Economy

Bob Swaney and his wife, Susan Rogers-Swaney, have transformed the historic Yellow Springs jail on Winter Street, into the Jailhouse Suites, an efficiency apartment for short-term rental. The Swaneys are among several villagers who in recent years have opened lodging space with a personal touch. (photo by Megan Bachman)

New lodgings with homey touch

Yellow Springs, long a popular tourist destination, can now accommodate even more overnight visitors with a host of new lodging options springing up in recent years. Villagers are opening their homes, apartments and guesthouses to share an authentic Yellow Springs experience with visitors. But breakfast is on their own.

Emily Fine has been hosting overnight visitors in a private apartment in the back of her home since 1999. Her Y.S. Chalet, at 115 W. Whiteman Street, boasts a bedroom, eat-in kitchen and washer and dryer access, with rates from $75 to $85 per night for two depending upon the length of stay. The privacy of the apartment, which is on a quiet, wooded street not far from downtown, is what attracts visitors, said Fine, a business consultant.

“There are a lot of gems in town,” Fine said of the various lodging options now available. “People can have the true experience of Yellow Springs.”

Fine is encouraged by the impact additional guesthouses have on the quality of accommodations.

“It’s going to help strengthen the business community and give people more options,” she said. “The more competition means you have to run a better business.”

Marianne MacQueen of the newly opened Village Guesthouse said relationships between the local lodging establishments are both collaborative and competitive.

“Having other people in the business helps you achieve a higher standard for your place,” said MacQueen, an affordable housing advocate, who appreciated the support of other local guesthouse owners in starting hers.

At the duplex suite MacQueen co-runs with local filmmaker Patti Dallas at 122 W. Davis Street, a bedroom, office, kitchen and living room feature three beds that can accommodate up to five people. The homey apartment offers two decks for visitors, optional badminton and, soon, a hot tub, for between $95 and $115 per night for two, depending on a weekday or weekend stay.

The Village Guesthouse is unique in its accessibility, with a wheelchair ramp and bathroom grab bars for the handicapped, as well as the customer service that Dallas, a long-time village resident, provides.

“This is a good business and good service,” Dallas said. “We want to promote the other things offered in the community.”

Others looking for a personal touch can find it in Elizabeth’s Overnight, which Elizabeth Price and Michael Herington opened in 2007 in a newly renovated apartment in the rear of their home at 211 W. Davis Street. At $89 for two, guests are treated to a bedroom, living room and kitchen overlooking an expansive garden, with local art adorning the walls.

Price, a preschool teacher, fills each room with fresh-cut seasonal flowers and dries the bed linens on a clothesline, which she says her guests notice.

“I don’t do housekeeping — I give the Elizabeth’s Overnight love,” Price said. “I think people can feel the vibe.”

Her guests appreciate having Price care for them while they stay, a quiet yard close to downtown and a variety of activities in Yellow Springs to choose from, she said.

“It’s an oasis, but [visitors] can go downtown and party,” she said. “They like that they can walk everywhere and that the local people are so interesting.”

A more independent experience can be had at Springs Cottage, at 318 Phillips Street, where visitors reserve online, enter using a digital code, and may never meet the owners, local realtors Rick and Chris Kristensen.

“We offer something completely different, which is a complete cottage,” Rick Kristensen said.

And the Springs Cottage is getting good reviews. A recent overnight visitor wrote in the guestbook, “Thank you for creating such a warm, comfortable, relaxing ‘home away from home’ for us in YS.”

The Kristensens opened Springs Cottage earlier this year. With two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and screened-in porch, the cottage costs $105 per night for four guests during the week and $125 nightly over the weekend, with an additional charge to open another bedroom upstairs. One motivation, echoed by other local lodging owners, was to serve the local economy.

“The Chamber [of Commerce] really is creating a destination in Yellow Springs, but no one who came here could stay in town.” Kristensen said. “Our business is to sell real estate, so this is just a way of bringing people to Yellow Springs and utilizing an available property.”

Local businessman Bob Swaney opened Jailhouse Suites, at 111 N. Winter Street, last summer based upon a similar desire to spark more business in town.

“To keep the business in town going, we need more out-of-town visitors,” said Swaney, who owns the Corner Cone ice cream stand. “If we didn’t have tourists, we wouldn’t have the variety of businesses downtown.”

The second-story efficiency apartment at Jailhouse Suites has a bed, living and dining area and kitchen, with access to a private back patio, and costs $80 during the week, $110 nightly on Friday and Saturday and $90 on Sunday for two. The historic building, built in 1879, and used as the town jail until 1929, recently underwent a modern renovation, when Swaney and his wife, Dr. Susan Rogers-Swaney, bought it to locate their veterinary practice downstairs.

“There are people who want to meet people at breakfast and people who don’t,” Swaney said. “This place is unique in that you’re a stand-alone and you’re immediately in the neighborhood.”

While the downtown experience may attract some visitors, others may be interested in the peaceful country setting offered by the newly opened Eppel House off of Collier Road four miles north of Yellow Springs on the bike path.

Built in 1826, the Eppel House, one of the oldest homes in the area, recently underwent a four-year renovation using scrap materials from period homes and indigenous wood, maintaining the look and feel of the original habitation. The 450-acre working farm, co-owned by local resident Julia Cady and managed by her son, Branson Pyles, offers a bucolic ambiance amidst modern amenities, according to Cady.

The house, decorated with antiques, features two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and front porch overlooking a prairie meadow, with overnight lodging costing $90 during the week for two and $110 over weekends.

“It’s a reconnection, connecting people with history and with agriculture,” said Pyles, who is also the farm manager. “It’s like stepping back through time.” Visitors appreciate bird watching opportunities and the quiet, peaceful energy of the farm.

Many of the guest houses feature other amenities, such as free Internet access and cable television, with all having equipped kitchens for guests to prepare their own meals, including breakfast. Reduced rates are available for extended stays, which are especially encouraged during the slower winter months.

According to guesthouse owners, visitors have mainly learned about their accomodations through the Chamber of Commerce Web site, www.yellowspringsohio.org , which has a comprehensive listing, their own Web sites, and www.stayyellowsprings.com , a new site Swaney created to promote local accommodations.

Business at the new guesthouses and apartments has been steady, with summer accommodations filling up fast. Kristensen reported an 80 percent occupancy rate at Springs Cottage, higher than expected, while Swaney estimates a 65 percent to 70 percent occupancy rate.

Swaney was not surprised by the high demand, referencing a 2005 Hospitality Feasibility Study commissioned by Community Resources which reported that with local businesses receiving more than 20,000 visitors per week, an additional 30 to 50 guest rooms could be absorbed by the local market.

While the authors of the report envisioned a single facility accommodating the extra rooms, a variety of guesthouses and apartments throughout the town may have its advantages.

“Rather than one big motel, each place is unique and focuses on their own niche — what they’re good at,” MacQueen said.

“When people come to Yellow Springs, they’re looking for something different,” said Karen Wintrow, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. “They love the way people share their spaces and their homes and themselves because it’s a much more personal experience.”

For an extended photo display of the guesthouses featured in this article, click here.

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