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The Natural Bed and Breakfast Retreat in Tucson, Arizona

Healthy and natural by design of innkeeper L. Marc Haberman

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When you walk through the doors at Natural Bed and Breakfast Retreat in Tucson, Arizona, don't be surprised if innkeeper L. Marc Haberman asks you to remove your street shoes. Haberman, a holistic health practitioner since 1981, wants everyone to feel welcome at his inn -- including those who are environmentally or chemically sensitive.

Other policies at Natural Bed and Breakfast include a ban on smoking, pets, perfume and cologne. No chemicals are used to clean the inn, and special diets can be accommodated. Haberman believes that the seriousness of environmental and chemical sensitivities is under-appreciated by the hospitality industry as a whole.

Haberman, who has run Natural Bed and Breakfast Restreat since 1990, was kind enough to answer some questions.

For those who may not know, could you explain what environmental and chemical sensitivities are?

A growing number of people are getting illnesses that standard doctors cannot explain, but are caused by exposure to many "normal" low concentrations of chemicals in our environment. These include pesticides, paints, perfumes, cosmetics, many cleaning and building products, and/or gas stoves.

Why did you decide to make your inn accessible to those with environmental and chemical sensitivities?

It was a natural outgrowth of my 18 years of experience as a holistic health practitioner. I choose to have a healthy environment for myself, so it made sense to make this a greater part of my B&B. When I realized that there were people whose chemical sensitivities were not being addressed in accommodations, it was easy for me to to go a few steps further to include all the rooms in my house and to be more consistent in my own life.

What percentage of your guests would you estimate have an environmental or chemical sensitivity?

25 percent now, but the number is growing each year.

Tell us about Natural Bed and Breakfast's unique features, including how you make the inn environmentally friendly.

No chemicals are used in the cleaning. We use primarily vinegar, baking soda, and natural cleaners. No pesticides are used at all. Humidifiers and air cleaners are also used.

In addition to being sensitive to environmental and chemical issues, what other unique features does your inn offer?

We offer professional therapeutic massage, nutritional and health evaluations on the premises. We have plenty of outdoor areas for reading and meditation with plenty of trees and song birds.

What are some of the unique features of the Tucson area?

The many beautiful hiking and camping areas including Saguaro Monument East and West, Sabino Canyon, Madera Canyon, Catalina State Park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, San Xavier del Bac, Kitt Peak observatory, great bird-watching, Old Tucson, Biosphere 2, and Colossal Cave.

Which is your personal favorite room at Natural Bed and Breakfast?

The French Burgundy Room.

How do you make a stay at your B&B special?

By giving my guests all the personal attention they need with a warm welcome and attending to any special needs.

How did you decide where to open your inn?

It was a natural with the home I purchased that I was living in already. It was centrally located.

What made you want to become an innkeeper?

I wanted to combine my skills of working with the public, my travel experience, and my experience in the hospitality business in Florida and Atlantic City.

How long did you debate whether to become an innkeeper?

Only a few months after I bought my new house.

What were some of the factors you considered, pro and con?

The factors for running a B&B were meeting new and interesting people, having a supplementary income, and having guests when I wanted them. The cons of running a B&B are that it can limit your social life, vacations have to be carefully planned around guests, and you need a reliable housesitter.

When did you first stay at a bed and breakfast?

About 12 years ago.

What do you remember most about your first stay at a B&B?

It was in a private home. I remember the feeling of being comfortable and the feeling of family.

When did you first consider becoming an innkeeper?

About 10 years ago, shortly after I bought my current house.

What do you remember most about your first month as an innkeeper?

It was a lot of work preparing the rooms.

Is being an innkeeper tougher or easier than you expected?

It's easier than working for someone else in a hotel as an executive housekeeper and maintenance supervisor, as I did on the east coast.

What's your favorite part about being an innkeeper?

Greeting the new guests and telling them about the wonderful sights and good restaurants in Tucson.

What's your least favorite part?

A last-minute cancellation.

What advice would you give to aspiring innkeepers?

Follow up, follow up.

Interview originally posted in April 1999

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