Bakers Bed and Breakfast recently opened at its new location at 2106 Grant St., Blair. While only a few blocks away from its former location at 1929 Grant St., it provides more opportunities for expansion of the business.
Karen and Mark Baker are the proprietors. Although Mark is originally from Nebraska, the couple met in California. The first time they moved to Blair was in 1992. They returned to California in 2001, but in 2010, Karen suggested they move back here.
“I like Blair and Nebraska much better than my home state,” she said. “People here are friendly, trusting. They help each other.”
Baker first started the bed and breakfast a year and a half ago when her son moved out of the upstairs apartment suite at the house at 1929 Grant St. She had been selling Mary Kay cosmetics, but the change felt natural.
“I like people,” Baker said. “I like meeting new people. I was an early riser, a good cook. It just seemed to work together.”
She saw a need for more bed and breakfasts in Blair. The city's two motels were often occupied, and she knew that many people prefer the atmosphere of a bed and breakfast. She knew she could provide that atmosphere.
“People want to be taken care of; they want that warm fuzzy homey feeling. They want to feel like they're at home,” Baker said.
The Bakers have had guests from as far away as Alaska, and even one couple from Denmark. They love hearing stories about the lives of their guests. Some even keep in touch after they've left.
Their Alaskan guests specialized in creating fishing lures. After those guests returned home, they sent Mark some lures, as well as pictures of their home and two cans of salmon they caught themselves. Their guests also include groups for “scrapbook girlfriend weekends;” people staying for graduations and funerals; people visiting their family; and people who are just passing through the area.
As well as cooking and cleaning for her guests, Baker helps them find local destinations that would interest them, suggesting restaurants, wine tastings, and other activities. She'll even pack them lunches for the day. She says that she sees her role as a combination of sister, concierge and maid, and she tries to provide her guests with tools beyond just meeting their basic needs. She decorates the house and has jigsaw puzzles and DVDs available.
“It's just fun,” she said.
With her B&B a success, Karen wanted a house that would allow her to have more guests at one time. At the prior location, because the guest rooms were gathered in one apartment suite with single exterior door, she could only have one family or group stay at a time. In the new house, she will be able to have two, and later three.
There are five rooms on the upper level of the house. Two are bedrooms, one is a bath to be shared by guests staying in those two rooms, and one is a guest den that Baker hopes to use as a third bedroom in the future. The final room is waiting to be converted to an additional bathroom, which would then be a private bath for occupants of the king-size room. The Bakers' bedroom and bathroom are on the ground floor. While the living and dining areas will be shared with guests, they will keep the basement as a private family room for when their children and grandchildren visit.
They have plans for the yard as well. They hope to install a small parking lot, outdoor seating, a fountain and fruit trees to provide fresh fruit. Their new house used to be known locally as "the Grube house," and the Bakers hope to bring back its reputation as a beautiful home.