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The "Art" Of Two Careers

An Interview With The Artist's Inn

By

The
Courtesy Artist's Inn & Gallery
The Artists Inn and Gallery
117 East Main Street, Terre Hill, PA 17581
717-445-0219

The Artists Inn and Gallery is a four-room bed and breakfast plus separate stone cottage located in the town of Terre Hill. Like a square on one of the Amish quilts that drapes the beds here, the town helps make up part of the patchwork splendor of the rolling Amish farmland in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Owners Jan and Bruce Garrabrandt have been running the inn since 1996 and their love of the surrounding countryside and culture, along with their true enjoyment of guests, is evident from the moment you walk into their welcoming home.

As the name of the inn implies, in addition to being a well-regarded and super-charming B&B, the 164-year-old home also serves as a gallery that showcases Bruce’s art. I interviewed Jan and Bruce about the reality of running two businesses out of one house, a challenge facing many owners of smaller inns. Here is what they had to say …

When you opened The Artist's Inn was it always your intention to combine artwork and innkeeping?

Yes. We thought the two businesses would work well together and they do.  Bruce exhibits at about 26 arts and crafts festivals each year -- he displays the inn rack card and his customers often visit the inn. Guests at the inn enjoy his artwork throughout the gallery, the center hallway, and even the guest rooms. I guess you could say that they can’t get away from it!  

Are your duties completely segregated? That is, does Bruce do only the art and Jan only the innkeeping?

Ah, it’s not that easy. Jan helps Bruce with any computer chores, handles the newsletters and most of the social media, and makes the food for inn/gallery open house events. Bruce helps with guest duties when he’s around on weekends and helps with maintenance of the inn. Both love spending time with guests -- especially on the porch in the spring, summer and fall.  Many guests have become friends. Neither Bruce nor Jan likes numbers, which makes tax time a bit stressful.  

What challenges do you face with two separate careers happening under one roof?

Both of our “busy seasons” collide in the fall, leaving little time for family, friends, or breathing.  By the time December rolls around, we are counting the days until Bruce’s show schedule concludes. It’s tough working together under one roof -- even though Jan is often in her office or the kitchen and Bruce in front of the easel. 

But Jan is the more social one and will often pop up in front of the easel to chat about something -- especially when there are numbers to crunch and she doesn’t want to be doing that. Bruce has been known to say “I need blocks of uninterrupted time to concentrate.” Bruce’s butt is pretty much glued to the seat day and night, while old black and white movies play on the TV and cats curl up on the couch. And in his busy season, he also has to cut matts and frame pictures for upcoming shows.  We occasionally will pass each other in the house and plan to meet for dinner most evenings.  

Is it economically necessary for both businesses to exist, or are they nice compliments to each other?

Well, it’s economically necessary if we want to continue to eat. We’ll probably never be able to spend holidays in Paris, but this life is very comfortable and we’ve come to love it. Jan has time (well, sort of) to volunteer for several organizations -- both on a professional tourism level and supporting small town events. It’s rewarding to be able to give back to the community.  And, no two days are ever the same.  Most importantly, we get to spend quality time with our cats!  

What percentage of your guests would you say comes to the inn because of the art gallery component?

Probably about 40%.  We have some very creative guests that visit, and they often bring a sketchpad or easel. We’ve had folks play oboes and harps, had actresses sing, had several artists paint and even had a visit from the ghost cartoonist for Charles Schulz. A large percentage of our guests are teachers or people interested in the arts.  

Does Bruce sell more art through the inn, or through shows?

Definitely through the shows. There are some shows that are very well attended … 70,000 people in several days.  Sleeping conditions would get a little cramped at the inn for all those folks.  

What advice would you give to an innkeeping couple thinking of starting up a B&B with an add-on career?

Do it!  Just make sure that the two careers can stand on their own and need not rely on each other. We complement each other but we both do our own marketing. We try to not burden each other with our obligations, and try to be mindful of the time certain tasks take -- it seems that everything takes longer than you planned. And most importantly, remember to have fun and that people are the most important part of any business. Yourself included!

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