Bed-and-breakfast Allows The Owners To Relax, Too

September 29, 1991|By Jodi Bizar | Jodi Bizar,Contributing writer

Frustrated with their 9-to-5 jobs, James and Marian Vaught did what a lot of people dream about each day. They quit and became their own bosses.

The couple now owns a 161-year-old Victorian house at 710 Edgewood Road in Edgewood, which they run as a bed-and-breakfast inn and antique shop.

"I like this much better," said Marian Vaught, 59. "There's no stress to it. We both like antiques, and we both like people. This is not like a job. I'm just entertaining people. I guess we both like what we're doing so, therefore, it doesn't seem like a job."

Marian Vaught had worked in the design department of Bata Shoe Co. in Belcampfor 17 years. Her husband, James Vaught, 55, worked as a manager forseveral paper supply companies.

Then, in 1986, while living in Charlotte, N.C., they learned that a Victorian farmhouse in their native Harford was for sale.

"We flew up on the weekend and bought the house," Marion recalled. It was a dream come true for the couple. They had talked often of quitting their jobs to open an antique shop anda bed-and-breakfast.

Within six months, they moved into the house. A year later they opened for business.

The 14-room house, built in 1830 by the Meiers family on their dairy farm, sits on four acres filled with flower, fruit and vegetable gardens.

The inside is filled with large antique furniture, paintings and lace. A mannequin in the hallway, dressed in Victorian-era clothing, greets guests. Marianhas made several outfits for the mannequin.

She said she had seenthe house when they lived in Bel Air and had always admired it.

The Vaughts furnished the home and stocked the shop with antiques thatthey had been buying and collecting at estate sales, flea markets and shops.

As for business, the Vaughts say they have about 12 customers a month in the bed-and-breakfast, while the antique shop has a steady stream of business.

They advertise in some magazines and other publications but estimate most of their customers learn about the establishment through word of mouth.

The charge for a room is $55 a night for one room, or $60 with a private bath.

A homemade breakfast with freshly baked bread, eggs, sausage, fruits and vegetables -- some home-grown in the yard of the inn -- is included.

The antique business is located on the second floor and consists of a variety of items, including jewelry and furnishings. The cost of the items ranges from $1 to $5,000.

Marian says the businesses keep the couplebusy but is not making them rich.

"You make a little but you don't make much," she said. "I probably am making money, but I'm also doing all the labor."

To cut costs, the Vaughts do all the cleaning and cooking at the inn.

The cost to run the bed-and-breakfast and the antique businesses is reasonably low, the Vaughts said, since theyonly need to pay for fuel, taxes, licenses and insurance.

But their earnings have not quite been enough to pay for health insurance. To pay for the insurance, James decided to go back to work. He works afull-time job driving a forklift at Excel Logistics in Perryman. Nowhe helps out with the store and the bed-and-breakfast when he returns from work and on weekends.

Marian recalls that the couple got the idea to open a bed-and-breakfast about 10 years ago while they werein North Carolina. They had moved down there temporarily so James could work for the Carolina Pad and Paper Co.

"We didn't plan on staying there. We wanted to move back to Harford County and semi-retire," says Marian.

While in North Carolina, they subscribed to local Harford newspapers so they could keep a look out for an old house to buy.

Marian said they noticed that bed-and-breakfasts were getting popular in North Carolina and decided they could make a go of it themselves.

"I thought, why not open a bed-and-breakfast to go along with the antique shop," she said. "I think people like the personal attention and the feeling of being at a home away from home," she said.

When they opened the Victorian Lady, there was only one other such bed-and-breakfast in Harford County. Now there are five or six, Marian said.

The requirements for opening a bed-and-breakfast and an antique store are limited: a trader's license, which costs $80, and arestaurant license, which costs $10.

Vaught worries that if more bed-and-breakfasts open, the requirements will get heavier and it will become more commercial.

But the Vaughts said they plan to continue to run the bed-and-breakfast as long as they can.

In their freetime, they travel and stay at other bed-and-breakfasts.

"You can pick up pointers that way," Marian said.

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