When folks stay at a bed and breakfast, they often wonder what it would be like to operate one. Dave Meade and his wife, Nadine Hermann, were two of those people. Unlike most B&B guests, though, Dave and Nadine decided to do more than dream about it.
“My wife had a desire to operate a B&B for 20 years,” says Meade, a 1971 MBA graduate and business consultant. “After our youngest child got out of college, we thought that would be a good time to try it.” The couple spent a year researching 300 B&Bs from Maine to North Carolina before buying the Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast, an 1865 Victorian stone mansion with six guest rooms on a tree-lined street in the University City district of Philadelphia.
They extensively renovated the home and went out of their way to make themselves gracious, attentive hosts to their guests—many of them professionals visiting the nearby University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. And their work and dedication paid off. While the national occupancy rate for B&Bs is 42 percent, Cornerstone’s rate is more than 70 percent, and revenue has grown 270 percent in the five years they’ve owned it.
“It is very profitable,” says Meade.
There are, of course, some down sides.
“Ninety-eight percent of our guests are absolutely wonderful,” says Meade. “Most are highly educated and astute. But, you occasionally run into some difficult situations. Most guests don’t have a car with them and someone’s luggage can be lost by an airline and it arrives at 3:00 a.m. You basically have to be available around the clock. It is a 24/7 job. My wife is up at 5:30 a.m. cooking breakfast.”
While the pair intended to keep running the B&B a few more years, health issues with Nadine’s parents forced the couple to put it up for sale this summer. “It’s hard to keep this kind of business going at the level you want when you have family health issues,” says Meade. “The B&B has been a great experience, though. For the right kind of people, it’s a wonderful thing. But, when you give it your all, you have to be careful you don’t get burned out because you’re working so hard at it.”