Innkeepers Tell Their Story
Hi this is Cheri Antozak, designer, owner & innkeeper at Prairieside Suites, an award winning, Luxury Bed and Breakfast near Grand Rapids, MI. I am often asked by guests about how I became an Innkeeper, so I am going to share my story.
When I was 18 years old I graduated from high school, married my sweetheart, we bought our first home [which was 80 years old] and for some reason I had the dream of owning a bed and breakfast. Let me mention right now that I had never stayed at a bed and breakfast so I have no idea where that came from. I will say, though, that even as a child [my grandmothers used to say that I had an old soul] because I have loved and appreciated beautiful things new and old.
Now lets fast forward…seventeen years and three daughters later [it goes by faster than you think]. My husband, Paul, and I co-own a successful remodeling company [Interiors by Cheri, Inc.]. I have earned several credentials “Certified Kitchen Designer”, “Certified Bathroom Designer”, “Licensed Builder” and became registered with the state of Michigan as an “Interior Designer”. Paul is, also, a “licensed builder”, he’s a certified “Corian” solid surface counter fabricator and a certified “window installer”. Believe it or not, I still have the dream of owning a “Pure Michigan” bed and breakfast and create a “better way to stay” for travelers! Paul & I have traveled extensively as volunteer leaders for the “National Kitchen & Bath Association” where I have held several positions and we have stayed in many of the best hotels across the US and Canada. At each place that we stay I find that I’m still day-dreaming of having a bed and breakfast and we still haven’t ever stayed at a B&B so, I have to tell you, Paul thinks his wife is a little coo-coo.
I must admit to having a gregarious personality. I love cooking, entertaining, gardening, telling stories, a good belly laugh, and I love people. So now if I could only make a business out of all this. Hmmmm, voila, what about a bed and breakfast business? Think about it, I am a designer so I can easily create beautiful rooms for guests to enjoy, what fun! Oh my, but Paul would have lots of work if we were to start all over again. He had finished remodeling our home and had finished building our showroom and this would be another huge project…ahh, maybe I won’t bring that up to HIM just yet! Especially since he has spent 14 of the last 17 years working on our home [the same one we bought when I was 18 yrs old] and 10 years building and continuously updating our “Interiors by Cheri” showroom in a commercial strip mall which showcased the products we offered along with his craftsmanship. Plus each time I talked about a bed and breakfast he had valid concerns about… 1. How would people know we were here? [There hadn’t been a B&B in Grandville before]. 2. How would we get the word out? 3. Why would they come here to stay with us? We’re talking about a different time in marketing because this was 1993 when the internet was fairly new and bnb’s were basically marketed by being published in travel guide books. Paul just didn’t think anyone would come [or even know we were here]…but he somehow had faith in me and the idea of having a B&B anyway [what a guy].
In 1993 “HE” made the decision that “WE” were signing our last lease in the mall and “I” had two years to figure out where we would relocate to. His thought was we were build a commercial building that would house our “home remodeling showroom” because this is what we had been doing but this time we would own the building instead of renting. I had another idea 😮 ) so in 1995 we found & purchased our home which was a large dutch colonial built in 1920 that had been divided into a four-plex apartment building. We continue to run the remodeling business, raise the girls and live off site in our family homestead [a few blocks away]. The B&B renovation took place on nights and weekends in between the normal stuff like band concerts, birthday parties and shuttling kids here and there, you know, normal life. Well, it was actually a little more complicated than that because when we bought the big house we purchased the house on either side of it and they were both duplexes. So we were new landlords and had three houses that needed roofs, windows and all types of remodeling. We were crazy people, who worked diligently for 7 years before welcoming our first guest in 2002. That was the same year our daughter Melissa was married and we had 17 family members from three different states come stay with us for her wedding [while we were setting up the church and helping to prepare food for 200 people]. Our family were our FIRST B&B guests and gave us valued feedback on our rooms.
My dream had been that each of our guest rooms would have a romantic whirlpool tub with fireplace and a king size bed. My goal was for our rooms to be a unique experience by designing them each after a different part of the world. My hope was that guests would want to come back to experience each wonderful environment and to enjoy the overall atmosphere of practical luxury.
We started with three guest suites… A “Southern Mansion”, a “Tuscan Villa” and an “English Cottage”. After five years, plus lots of guests, we were ready and in need of adding more rooms. This would be tricky because our remodeling would have to happen when we didn’t have guests in the house [we certainly couldn’t disturb anyone with construction noise]. It wasn’t easy and this process took two years. In 2009 we introduced two more rooms themed as the “French Riviera” and “Spanish Hacienda”. We, also, introduced a new massage room where we could offer side by side couples massages. These new rooms were a big hit and guest started asking right away WHEN we would add more rooms and WHERE they would they be.
There is a new excitement in the air as we are now in the process of renovating the upstairs of the duplex next door [to the East of us] and adding two more rooms. They will be themed as the “Santa Barbara Beach House” and the “New York Loft”. We’re in the middle of sawdust, drywall dust, tile dust and whatever other dust you can think of! We’re tired but can’t wait to introduce these new rooms and our guests can’t wait to SEE and STAY in them There encouragement is wonderful and drives us through this dusty time. We are thankful that we’re working on the house next door and we don’t have to worry about construction noise this time! I carry these new rooms in my thoughts [lots of planning] and like a pregnant woman ready to deliver…I can’t wait to see them completed.
As time passes the family continues to grow, we have 4 grandsons who spend every Monday here [while mommy works]. Everyone comes to dinner that day, including our daughters, son in law and my mom. I continue to dream of what will come next [don’t tell Paul]. When I lay in bed at night, I ponder my day and think of what the future may bring [I apparently have my foot going a mile a minute] and Paul will put his hand on me and say “Turn off your brain honey, I know your making work for me”! 😮 I sleep if only to dream and guess the rest is just history [or HER-story] in the making!
Come experience my world!
Cheri Antozak is the owner, Innkeeper & Designer of Prairieside Suites Luxury Bed and Breakfast, Grandville, MI