Legacy is important, and when you decide to take on the family business, it’s a delicate task to balance progress with tradition. I’m thrilled to be launching our new website, it has been a labor of love and I am so excited to bring our little bed & breakfast into the digital age. A small part of me, however, is prepared for a good retributional haunting from Jean, my grandmother, who ran the Anderson Cottage as a bed & breakfast for over 30 years.
Searching for inspiration as I wrote up copy for the site, I reviewed one of her old brochures and stumbled upon this tidbit:
“The rocking chairs on the porch and the hammock by the creek typify this place. I also hope I’m sending a quiet signal by not having an 800 number and minimal online presence etc.”
The rocking chairs and hammock remain, but a lot is changing. I smile every time I read this brochure, which makes it clear that guests should expect very little “frou frou factor” at the house. This has never been your typical lace and doily B&B, Jean had her own style. My grandmother was a woman with presence. Educated and clever, she had a mind of her own and took very little nonsense from fussy guests, mansplainers, or Republicans (woe to he who was all three at once!). At the head of the breakfast table, she regaled guests with stories of her travels in Scotland and Kenya, of the times she scandalized the family by participating in civil rights sit-ins, and of her days as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While this historic house has its own charms, it was her warmth and personality that made this such a delightful place to visit for both family and guests.
Big shoes to fill
As I attempt to follow in her footsteps, I wonder what it was like for her when she inherited the place from her mother, Jean Randolph. By all accounts, when my grandmother first decided to take it on, the Anderson Cottage was a ramshackle cluster of buildings much run down from the busy and boisterous place Jean knew growing up, when it was a summer inn run by her great-aunt, Somers Anderson, under the name Locustlyn. By the 60s, however, guests had been absent for years and the eponymous locusts trees were gone, Jean had a chance to forge a new identity and she certainly made her mark.
Now, this place mean so much to so many. To my father, aunt, and their cousins who spent summers here growing up, and as adults, pitched in to keep the 200 year-old house in one piece. To my own sister and our extended cousins, for whom this place also became a home and refuge. To the many guests, who were more than just guests but dear friends after all those the years. Jean, through force of will, a good helping of elbow grease, and generous support from friends and family, brought the house back into good repair, and then proceeded to fill it with people she loved. We have her to thank for the closeness our family still enjoys today.
A family affair
While I am serving as innkeeper and marketing manager, my cousin Alma is also living at the house and assisting with the general management. We’d love to take credit for what you see at The Anderson Cottage today, but it’s been a real family effort. For myself, I hope to make my own mark by creating the digital extension of this wonderful place. It will be an interesting journey to combine the old with the new. To capture the essence of what makes this place so special and share it with appropriate filters and hashtags. I don’t think Jean would approve of us being on Twitter, but I think she would appreciate that her legacy and the Anderson Cottage lives on. I hope you’re looking forward to this journey as much as I am.