Reed City residents enjoy offering B&B to locals and visitors
REED CITY — Bette Newell enjoys gardening, cooking, meeting new people and staying at bed-and-breakfasts, so opening her own B&B five years ago seemed like a natural decision.
Newell and her husband, Keith, have lived on their Reed City farm for 27 years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the two decided to redo the little house out back which was used as a mother-in-law house by the previous owners.
“For us, it was always a place to store junk and the kids played in there when they were little,” Newell said. “Then, they all grew up and moved away, and when they came back to visit, our house was getting a little small.”
So the couple remodeled the tiny house behind their farm house, purchasing new windows, doors, drywall and adding on a bathroom for the space which previously didn’t have one.
“When we started to do it, my husband said I could do anything I wanted out there,” Newell smiled. “He probably thought, ‘It’s not very big - what can she do?’”
After the renovation was done, along with decorating and refinishing many pieces of furniture, the project was complete. But instead of just keeping the house as a place for relatives to stay, Newell decided to open the space up to other guests and The Little House Bed and Breakfast was born.
“I’ve stayed in a fair amount of bed-and-breakfasts and always thought it would be fun to run one,” Newell said. “I had recently cut down my hours at work and it all just fell into place.”
Newell has a love for cooking and making new dishes and she uses organic and locally-grown produce whenever possible. If a guest stays for a few days, they likely will be treated to a variety of different breakfasts.
Whipping up everything from fritadas to pancakes to French toast, Newell likes offering something new each day. Coffee, tea, juice and a fresh baked good can usually be expected. Fresh fruit is a necessity.
“I’m a big fan of fresh fruit,” Newell said. “I always have fresh fruits or sometimes smoothies with local fruit I froze, which I guess isn’t technically fresh, but I have that because that’s something I like.”
When traveling, Newell stays at B&Bs because she likes the atmosphere and finds hotels “creepy.” She also likes to gain inspiration and ideas from others.
“It’s fun, especially if you’re doing it yourself, to see what other people are doing,” she said.
After observing, she’ll sometimes take those ideas and implement them at The Little House Bed and Breakfast. Just last week, during a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes with a friend, Newell stayed at a B&B and was served broiled peaches.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to try that,’ and I actually just served them yesterday to a guest,” she laughed.
Although she wants to offer unique eats for her breakfasts, she steers clear of serving things that might be too wacky.
When she first opened The Little House Bed and Breakfast, one of Newell’s daughters was not so sure the venture would have much success.
“She always would say, “Who’s going to come here and stay?’ but they come for the same reasons you go anywhere,” Newell said. “And there just aren’t that many places to stay around Reed City.”
Guests come for weddings, funerals, to visit relatives or to bike the trail systems in the area. Newell has had visitors come from as far away as England, California, Hawaii and Texas, along with many people who bike from Indiana. Some stay for a night or two, while others will vacation for a few weeks.
Winter is generally a slow time for the B&B, but things start to pick up in April, Newell said, and July, August and September have been really busy.
The guests she encounters have very unique stories and experiences, and sometimes even connections to the Newells.
They had someone stay at The Little House who actually works at the same school in Rochester where their grandchildren attend. A man who used to live at the farm also stayed at the B&B and gave them an aerial photo of the property, since he no longer had use for it.
Sometimes the couple has even made exceptions and arrangements for certain situations. A woman was retracing the steps of the trip her grandmother took in the 1930s from California. Along the way, her grandma had stopped at a guest house in Reed City, so staying at The Little House was the closest she could come to retracing the route, Newell said.
“It was a really cool story,” Newell said. “Actually, those people ended up staying in our house because The Little House was full. After she told me her story on the phone I decided to put her upstairs, because where else would she stay?”
Her guests generally have been pleasant, but Newell did make a mental note that if a certain couple ever comes back, she will be “booked.”
“They were just complainers,” she laughed.
Still, meeting new people and sharing stories is one of the best aspects about running a bed-and-breakfast, Newell said.
“I have met lots of interesting, really nice people,” she said. “It’s fun to hear why they’re coming and what they do.”
For more information on The Little House Bed and Breakfast, visit their website thelittlehousebedandbreakfast.com.