Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do you want to be in the Wedding Business?

Snow, sleet, rain, and wind could not stop us this weekend as we celebrated the wedding of two wonderful guests in our parlor. The rain stopped, we got all 40 celebrants in the parlor, and the ceremony was wonderful. All ages were there, from beautiful little girls all dressed in silk, to elegant grandmothers holding court and giving out sage advice.

Behind the scenes, we scurried around like chipmunks, mixing punch, pouring sparkling cider, cutting cake, gathering glasses and plates, and quietly greeting other guests who arrived during the wedding, all the while trying to stay out of the limelight, letting the family enjoy this momentous occasion. When the final toast had been made, the bouquet had been thrown, and the bride and groom had made their formal departure, we changed into comfortable shoes and started the work that would turn our little chapel back into our parlors and dining room. When other guests arrived in the evening, they never knew what had occurred earlier this day.

All together, someone was working on the wedding from 10 am until 6 pm. It took 4 people and about 20 man hours to do it smoothly, not counting the pre-meetings our wedding coordinator had with the bride and the florist.

Kristi Ball is our wedding coordinator, and she does a marvelous job! When something goes against plan, she calmly finds a way to get us back on track, and no one knows there ever was a problem. She and I are working the entire time. I hire someone (thanks Ari!) to help me move the furniture out of the parlor and back again, and Jessica supports Kristi all during the ceremony. I do dishes (my specialty!) until the crowd is gone and I can get to the task of furniture moving. By the end of the day, the house is reset to its original splendor and we are pooped, but contented.

Why do we do weddings? Because it is the right thing to do. Few families have a home this big today, and church weddings are not always the best choice. Our “home” can offer a warm intimate location where all can gather and feel the history of the many weddings that have come before. Weddings have been held at the Walnut Street Inn since 1988. I’m not sure how many, but a bunch. I do know we see many of the married couples back for their anniversary or other special occasions. In a way, our home becomes theirs, a place to which to return for warm memories and to rekindle the love that brought them here in the first place.

We also do it for the marketing. If 40 people come to our Inn for a wedding and have a wonderful time, they are going to think of us in the future when they have an anniversary or birthday, or when they have out of town guests and no place to put them. They become our best form of advertising. Thanks folks!

So for all those aspiring Innkeepers out there, we encourage you to open your homes for weddings. Yes, it is hard work, but it is a wonderful way to share your property and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street
Springfield, MO 65806
Info: 417-864-6346
Reservations: 800-593-6346

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thoughts from the Innkeeper

Yesterday was my 55th birthday, and I am in my 14th year as Innkeeper of the Walnut Street Inn. I’m seven years past the burn-out stage and still cooking! Small business can consume you. I’ve seen it over and over in my fellow B&B owners over the past years while participating in Bed and Breakfast Inns of Missouri.

Why am I still here? Why am I not burned out? Tough to answer. My staff might tell you I am burned out, but I don’t think so. I don’t feel burned out. The past months have been a trial, business wise, but the opportunity for reward is still here. The guests are still the blessing of the job.

This week we had a wonderful business guest from South Africa, a doctor promoting holistic health on a book tour, candidates interviewing for jobs at the local universities, honeymoons, anniversaries, concert goers, and on the night before the wedding, a room (the Benton) full of bridesmaids. All typical Walnut Street Inn guests, but all atypical with their own unique stories and paths to walk.

I sat down with a fascinating lady on Friday morning and talked for an hour about how her cats had twice saved her life, how natural foods had caused her health to bloom, and how her home had waited for her until she could acquire it. All simple stories, but all so important to her, and when shared with others, they become bigger than just one person. They add to our “universal intelligence” and increase all our lives.

This week was not unique to me or the B&B. It was an example of why I’m still here, greeting guests, and planning Murder Mysteries. It points out our need to slow down and live in the moment. Fascinating stuff is happening all around us every day, if we are only open to it. And at the B&B, the best of society comes calling.

So I guess I’m being a bit reflective on turning 55 years old. Luckily, I have friends who will listen, friends who will share, and plenty of reason to look forward with hope and anticipation to the “second half” of my life.

An Innkeeper’s prayer

Dear Lord, hear my prayer!

Every day I open my home to all walks of life,
and if I’m lucky, they come.

Give me the serving heart needed to
welcome all into my abode.
When a stranger enters, give me the courage
and strength to welcome them with open arms.

With time, they will be friends. With time, they will
be emissaries for the Inn, spreading the word
that friendship, peace, and contentment is found
at our home.

Gary Blankenship 3/5/10

Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street
Springfield, MO 65806
Info: 417-864-6346
Reservations: 800-593-6346

The Walnut Street Inn

The Walnut Street Inn
the Inn is made up of three 100+ year old buildings.