Bed and breakfast wins honor in its first year
By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD Naomi's Inn, the bed and breakfast across from BayState Medical Center on Springfield Street, is one of the only facilities of its kind in this part of the state to win a rave in the 2008 Fodor's travel guide of New England quite an accomplishment for a business just completing its first year of operation.
The business, which caters to families with a member undergoing treatment at the nearby hospital as well as other visitors to the city, might close if the inn's owners and the City of Springfield cannot resolve a dispute over taxes.
The beautifully restored and renovated home at 20 Springfield St. was a burnt-out shell several years ago when Marci Webber and her husband Richard Graham discovered it on a visit to Springfield.
Webber's daughter Naomi was born prematurely and with significant health problems. Webber explained to Reminder Publications that she wished there had been a hotel near the hospital where her daughter was under-going treatment. With the acclaimed BayState Medical Center across the street from the site, she and Graham thought it would be a perfect location for a bed and breakfast convenient for the families of patients.
Its location close to I-91 was also a plus for other travelers, they thought.
The restoration of the property began in November 2004, and Webber recalled the daunting process during a tour of the inn. Her husband, an Air Force veteran who has a construction business, supervised the work, which included "ripping down to the shell," she said. She added he even received a de-leading and asbestos abatement license in order to deal with those issues during reconstruction.
As many of the original structure and features of the 1846 home as possible were retained, including a graceful curved staircase and an impressive front door, she noted.
The five guest rooms all have different themes and furnishings that Webber created ranging from an 18th century British colonial look to one that reflects Louis XIV's style. There is one suite designed for families in which a room with a king-size bed is joined by another with two twin beds.
She estimated the couple invested well over $750,000 into the business.
The response from travelers has been heartening, she said. The inn has had 60 percent occupancy, which is a higher rate than many chain hotels, she said.
"The inn keeping side is fabulous," she said. "We have amazing guests. They bring the world to me. They come from all over the world."
She said the representative from Fodor's came unannounced one morning when she and her guest were having breakfast. She didn't realize that her business had been featured in the guidebook until recent guests from Israel asked her about Pho Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant. When she asked how they knew about the restaurant, they mentioned the guidebook and the listing about Naomi's Inn.
"It's [the Fodor's designation] a good thing for Springfield, I would think," she said.
Webber's Inn also offers wellness services to its guest, such massage and Reiki and has a travel agency service through its Web site (www.naomisinn.net).
The rates for the inn are $135 a night with a $99 rate for guests with a family member at the hospital, she said.
The business is a 24 hour, seven day a week job for Webber. The family lives on the third floor of the inn.
Although neither she or her husband are from Springfield, they have sought to build connections to the city through participating in events such as "The Belle of the Ball," which provides prom dresses for young women who could not afford them.
Webber has been involved with the "The Skin She's In Fashion Show," which has raised money to provide "Snoedels," a sleeping and bonding aid for premature babies to BayState Medical Center.
Webber also participates in an internship program through the Massachusetts Career Development Institute (MCDI) in Springfield, which she highly praised. This year, she broke her hand and relied on MCDI students to do the daily work she wasn't able to do from making beds to cleaning rooms to preparing invoices. She said she prevented having to close the business because of the students whom she described as "very professional."
While the broken hand didn't make an impact on the business, the on-going issue over taxes might close the business.
"If we can't resolve the issue, we can't keep the house," she said.