Ivy House Bed and Breakfast Couple turns house into Hoosier getaway Labor of love keeps innkeepers committed for the long haul
Running a bed-and-breakfast can be difficult-it's hard enough, in fact, that the average innkeeper lasts only seven years before calling it quits, said Fortville B&B owner Linda Nolte.
Fortunately for her guests at Ivy House Bed and Breakfast, Nolte and her husband, Jim, are the exceptions.
"We're already in our seventh year, and we hope to exceed that by a long, long time," she said.
The Noltes opened Ivy House in 2001 in the home where they raised three children.
"We always had a lot of people in our house," said Linda, 56. "Some of our friends would stay with us and say, 'Wow, this is just like a bed-and-breakfast.' When our children went away, we decided to just do it because I knew if we woke up in 10 years and we hadn't done it, we would regret it."
Linda, who worked with special-needs children at Fortville's Mount Vernon Elementary School, and Jim, who was an engineer for the state, worked almost a year to get their four-bedroom house ready for visitors. In addition to adding a bathroom, they went through rezoning, got the necessary health department permits and created a Web site.
The two-story house, built in 1921, still features old-fashioned dÃ©cor thanks to 57-year-old Jim's passion for salvaging antiques.
Linda said the location is a definite perk-just eight minutes from the new Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville, 20 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and 25 minutes from Anderson.
Still, creating a strong Web presence was a challenge.
"We did not realize how hard it would be to have an Internet presence and it's so key," Linda said. "You just don't get walk-ups."
The Noltes hired a Web designer, joined the Indiana Bed and Breakfast Association, and created listings on sites such as bedandbreakfast.com, which gives Ivy House additional exposure.
As a result, they've noticed a steady rise in the number of guests.
"In the last year, we've added online booking, which is a tremendous help for people," Linda said. "We've had a 30-percent increase in booking."
Peggy and Joe Bamford of Tampa, Fla., discovered Ivy House online four years ago and stay there when they come to the Brickyard 400 each summer.
"It's by far the best [bed-and-breakfast] we've ever been to," Peggy Bamford said. "They really go out of their way to make sure your visit is the best that it can be."
Even though Linda wants to augment the Ivy House's guest list, she enjoys seeing familiar faces.
"We get lots of regulars and we love it," she said.
Christine Christopher of St. Charles, Ill., stays with the Noltes when traveling to the area on business.
"I loved it from the very beginning," she said. "Linda is a wonderful hostess and an excellent cook."
The guests aren't the only ones who appreciate Ivy House. The inn will be included in an upcoming episode of "If Walls Could Talk" on the HGTV cable network. The show, which features homes rich in history, is set to air this spring.
The national publicity could give Ivy House a leg up on competitors-if that were much of a factor for B&Bs. Linda said it isn't, since each inn offers such a different experience.
"If [guests] look at your bed-andbreakfast and it fits their personality, that's where they go," she said. "There are only three [bed-and-breakfasts] in the county, and we don't look at [each other] as competition. ... We all work together."
That mentality extends beyond county lines, too. Linda said she and Jim often visit other inns and network with other owners to get fresh ideas.
"It's fun, but important. What we don't think of, they might, and what we think of, they might not," she said.
The Noltes have done work they love for the past seven years and they encourage others to do the same.
"If it's a passion, do it," she said. "If you think that's what you want to do, don't just sit on the sidelines-jump in. But do your homework first."