Sunday | April 26, 2015
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The ‘dream’ of operating a B&B

Many dream of operating a bed and breakfast in Hawaii.

The thought of living in a beautiful home that you open to guests looking to stay off the beaten hotel path, meeting a wide array of characters and faces, and sharing the community with them all whilst getting paid entices many.

But, there is a lot more that goes along with the deal — from the never-ending chores, limited privacy and sometimes needy guests to managing the books, marketing and, hopefully, turning a profit.

It’s not as easy a feat as some may think, and you cannot expect to become rich, but the work and rewards are fulfilling, say a handful of Hawaii Island B&B operators.

“It’s a lifestyle,” said Rainbow Plantation Bed and Breakfast owner Christian van Dyck, who purchased the 18-year-old bed and breakfast in March 2012 and runs it with his 6-year-old daughter, Amanda. “It’s seldom about the money.”

A real estate appraiser by trade, van Dyck said he long dreamt of owning a B&B as a means for retirement. He fell in love with the idea in his 20s while a ski guide in Austria.

“I’ve always lived in bed and breakfasts and always loved the idea of guests interacting in a different way,” he said.

After a year in operation, van Dyck is renovating and upgrading the four-unit B&B while keeping its rural and rustic charm. He hopes to create an atmosphere like no other by increasing the B&B’s self-sufficiency with things like solar panels, organic fruits and veggies and animals like chickens, goats and peacocks.

“We want people to come here and feel very relaxed and good about themselves and the place they’re at,” he said, “and, inspire them to do the same thing on their own.”

While able to make a living, so long as overhead costs are kept in check, operating a B&B won’t make you rich. Rather, it is a lifestyle and love.

“You can survive,” van Dyck said, “but, it’s almost equal to being a farmer — you don’t become rich.”

Darla Maberry, owner of Hawaiian Oasis Bed and Breakfast in Kailua-Kona, echoed that sentiment, noting it takes a special person to run a successful B&B. Maberry and her husband, both California physicians, purchased the B&B in 2005 and operated it themselves until 18 months ago when they hired an innkeeper to tend the property.

“It’s definitely not a get-rich,” she said, adding that while the business is now running in the black, it ran in the red for some time. “It’s a calling like the priesthood or medicine — there’s a lot of sacrifice that you make.”

Longtime innkeeper at Ka‘u’s Bouganvillea Bed and Breakfast Martie Nitsche added: “A bed and breakfast is a marvelous thing but you have to like people — that’s the key.”

An innkeeper can expect to engage in customer service and other duties at all hours when running a B&B. There is also little distinction between the innkeeper’s private life and the operation.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love,” said Maberry.

During the December-to-March high season, which mimics the hotel industry, an innkeeper can expect to work up to three months without a day off, said van Dyck.

“I’ve worked all but three days since November,” he said. “That’s the price you pay.”

But, it’s different, because it’s work that a homeowner would normally have completed, van Dyck said.

“It doesn’t always feel like a job,” he said.

Besides, there are many rewards that come from the hard work, from establishing lifetime friends and customers to the joy of providing a unique experience to a visiting family, the owners say.

“The reward is interacting with the guests and the joy and being able to share the Big Island and Kona with our piece of paradise,” said Maberry.