Ken Elliott tries to give his guests more than just a good night’s sleep and a tasty breakfast.
“What I try to do is give people a feel for Wichita back in the 1880s,” said Elliott, owner of Serenity B&B.
“By some measures, it was the fastest-growing city in the country. This was really the mecca of the southwest,” he said. “People just aren’t aware.”
His B&B helps tell the story. Elliott started Serenity B&B in a home on west Maple near Friends University in 2005, then moved it to an 1889 Victorian in Midtown two years ago. Even though the current location needed repair and sits in a neighborhood usually described as “transitional,” it was too good an offer to pass up.
“This is a Victorian home,” Elliott said, sitting in the front parlor. “It fits in more with my goals or aspirations, which is to fix them up, get the public in and talk about the way things were.”
The home, which boasts high ceilings, multiple fireplaces, gorgeous woodwork and seven bathrooms (three of which are in use), was built by a prominent doctor and passed through several hands before serving as a halfway or “recovery” house, Elliott said. He went to work updating and refurbishing the place, which today boasts three guest rooms, a dining room, several parlor rooms and a patio open for service.
Elliott said B&Bs typically cost more than a regular hotel room, so the key is giving guests plenty of extras – fresh flowers, chocolate and mixed nuts, bottled water, Internet access and memorable guest rooms, as well as complimentary room service.
After spending their nights in four-poster beds, guests who venture into the dining room will find tables set with vintage silver butter holders, sugar casters and other items.
“I like to use the old stuff,” Elliott said. “It’s something people don’t see every day.”
The menu on a recent morning offered a choice of apple-cinnamon-raisin-oatmeal pancakes, eggs Benedict or omelets.
Elliott said his guests are split about evenly between out-of-town travelers and local residents looking for a getaway without having to go anywhere.
“We don’t get a lot of business travel,” he said. “I’d like to change that.”
The home’s proximity to downtown attractions and the Old Town entertainment district is a plus, he said.
In addition to overnight guests, Elliott rents the house for smaller weddings and hosts “Murder Mystery” nights.
Elliott said it’s difficult to find someone “well-rounded” enough to help him run the B&B, since staff need to be well-versed in cooking, hospitality, marketing and history.
“It’s everything on a hotel size but on a smaller volume,” he said.
He said the attention to all facets of the operation has paid off; the B&B recently was named “Guest Favorite” by BnBFinder.com, an Internet B&B directory.
Fortunately, Elliott appears to love all the work involved in running his B&B.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We meet people from all over.”