The Huron House Bed & Breakfast, in Oscoda, Michigan, has been named one of the Top 10 Romantic Inns and is rated with a Diamond Collection award by BedandBreakfast.com. We found out that Huron House also happens to be the first Bed & Breakfast to exclusively use Branch Basics products for cleaning. We reached out to Al Heminger, of the husband-wife duo behind Huron House, to explain what it’s like to manage a Bed & Breakfast and what goes on behind the scenes at Huron House.
by Al Heminger
The History of Huron House
Before my wife, Karrie, and I decided to purchase a Bed & Breakfast, I was working at Howe Military Academy, a small military boarding school in Indiana. My travel schedule was becoming overwhelming as the Director of Admissions. I remember returning from a recruiting trip and telling my wife, “we are doing something different”. The problem is, we didn’t know what our “different” was going to be. At first, Karrie and I did not want a Bed & Breakfast. I always told people, “this guy doesn’t make muffins at 6 a.m. for people he doesn’t know.”
Eventually, we convinced ourselves that what we wanted was really somewhere between a boutique hotel and a classic Bed & Breakfast. We found the perfect spot in Oscoda, Michigan, which is on the east side of the state. Here we have the ability to provide beautiful lodging directly on the beach of Lake Huron. You haven’t really lived until you’ve experienced a sunrise over Lake Huron. The beaches of Oscoda are Michigan’s best kept secret.
What’s Different About a Bed & Breakfast?
Bed & Breakfasts are the “local, organic” version of the hospitality industry, offering character and sense of place in their destination. The innkeepers really can customize the experience and interaction with each guest, which gives a unique personal touch unlike “bed in a box” hotels. I think people are interested in authentic, one-of-a-kind travel experiences, and B&Bs are the epitome of this.
We approach every day knowing that if we are going to be Michigan’s most romantic getaway and be recognized nationally for what we do, we have to deliver a fantastic, guest-focused experience. Receiving recognition brings validation for the decisions that Karrie and I have made. There is always that fear of failure lurking over your shoulder and those negative recordings in your mind that tell you “you aren’t good enough”. I think that fear is what stops so many people from stepping out and taking a risk to follow a dream.
What It’s Like to Run Huron House
There is a romantic idea of owning your own Bed & Breakfast. Really, the thought of owning your own business and becoming your own boss is appealing to a lot of people. What people do not realize is how much work it is operating a Bed & Breakfast. Most have this idea that they get to entertain guests and meet new people all the time. That is true, but that is the reward for constantly cleaning toilets, folding sheets, making beds, and other less glamorous tasks.
We have 14 rooms and it takes a small army to accomplish what needs to be done to get a room ready for the arrival of a new guest. Like anything, it’s all about the preparation. We are a little larger than typical B&Bs (the average is 5 or 6 rooms), which requires us to be extremely organized and systematic as we prepare the rooms for a guest’s arrival. It sometimes feels like organized chaos, especially on Sundays in the summer. Sunday is the day when we have 14 rooms checking out and 14 rooms checking in with about a four hour window to get the rooms cleaned and ready for the incoming guests.
What Motivates You As a B&B Owner?
The best part of owning the Bed & Breakfast is seeing the couples holding hands walking along the beach and enjoying the overall experience. We know life gets in the way and can strain relationships. I know that when couples leave the Huron House, they are going home more committed to their relationship. It’s exciting knowing that the Huron House plays a part in so many love stories. It makes what we do more tangible and makes our business purpose-driven.
A Huron House Commitment to Health
We have an obligation to guests and staff to provide an environment that won’t make them sick. That’s why we choose to use nontoxic products like Branch Basics. I like that I don’t have to worry about anything crazy happening to my staff or guests because of the products we use.
Chemical sensitivity illnesses are more commonly discussed these days and we are starting to get more questions about the products we use – are they “fragrance free”? Travelers are becoming more educated in their health needs in general, especially in terms of their diets. Guests are definitely becoming more aware of the impacts that harsh chemicals can have on their bodies.
Karrie and I both experienced our own health-related lifestyle and dietary changes about three years ago. It was during this process that we also discovered Branch Basics, so we were able to adjust both our dietary and environmental toxins. Karrie and I attended the Born Clinic in Grand Rapids, Michigan to determine the cause of our health issues and we both discovered a reaction to gluten and dairy. After this experience, we decided to remove gluten and dairy from our diets. It is difficult to take that initial step to change a diet, but we found that in a short period of time we were in our “groove”.
Cleaning a Bed & Breakfast with Branch Basics
In the process of changing our diets, Karrie found Branch Basics. She fell in love with having one cleaning product that was so versatile. It wasn’t long before she said, “we are using Branch Basics at the Huron House.”
Our cleaning staff enjoys that they can use one product to accomplish the job. We use Branch Basics soap for everything. We use the Concentrate for our laundry (mostly sheets and towels) as well as the spray bottles for cleaning the guest rooms. Before switching to Branch Basics, we were using multiple cleaners. Now we are using essentially one spray bottle for all our cleaning needs. Because we have reduced the need for multiple cleaners, Sam (the head of our cleaning team) has developed a systematic way to help our cleaning staff clean each guest room, which makes it more effective and efficient. Our staff is experiencing the benefits of using less elbow grease to get the jacuzzi tubs clean, for example. Now they can spray and wipe clean without having to bend over and scrub hard, and they no longer get headaches from the fumes.
Tips for Planning a Bed & Breakfast Trip
Planning a trip to a Bed & Breakfast is fun. Think about where you want to travel and go to the local state bed and breakfast association to search for B&Bs in the area. Always choose an inn that is “inspected and approved.” Here in Michigan, our state organization (Lake to Lake) requires all members to go through a rigorous inspection process. You might also check BedandBreakfast.com’s travel pages, which showcase award-winning inns sorted by categories like “eco-friendly”, “business”, “beach” or “romantic” inns. Whether you want to stay in the city, sleep at a vineyard, travel with your pets, or enjoy the most romantic weekend away near the lake or beach, there is a B&B for everyone.
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