For the past few years, Deborah Harris Beard ’03 and her husband Drew were seriously intrigued by running their own bed and breakfast. Both were working in Washington D.C., Deb as a climate change and energy consultant at ICF and Drew at the Department of Defense, but they dreamt of what it would be like to work together in the hospitality industry. Both enjoyed hosting people at their home, so they were most interested in the personal interaction piece of owning an inn. Each had their own strengths to contribute. Deb loves to bake and make breakfast, and she’s skilled at bookkeeping and accounting. Drew is a whiskey and spirits connoisseur, full of personality, and knows how to market a brand well. With their combined talents, Deb and Drew decided to take a leap of faith and officially opened their doors at the Gay Street Inn in Washington, VA in April.
“Drew and I just thought ‘Why wait until we’re older to do this?’ when we can do it now,” said Deb.
The couple kickstarted their search by attending a weekend seminar in August 2016 that taught them the logistics of becoming inn owners and they met a broker and consultant team that helped them begin their search. They wanted to stay nearby to downtown D.C., as Deb’s brother Jeffrey Harris ’03 and friends still lived in the area, yet they wanted to be far enough from the capital to feel definitively outside the city. Deb and Drew also knew that they wanted to buy an existing B&B property to ease the transition of getting it ready for guests.
Eventually Deb and Drew found the Gay Street Inn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about an hour and a half west of D.C. In February, Drew quit his government job to focus full-time on promotion with creating the inn’s website, writing blog posts, and refreshing the decor. On April 12, Deb and Drew welcomed their first guests as the new owners.
“I was definitely anxious but luckily we had very nice first guests,” said Deb. “We had good feedback, which built our confidence, and the anxiousness went away after the first week. Now it seems very comfortable and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would! I had concerns with balancing this work with staying on part-time with my other job. But we were pleasantly surprised as the startup takes the most work and as we’ve settled into a routine somewhat, it’s not as much work as we initially thought. Of course, we came from D.C. careers where we were working 60+ hours a week too!”
Deb and Drew hope to stay in “Little” Washington, VA for the long haul as they are really loving getting to know their guests and introducing people to their area. Unexpectedly, one of their first guests attended Moorestown Friends.
“My husband was downstairs talking to some folks and they discovered that one attended Moorestown Friends and was married in the Meeting House,” said Deb. “It’s a small world and such a coincidence that she stayed with us within our first few weeks.”
This year, Deb and Drew will celebrate their six-year wedding anniversary. Deb is a member of the MFS Head’s Advisory Board. To learn more about the Gay Street Inn, visit gaystreetinn.com.