Naperville’s Harrison House Bed & Breakfast might soon close its B&B doors forever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Owners Sara and Mike Tams announced they have listed Naperville’s only B&B for sale.
Business Not As Usual
Before Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order on March 21 the small business was operating at around 50% occupancy, but since then occupancy has dropped below one percent.
“It’s a very community focused business,” said Mike. “When people stay they like to sit and have breakfast and talk to somebody brand new, somebody they never met before. We were having good bookings.”
Sara and Mike believe the virus will change how hospitality businesses operate going forward.
“I think that dynamic is going change for sure will change in the medium term and maybe long term,” said Mike. “There maybe consequences from something like a pandemic, that nobody could have foreseen, that will change the way hospitality businesses in general operate.”
The Harrison House was built in 1904, and has been operating as a bed and breakfast since 1987. The Tams purchased the B&B last October and have spent the last six months renovating it.
Several days before the stay-at-home order was issued, the renovations were complete and the Tams had an open house.
“It went so well we thought ‘let’s have a ton more of these open houses. Get everybody in here we can so that everybody in Naperville it’s here’ and literally three days later our kids were told ‘bring your stuff home from school we don’t know when you’ll be back’. That was the timing for us,” said Sara.
Since then, only three guests have stayed at the bed and breakfast.
Trying to Get Help
The Tams said they’ve applied for grants and loans, but were unsuccessful. They also put in a bid with the City of Naperville and Edward Hospital to house frontline workers.
“At first we were like ‘ok great this is an opportunity to fill our rooms and to serve the community’. [But] we didn’t get those. The city, I think, went with another hotel and Edward Hospital, I think, is working with North Central College,” said Sara. “So at the time we were upset to not get those, but in hindsight now that we’re trying to sanitize every single surface we’re realizing what a big challenge that would have been.”
The B&B has a special variance allowing a business to be operated in a residential neighborhood. The Tams are hoping to sell the family operated bed and breakfast as is, but are willing to sell it as a single family home. Future owners would have six months to decide if they want to continue operating the house as a bed and breakfast before losing its variance.
The reality of having to sale their business was something that took Sara weeks to come to terms with.
“I resisted accepting it for a long time because I had thought this is what I’ll be doing for the next 10, 20, 30 years,” said Sara.
It would be normal to think the Tams would be down in the dumps after the hard work and financial investment they put into the Harrison House Bed & Breakfast, they’re looking at the situation as half-full.
“The silver lining in how terrible this pandemic has been is just to is just maybe remembering that your life is more than what you do for work,” said Mike. “We’ve been so blessed that none of our family or people we care about have been impacted by this. That’s not a guarantee that it won’t happen, but you have to take everyday as a blessing and appreciate what you have.”
The Harrison House Bed & Breakfast is still operating, and the Tams say if their fortune changes it is a possibility they won’t have to sell the B&B.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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