Ever dream of running a bed and breakfast in a charming Colorado mountain town? Well, here’s a chance to try before you buy.
Ah, life in Los Angeles, the city we love but are starting to hate ― the endless hours on the freeway, the crowds, the crime, and working for micro-managing bosses at jobs we can’t afford to quit. Who hasn’t dreamed of chucking it all and starting a bed and breakfast in an environment filled with astounding natural beauty, crisp clean air and the opportunity to live life on your terms for a change?
Well now, you have a chance to do exactly that ― or at least a chance to see what it’s like at Peri & Ed’s Mountain Hideaway, a rustic bed and breakfast with nine cozy rooms and innkeeper’s quarters located in the historic Colorado mountain town of Leadville. Peri and her husband Ed came up with a plan they call: “So, you have always wanted to be an innkeeper.” The concept is to offer people a chance to test the waters before they take the leap to become an official B&B baron.
Here’s how it works: Contact Peri Solder and let her know you’re interested. If it looks like a fit, you go to Leadville for two weeks in June or July for training. If you pass the test, they’ll let you run their B&B for a complete month in September or October ― one of the best times of the year to be in the Colorado Rockies. If you discover it’s not for you, come home with a new appreciation for the L.A. rat race. On the other hand, if you’ve found nirvana, you can buy their B&B or start the search for another one, empowered with the knowledge that running a B&B is your true purpose and joy in life.
Singular magazine: Tell us a little about how you ended up running a B&B in Leadville?
Peri Solder: My husband wanted to raise our boys in a small town. I needed a job where I could stay at home and that’s where the idea came from.
Singular magazine: Tell us about the story of the Mountain Hideaway.
Peri Solder: It was built as a boarding house in 1879. It had one floor for the owners and the second floor was one big room with bunk beds for the miners. (Leadville was one of the richest mining sites in Colorado and at one time, was in the running with Denver to become the state capital.)
At the turn of the century, a Mrs. Tenney ran it. She served evening meals to the public and it was a nice place to take a girl ― not like the rambunctious saloons in town. By the time we purchased it, two more bathrooms had been added, but it had been closed for two years.
Singular magazine: What interesting sites and activities are nearby?
Peri Solder: In August, we have the Leadville Trail 100 Ultra-marathon. Runners and mountain bikers climb and descend trails and dirt roads over elevations ranging from 9,200 to 12,620 feet. People train for it throughout the summer. On the first weekend of August, we have Boom Days with burro races. There’s a crystal carnival in the winter with ski joring (a winter sport where a horse, dogs, or a vehicle pulls a person on skis).
Since we’re at the headwaters for the Arkansas River, there’s great fishing and fly-fishing in the rivers, lakes and streams. We have great high altitude biking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and cross-country skiing too. We have Colorado’s highest peaks just outside our door. You can go white water rafting and take kayaking classes.
We’re close to more than five major ski areas and have our own local skiing and snowcat skiing that’s very affordable. We have the highest golf course and airport in North America. Of course, the historic town of Leadville has several great museums, and just down the road, hot springs. What we don’t have is crowds, pollution and high prices.
Singular magazine: How about the weather?
Peri Solder: In the summer, the highs are generally in the 70s to low 80s ― hot considering we’re about two miles high. Nights are in the high 40s. In the winter, the average is between 0 and 20 degrees and even colder at night. We have 300 days of sunshine and an average snowfall of 200 inches a year.
Singular magazine: Where’s the nearest big city ― a place where you can see a new movie, do some decent shopping, etc.
Peri Solder: Denver is two hours away and is the biggest city. There are great shops, restaurants and movies in Vail or Summit County that are about 45 minutes away.
Singular magazine: Where do most of your guests come from and why do they pick Leadville to visit?
Peri Solder: Generally, we get families and senior citizens. People come here for the outdoor activities, history, quiet town and low-key enjoyment. We get Europeans, mid-westerners and Texans and lots of people from the front range of Colorado (Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, etc.)
Singular magazine: What are the most challenging parts of living in Leadville and doing what you’re doing now? Any particularly funny or interesting times?
Peri Solder: The most challenging is mud season when you can’t really ski or hike (when all the snow starts to melt). Everybody tries to leave town. Working with tourists can be tiring at times. We have thousands of funny stories. One of the best was one St Patrick’s Day. There was a youth group from Oklahoma that wanted to talk to us. My sons were about 4 and 6 years old at the time. The youngest answered the door. When the guest asked to speak to his dad, my son responded, “He’s at the bar,” and when they asked to speak to me, he said, “She’s in the basement.” It scared those people and they left.
Singular magazine: What do you enjoy about it? What are the most rewarding parts of running a B&B in a place like Leadville?
Peri Solder: Meeting people is the best part, but also having the freedom to enjoy the countryside, mountain life and the town of Leadville.
Singular magazine: How did the “so you want to be an innkeeper” concept come about?
Peri Solder: I met someone who taught a class on being an innkeeper, when I stayed at their B&B. It was horrible experience so I thought I could do it better. I sell real estate and I see people wanting to buy B&Bs all the time. Within a few years, they want out. Why not offer them an opportunity to try it and see if they like it before making the commitment? Several people have asked me about it, but no one has taken me up on the idea. Maybe one of your readers will!
Singular magazine: Where will you go when the “innkeeper” comes up to run everything for a whole month? Aren’t you concerned about leaving your business in the hands of someone you don’t know?
Peri Solder: We would follow the Patriots (our favorite team) and do some traveling. We’ve had paid innkeepers in the past and it worked out all right for a short time, but over the long haul, it changes the character of the place. I would hope we would get to know the person in training so we would feel comfortable. We won’t do it if it doesn’t feel right.
Singular magazine: What kinds of responsibilities are involved? What kind of workload? Is it too much for just one person?
Peri Solder: Cleaning, making breakfast, cleaning rooms and doing laundry. I do most of the work, except cook, since my husband loves that. I also work a full time job.
Singular magazine: You say you’re willing to sell your B&B to the guest “innkeeper” or help them find another B&B. Would you really sell it? How much would that cost? Is it a profitable business or more of a labor of love and a way to live in a beautiful Colorado town?
Peri Solder: Yes, we would consider selling. After 22 years, it’s time to consider something else. The price would be in the $600-$700 thousand range. The house is 7,000 square feet and sits on almost an acre of land. You can earn enough from it to pay your basic bills, but that’s about all. You’ll need money or a job to cover your other expenses. If you did it full time, which I don’t, you could probably increase your business. But it’s more than just buying a business, you’re getting a whole lifestyle too.
Singular magazine: How do you select the “winner”? What do you look for?
Peri Solder: I don’t think we are looking for a winner. Just offering the right person the option to try it and see if you like it. It’s a great way to test the waters before putting your life savings and credit on the line for something you’re not sure is going to be the right fit for you.