Our stay at the Asa Parker house was fine. Not great, but fine. I think there is a possibility for it to be great, but it will take some work on the part of the owners. I will expand on that more at the end of this review.
The reason we decided to stay here in the first place was because, upon doing some genealogical research, I discovered a connection to Asa Parker. I thought it would be interesting and fun to stay in a house that belonged to an ancestor. I made sure that I brought all the history that I had from my family tree with the hope that I would be able to get more details from the owners to add to the information I had found on my own.
We arrived for check in within the time frame specified by the owners. The first thing I noticed was the cement landing at the base of the steep staircase to the house was badly broken and in dire need of repair. All I could see was a homeowner’s insurance claim waiting to happen.
The door to the house was open, so there wasn’t any issue getting in, like some previous reviewers had mentioned. We had been given a code to open the door, so even if it had been closed, I feel confident that we could have gained entry.
As other reviewers commented or complained, the owners were nowhere to be seen. We showed ourselves to our room and settled in. The room we stayed in, Laura Rose, was fine. It was smallish, but not cramped. As we were the first guests to check in, we checked out the other rooms to see what they were like. They all seemed to be nice enough. We chose the Laura Rose, because it was the only one with a shower. All the others just have the Jacuzzi tubs.
I grabbed my family history out of my bag and set out to see what I else I could find out about the house and family. We walked into the parlor and were greeted by a woman, who showed us where the water, microwave, and fridge were located; told us to pick out a complimentary bottle of wine from the selections they had on the counter; showed us where breakfast was served and told us that it was served at 9 a.m.; and which door to knock on if there were any problems or we needed to contact the owners.
I showed her the information I had and told her I was hoping to find out more about the Parkers. She got an excited look on her face and took my papers from me and disappeared behind the door of the owners. Soon, a man wearing a robe, who we learned was Tim, came out of the room holding my papers. He wanted to keep them, but settled for making a copy of them, which I thought he would do while I waited, but instead disappeared back in his room and never came back.
I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to get any more information on the family from them, but hoped that what little I gave them would be helpful for their for future guests. We looked around at the antiques in the parlor and other sitting room and went back to pick out the bottle of wine we decided on only to find that all the bottles had been removed from the counter. I guess if it had been a big deal, we could have gotten one, but we just let it go.
We slept well that night—the bed was comfortable. We were a bit disappointed that the “electric fireplace” was nothing more than a squeaky cylinder of crinkled plastic (designed to mimic the sound of a crackling fire) rotating over a light bulb (for the illusion of fire). Unfortunately, it didn’t radiate any heat, which would have been nice. The double size shower was only true if your single size is classified as petite or your nickname is Twiggy.
We got downstairs for breakfast by 9, along with the other three couples that were staying there. Breakfast was fine—three slices of French toast and bacon, along with some yogurt with fruit and nuts. What was interesting is that they only brought out two plates at a time with a few minutes in between, which made it awkward. We were torn between striving to maintain good table manners by waiting for everyone to be served, and yet not being subjected to eating cold food. It would be nice if everyone could be served at the same time.
Finally, as breakfast was being finished, Tim came out of his room and greeted everyone. My guess is that we were the only guests who had met him before that morning. He had my papers and gave them back to me. He thanked me for giving him a copy, stating they don’t have much about the history of the house. He chatted and joked with us and pointed out a few things about the house that he did know, and asked if we had any other questions about the house or the area. He was very pleasant and personable. It’s a shame he wasn’t around to greet the guests when they first arrived to the home. It would make people feel a lot more welcome.
As we were checking out, I got to see their two cats, which were very friendly and seemed to be used to people. This was not a problem for me, as I like cats, and I think they keep them in their room while guests are there (at least they did while we were there), but it might not be a bad idea to let guests know about them ahead of time, as it might be an issue for those who are very allergic to them.
So, how to make this a great B&B?
1) I think the change that would have the biggest impact is for the owners to be more visible and accessible. It doesn’t mean that you are shadowing guests like a pushy clerk in a store, but be there to welcome the guests into your home and make them feel like you want them there, not like they are sneaking in after staying out past curfew! I get the impression that the owners have other jobs and like to spend time at their lake home, but if you are in the business of running a B&B and want to do it well, you have to dedicate yourself to it and be there. It’s fine to have a housekeeper help with the cooking and cleaning, but to basically have them run the house is not a good idea. They have no vested interest in the home or the business, so they won’t show the pride in the home like the owner should. I know it is impossible to expect an owner to be there all the time, but it seems like a good number of your guests have never even seen the owners or if they had, it was a fleeting sight.
2) A close second is that you need to answer your phone or respond to calls in a timely manner. Nothing sets a potential customer off quicker or more effectively than not responding to a call. It sends the message that you don’t care whether they stay at your B&B or not. Whether it is you that responds to the calls or someone else handles the calls, you have to get back to them even sooner than a couple of hours.
3) Another nice touch would be if they had something like fresh baked cookies for the guests when they arrive. I know it might be a pain to do this, but did you know the old trick for selling homes is to have the scent of cookies to help people to feel like they are at home. It may sound cheesy, but it works. Also, having free sodas or snacks in the fridge would be a nice touch. It costs a little, but you could get things in bulk from Sam’s club that would make it cheaper. It’s the little things that help make a place feel more like home.
4) Do some research about the home. I know that you may not have anything from the previous owners, but you could easily go to the Washington County Historical Society (located in Stillwater). They could either give you more information, or tell you where you might get more information about the family and the home. They may even have some photos that you could get copies of to put up around the house. I know history may not interest everyone, but a lot of people like to know about the history of the place they are staying and most of the good ones do know. It helps bring back the idea that this place was someone’s home and not just some old building.
5) Keep things in good repair. There is a difference between character and shoddiness. A well-worn knick-knack on a shelf is quaint and homey. A broken stair, leaky plumbing, or bug infestation is off putting, dangerous, unhealthy, gross, or all of the above.
The important thing to remember is that one bad review can do a lot of damage and everything that can be done to prevent one is well worth the effort. After all, isn’t it more important to be able to say you are the #1 rated B&B in Marine because you truly are, not just because you are the only one?!
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