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Coupeville’s B&Bs embrace shifting trends
Just weeks into retirement, Coupeville resident Kevin Griggs is venturing into a new business endeavor — host of a Bed and Breakfast.
Griggs is one of two business ventures that recently popped up in Coupeville, commonly known as pocket B&Bs.
His newly opened Whispering Bamboo B&B features a single room structure on his two-acre property. The rental space has its own private garden, access to Griggs’ manicured art gardens and what many travelers seem to be seeking these days — independence.
Diane Binder, who owns Anchorage Inn in Coupeville, said the B&B industry is changing.
The millennial’s and generation X’ers are independent travelers, she said. “They want to help themselves and to be left alone.”
Having owned Anchorage Inn for 16 years, Binder and her husband, Dave Binder, said the scope of the industry is changing and B&B owners find themselves having to make changes.
People don’t want doilies and knick knacks, Dave Binder said. They don’t want communal dining.
In response to these customer changes, the inn has added additional smaller tables for solo dining.
Griggs and his wife, Kay Griggs, said they have no experience in the hospitality industry, but they just went with what they like.
Having spent much of their life traveling and living overseas, the Griggs said they’ve experienced all kind of accommodations.
Kay Griggs said they didn’t really care for the traditional B&B, preferring to go out on their own.
“We want to target those individuals,” Griggs said. “Offer them flexibility.”
Whispering Bamboo was not initially intended for rental space.
“We had that building for quite awhile.” Griggs said. “It was going to be a studio initially.
“But we never got motivated.”
But after gearing toward retirement and finding friends and relatives drawn to Whidbey Island, the Griggs’ new venture was born.
“Whidbey Island is a draw for people,” Griggs said. “For us, we don’t want to leave.”
“In the summer months we thought it would be a good opportunity for us.”
The Griggs have lived at their Parker Road home for 20 years and enjoy gardening and art.
Kay Griggs is an artist and, along with their travels, have created an eclectic property.
The private garden around the B&B was a Japanese memorial garden to honor Kay Griggs’ parents. Kay is from Japan and wanted to incorporate her culture into the property. As the couple built their B&B they incorporated the Japanese theme into the spaces.
The space is set away from the main house, has private entrances and private garden space.
As with many B&Bs, Whispering Bamboo does offer breakfast. To appeal to the independent traveler, the couple offers a continental breakfast basket, which can be taken out into one of the properties many gardens or out to the bluff overlooking Penn Cove.
ANOTHER ASPECT impacting the B&B industry is the creation of websites that specialize in finding travelers unregulated places to stay.
Binder said there’s a specific website that specializes in these unregulated rentals.
A quick search of the site, she said, yielded seven options in Coupeville alone.
“(And) there could be a lot more we don’t know about,” she said. “These types of lodging are popping up all over the world.”
The problem, she said, is without regulation, these spaces are essentially renting under the table and not paying the same taxes as B&Bs.
Lodging businesses are the only businesses that pay a 2 percent lodging tax, which specifically goes back into funding tourism.
Because those rentals aren’t paying taxes, they can, in turn, rent at lower costs.
“It’s hurting the B&B industry,” Binder said.
Lodging taxes directly go back into promoting tourism, said Binder, who also serves on the Island County Tourism Board. In addition to paying a 2 percent tax to county tourism, lodging also pays an additional 2 percent that goes directly back into local tourism.
In 2013, all of island county lodging brought in more than $240,000 taxes. Coupeville specifically brought in a little more than $24,000.
THESE NEW UNREGULATED rentals do target the changing trend with travelers, offering that independence they crave.
But while they do fit this model, Binder said there’s uncertainty that comes with them.
She said in other states there have been stories about people sending deposits in prior to arriving and then finding the rental doesn’t exist.
And yet the trend continues. Binder said she first became aware of them about two years ago, and they have slowly grown into more of a problem.
“I think everyone’s perception is you can make money doing it,” Binder said. “They’re just looking for additional income.”