When Jane Lovett celebrated the proverbial ribbon-cutting of Peaches Bed & Breakfast in Grand Rapids' Heritage Hill neighborhood, she was either up-and-coming or out of her mind.
"I don't know what the heck I was thinking," said Jane, who was one of the few business owners in the downtown district of Grand Rapids at the time. Nevertheless, Peaches B&B is marking twenty years of service in 2013. And Jane is here to tell the tale of riding a wave that began in a near-ghost town but laps at the shores of a vibrant, acclaimed current-day city center.
Peaches B&B got its name from Jane's family of peach tree farmers in South Haven. (The sign that adorns her property once hung in her grandfather's orchard there.) Jane knew when she found a property worthy of her dream bed-and-breakfast, she'd bestow the sign—and name—upon her business. But she's not into cutesy peach-themed gifts; in fact, she's in the less is more camp when it comes to decor. "Please tell people not to send me peach things," she joked. "We stayed in a place that looked like they'd hijacked a container truck headed to Michaels. If there's a cherub shortage, I know why. There wasn't even a place for us to put down our toothbrushes. That would be intolerable for me.”
Although Jane and her husband have traveled and stayed at several B&Bs to get ideas for their own, Jane's personal style is reflected in all of the rooms. And what works for Jane seems to be working for her customers—they keep coming back, year after year. "The first couple of years were … extremely nerve-wracking. Every quarter I was sure I was going to die," she said. "At times I was sure it wasn't going to work, but then it would smooth out."
Catering to the traveling businessman kept Jane in the black through the turn of the millennium, but when the recession hit, she kept the B&B afloat by changing her marketing focus to include out-of-towners. "I still get probably a third of each kind of traveler—the honest-to-goodness tourist, business people, and a third coming for family events like graduations and weddings," Jane said. Her doors are open year-round, regardless of the type of traveler, and success seems to come naturally. Even so, Jane is quick to say that business reflects the business owner. "Every lifestyle choice you make has a really big impact on your business."
Jane always seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing new ideas—but then, she's an innovator herself. Just check out the parking lot: Peaches B&B has full electric car-charging hookups for the eco-friendly bunch, and Jane welcomes grass-roots efforts to keep the city relevant and cutting edge. "Assuming that we can sustain (the city's) growth, and assuming that we can keep our planning director, I think Grand Rapids is going to continue to grow," Jane predicts. "Grand Rapids is already on a path to being extremely green, and I think … it all helps."
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Photo: Jane Lovett