When they first toured the property, the home’s owners, Scott and Megan Brightwell, thought it would perfectly suit their dream of running a bed-and-breakfast. It boasts its original carpet, woodwork and a stained-glass window imported from France and features four bedrooms and three bathrooms on the second floor.
But it was a dream they had never considered following in Anniston.
Atlanta transplants, the Brightwells first came to Anniston almost four years ago to visit their friend Dr. Carla Thomas and see her work on the historic Noble properties next to Anniston High School. Eight hours later, they had an agreement with Bill and Jane Lindsey to buy the Parker house and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast.
The Brightwells met the Lindseys as they toured the town and the Lindseys took to them immediately, Megan Brightwell said.
“Before we left their house — it was like 3 when we met them — at 8 o’clock that night we were all talking about when we owned the house,” she said.
They left town with just a handshake agreement, but both couples were serious. Although it took 18 months to fulfill the agreement, the Lindseys patiently waited while the Brightwells sold their house in Atlanta and had a baby before moving to Anniston.
They’ve been in the home for two years now. They had some work to do before they could open the home to guests. They had to install a fire sprinkler system, add a bathroom to the first floor and install a new roof.
“There’s a lot of walls in this house and all of them needed painting,” Megan said with a laugh.
And they had a second baby.
“When we decided to come here, we didn’t have any kids, weren’t even pregnant,” Scott said. “It’s remarkably difficult to get a lot done with two kids.”
But they did get it done and they now have four bathrooms and five bedrooms, including a suite of two bedrooms and one bathroom they envision for families, ready and waiting for guests. They have already hosted their first paying visitors this past weekend — a couple visiting a student at Jacksonville State University.
Millie English, who operated English House Bed and Breakfast in Jacksonville, said she wishes the Brightwells success and is sure they will find it. She recently closed her business and put it on the market so that she can move closer to her daughter. But English said she knows she will miss the business and the guests.
“My experience has been absolutely wonderful,” English said. “What I know is there’s plenty of business out there.”
She ran a bed-and-breakfast in her home for four years, and then began to rent rooms in more long-term arrangements to doctors at the nearby hospital or for people visiting JSU, English said.
However, she’s continued to offer rooms, off and on, to short-term visitors.
“The newest thing that has affected it is the opening of the bike trail,” English said. “People ride their bicycles from as far away as Atlanta, spend the night and ride back. That is a big thing.”
Bed-and-breakfast operations appeal to a certain type of clientele and those people will seek them out, she said. If you advertise online, people will find you, English said.
That was the Brightwells’ experience. Their first guests found them through a Facebook page they created. They’ve also had reservations for the weekend of the Noble Street Festival. Rooms range from $85 to $165 per night.
It happened a little quicker than they expected and after their first guests, they have learned they need a few things. A sign, said Scott. A bigger parking area, said Megan.
But they are thrilled with their decision.
“What we like about the idea and now the experience of doing a bed-and-breakfast is the fact that we can invite people into our family,” Scott said. “When we invite people to have breakfast, it’s very likely that we are going to join them.”
English enjoyed that personal contact of running her business as well.
“I have met just marvelous wonderful people,” English said. “I have made a lot of friends and it’s people that I would never have had a chance to meet … It really is a unique occupation.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.