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Bellingham bed 'n breakfasts offer unique stays.

Bellingham isn't a typical bed and breakfast community. But that hasn't stopped three new bed and breakfasts from opening this year--each one with its own style and flair.

In a city that seems to have plenty of places to stay on both ends of the price spectrum, opening a bed and breakfast--especially in this economy--could be seen as a risky venture. But bed and breakfasts appeal to a different kind of traveler, and that market demand isn't being met, said Valentina Davoli, who opened Casa Valentina near Fairhaven in July.

"There are a lot of people who would rather stay in a bed and breakfast instead of a hotel," Davoli said. "It just feels more special and comfortable--and you get to interact with other guests."

Davoli has gone a long way to make sure guests feel at home in the Italian-themed Casa Valentina, which has two bedrooms available for guests. Each room has artwork that is either a piece she painted herself or that she brought back from her European travels. And the living room has several brightly colored Davoli originals.

Even the breakfasts are in line with the European theme. Growing up, Davoli spent years working in her family's restaurant in Seattle and can easily prepare any type of meal, from Spanish to Swedish.

This isn't Davoli's "first venture as an innkeeper. From 2003 to 2006 she ran a 5,000-square-foot bed and breakfast near Lake Whatcom that was also called Casa Valentina. The 5-acre property included horse stables and attracted a lot of people who rode the nearby trails, she said.

Now that she is near Fairhaven, Davoli said the bed and breakfast is attracting more tourists and Canadian travelers.

'Everybody has a story'

In just the few months since Gary Fuller and his wife, Linda, opened up their Geneva home for guests, calling it MoonDance Inn, the couple has hosted people from Canada to North Carolina.

In the relaxed atmosphere of their five-bedroom, lakefront house, the Fullers have chatted with guests from all walks of life.

"The thing my wife and I like most about it is you meet such an eclectic group of people, from retired folks to young couples," Fuller said. "You get a chance to sit a bit and hear people's stories and share life experiences. Everybody has a story."

And not all the guests are on vacation, Fuller said. Some are in town on business, some are here to participate in local races, and others are in town for a wedding or family gathering.

"We've even seen some local clientele coming for a weekend away," he said.

The Fullers bought the house five years ago and finished renovating it earlier this year. They had always talked about opening a bed and breakfast and this quiet spot with 180 feet of waterfront looked like the perfect location.

Since MoonDance Inn is just on the outskirts of town, the Fullers have worked hard to make the inn a place to unwind.

"It's not like we're a destination location like Leavenworth or Whistler, so it's obviously geared more toward people coming to Bellingham to get away and relax or go skiing at Mount Baker in the winter," Fuller said.

A sustainable stay

At The Tree Frog Night Inn, located across from the Baker Bear Grocery on the Mount Baker Highway, guests are treated not only to five acres of beautiful natural environment, but also to a sustainable stay.

"We're an eco-inn, which makes us unique," said owner Kara Black.

After making a name for herself in the travel industry booking only sustainable trips, Black decided it was time to open her own environmentally friendly inn.

"I became familiar with what was really sustainable and not just green washing," Black said. "And I decided that I really wanted to do my own eco inn."

Sustainability can bee seen throughout the inn. For example, there is a rain barrel system for capturing runoff, the bathrooms have dual flush toilets and the rooms use radiant heat.

At breakfast, guests are served local and organic food, and all leftovers are composted.

Since opening in April, business has been booming, Black said. She estimates that fewer than half of her guests come to the bed and breakfast specifically for its sustainability, but a surprising number of people do.

Even some of the international guests coming from Europe say they came to the Tree Frog Night Inn because of its sustainability, she said.

With a reputation like that, opening a bed and breakfast sounds less risky and more sunny-side up.

Isaac Bonnell

ibonnell@bbjtoday.com
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Author:Bonnell, Isaac
Publication:Bellingham Business Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2010
Words:763
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