted guests from Germany and many other near and far-flung locales.
“If you enjoy people and socializing with people, it’s a great field for you to do in your retirement,” Myers said. “It’s hard work if you have guests one after another. For us, we don’t have that kind of clientele. We do reservations only. We have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Myers offered a few tips on how to be a successful innkeeper:
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef.
“When I first started out, I thought I’d be squeezing my own lemons and making butter patties in the design of flowers, but unless you’ll have guests every night of the week, it won’t work. I make a few good basic recipes that I make from scratch. I use homemade breads, jams, jellies and farm-fresh eggs.”
You don’t have to have super-human housekeeping skills.
“I pictured I’d have to get down on my hands and knees and scrub out the corners and iron sheets. No one really expects that.”
Selecting a good location helps boost business.
“If you’re near a college town or near an urban venue that has a lot to offer, you’ll do better. We’re way out in the country away from any urban entertainment, but it’s an area full of history, and we’ve always done well.”
“If you enjoy people and socializing with people, it’s a great field for you to do in your retirement.”
Talk with other innkeepers for support.
“Networking has been important for us. Every guest has a different experience. When we have (Central New York Bed & Breakfast Association) meetings, we talk about how to handle things.”
Market your business.
“We have a website and we belong to CNY B&B Association. That has been the biggest thing for us. For small annual dues, we get advertising with the association. They maintain the website for us. We put out two cookbooks and that has been a real selling point for us.”