New bed & breakfast markets sense of solitude

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
At NorthShore GuestHouse bed and breakfast, the only sounds disturbing the nighttime tranquility are the soft hoot of an owl or the steady tread of deer meandering through the tree-sheltered back yard.

“We want to see other people enjoy what we enjoy-the solitude and absence of hustle and bustle in town,” said Charlie Unruh.

Charlie and wife Lynn recently opened the bed and breakfast located on their 30-acre homestead. Their property is situated along the northshore area of Marion Reservoir.

“There are a lot of people in the cities, and this would be such a nice place for them to come and get back in touch with nature, get away from traffic, sirens and telephones and enjoy peace and quiet,” Lynn said.

The first day for guests was Nov. 12, and the Unruhs also held an open house Nov. 21 to introduce their new accommodations to the surrounding area.

Located less than one mile from the reservoir, the farmstead is surrounded by 3,800 acres of public land belonging to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

“There’s public hunting adjacent all around here,” Charlie said. “It’s a popular place for hunters.”

The couple lives in the nearby farmhouse, and visitors will stay a stone’s throw away in an old bungalow-style home brought to the property in 1977.

Remodeled by the Unruhs, the guesthouse now measures 1,400 square feet and includes central heat and air.

The home features three bedrooms, one and one-half baths, living room, kitchen, dining room, laundry room and a wood deck off the back.

Guests can rent for a day, a week or longer.

“This guesthouse is kind of a nice cross between a bed and breakfast or a vacation rental home, depending on what the guest wants,” Lynn said.

Check-in time is between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., or by arrangement, and check-out time is 11 a.m.

An economy rate is available, and the Unruhs will offer senior discounts and discounts for extended visits. To obtain a list of specific prices, customers can visit
www.northshore-guesthouse.com.

As a bed and breakfast, the guesthouse accommodations include the morning meal or a continental breakfast, depending on what guests want.

“We’ll take care of breakfast and coffee, tea and hot cocoa,” Lynn said. “And I like to have some snacks for people when they come.”

If guests prefer to make their own breakfast in the fully-appointed kitchen, the Unruhs will provide the food. Lynn also offers to cook breakfast in the farmhouse nearby or will come over to prepare the meal in the guesthouse kitchen.

“Right now, we can put up six people, but we could possibly put up eight because we have two cots,” Lynn said.

The farm dog and cats roaming the property are all part of the ambiance, as are the occasional raccoon, possum, pheasant or rabbit visiting the secluded site.

The farmstead operated as a dairy farm until the early 1970s. It includes an old barn, two silos and other outbuildings, such as a chicken house and loafing sheds, where the cows “would go loaf and chew their cud,” Charlie said with a smile.

Charlie was a farmer until he retired two years ago and for the past 26 years has worked full-time as a tool-and-die maker at Marion Die & Fixture.

Lynn has been employed as a community-services coordinator with Mid Kansas Community Action Program since 1999. That’s the same year the couple were married and enjoyed a blended family of five girls, now ranging in ages from 19 to 29.

“This is kind of an outgrowth of the empty-nest syndrome,” Lynn said about their bed and breakfast. “Our kids are gone.”

For the outdoor enthusiast, Charlie has established trails around the property.

“There are great places for hiking,” Lynn said. “After it rains, you can see all the deer prints. It’s like a deer highway.” Charlie agreed and said, “It’s also a good place for bird watching.”

The guesthouse is about 80 years old and still has the old wood flooring in the kitchen.

The front door opens into an entrance with a piano off to one side.

“Off the living room, is a big bathroom with a monster bath tub,” Lynn said. “If you continue north, there’s a bedroom with a queen-size bed in it. Then, off of that bedroom there’s another bedroom with two twin beds in it.”

The full kitchen is stocked with essential items, such as dishes, silverware, pot and pans. The home has well water, but the Unruhs keep a water cooler in the kitchen for guests.

The kitchen opens into the dining room with a glass-top table that seats six comfortably and a sliding-glass door out to a deck finished with a red-wood stain.

“In the morning, the sun just fills this side of the house,” Lynn said. “It’s a great place to wake up and see the sunrise.”

The other part of the house includes the third bedroom with a queen-size bed, a half bath and the house utility room with a washer and dryer.

Pets may stay in an outdoor kennel, and smoking is permitted outside the guesthouse. Guests may put up three small or two large tents in the backyard and enjoy cooking out in an area set off with a fire rim. Recreational-vehicle hookup is also available in conjunction with the house rental.

Charlie described the division of duties between the couple as an evolving process. “She’s such an ambitious woman that she more or less takes over,” he said. “She’s doing the business end of it.” Lynn said, “And we both just pitch in and do whatever needs to be done.”

Previously using the guesthouse as rental property, Charlie said it was his idea to try a bed-and-breakfast venture.

“We really didn’t want to have renters here all the time,” he said. “So we thought ‘Well, let’s just try the guesthouse thing and see how that goes.'”

The couple acknowledged they are losing some privacy when offering a bed and breakfast, but Charlie was philosophical about it.

“That’s one of the sacrifices we’re willing to make,” he said.

“It’s just far enough away (from our house) that I didn’t think it would be an issue. We don’t expect to get something for nothing. We’re going to sacrifice, and we’re going to work hard for this. But, we’re willing to do that.”

Future plans include joining the Kansas Bed and Breakfast organization.

The Unruhs are also looking into offering a complete-package bed and breakfast by teaming with area partners to offer tours and other cultural activities as part of the agri-tourism concept.

“I lot of people really love that,” Lynn said. “You get to know the area better. When they come here, we want them to love it so much, we want them to be so happy, that they will tell their friends and family.”

To future guests, the couple said they extend a warm welcome to visit, see their rural homestead and farmland and stay a day, a week or longer.

“Once we meet people, they’re not going to be strangers at all,” Charlie said. “They’ll be new friends.”

For more information about NorthShore GuestHouse bed and breakfast, 1475 240th, call 947-3581 or 620-382-7275.

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