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Meet Shelley Hunter of Quincy Feather Bed Inn in Northern Sierras

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Hunter.

Shelley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I had never planned, nor dreamt of becoming an innkeeper. It is something that just happened. One door closed and another opened.

I have been a graphic designer and artist for decades. It’s how I’ve always defined myself. I met my husband, Colin Birdseye, at Bill Grahm’s Winterland Productions, where we created artwork for an array of musical talent. That was the most fun job I ever had and I made everlasting friendships there. My last job was in higher education, and that was NOT a fun job. I found myself suddenly laid off, while the university chose to keep the gal I hired and trained. That was quite suddenly the end of my graphic design career. It’s difficult to find a job in graphic design when you are in your 50’s, and I wasn’t remotely interested in the dog and pony show of landing a new job. I really was ready move on, I just didn’t know where.

In my husband’s pastime, he found an Inn, built in 1893 for sale on Craig’s List, in Quincy, Plumas County, in the Northern Sierra’s, about 1.5 hrs from Truckee. A town I just so happened to live in 42 years ago. In my teens, my best friend had a fetching brochure of a college in the Northern Sierras – The Feather River College, once associated with the Oakland Peralta School District. It looked magical. We were both enchanted. 42 years ago I moved up to Quincy with my dear friend to attend college, and this charming little town has always had a special place in my heart.

Three days after having been laid off, my husband and I drove up to Quincy and knocked on the front door of the Inn to inquire as to if it was still for sale. Reluctantly, the agent agreed to show us the Inn but didn’t think we were legitimate buyers. They asked us if our house was on the market, to which we responded “no, but it can be”. We made an offer, went home to San Rafael, and packed like mad dogs, and put our house up for sale with the thought “we will make this happen”. We told our family on April Fool’s Day–of all days to tell them–that we were not going to host Easter this year because we were moving, and of course they thought we were joking. Then they thought we had lost our minds. Two exhausting months later we found ourselves the proud owners of an Inn! My criteria for relocating was that the house had to be architecturally interesting. I did not want to live in a box or mini mansion on a golf course where people eat and drink the rest of their retired days away. I did not want to be a curator of my belongings. I wanted to do something interesting, in an interesting setting, where we can be part of a beloved community.

Quincy has not changed much in the last 42 years, which makes it feel as though it is frozen in time. Quincy is a town where people make eye contact and say hello. We sit on the porch while listening to the crickets and watch owners play with their dogs on the lawn surrounding the courthouse.

I own and manage the business of running the Inn. My husband is retired, but he maintains the property. It is a lot of work, but it’s ours. Our son helps out when he has the time. The joy of running the Inn is the fact that we get to live in a historic house, in a historic district, in the beautiful Northern Sierras. I don’t have to ask anyone for vacation time. I carve out time off when the season slows. We like to create an environment where people feel comfortable and can relax. We like to hear people’s stories. It’s beautiful here and the air smells crisp. It’s about a two-hour drive up the canyon and it is the journey that is every bit as joyful as the destination–with the tunnels, the Feather River, the train and bridges criss-crossing one another. Auto and motorcycle clubs love the drive and find Quincy and the Inn adorable.

I do get to fuel my creative side with advertising for the Inn. I also lend my creative talents to local fundraisers and the chamber of commerce. I retained one client that I do pro-bono work for, Santana’s Milagro Foundation. The Milagro Foundation has done so much for children around the world, that I am happy to do my small part in helping them do their thing. My husband fuels his creative side with photoshop, painting, and pro-bono for his musician friends.

This is our second act, and we are making the most of it.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been a little bumpy, and I expect there will be more. This is a learning process since I’ve never been an innkeeper before. I have worked with the public from the many jobs I have held in the past (restaurant hostess, gas station attendant, pretzel vendor – to name a few). Anyone who has ever worked in hospitality, or with the public, knows it takes patience and talent to deal with the small minority of folks who feel a certain sense of entitlement or are just a tad off kilter.

I have learned to maintain a professional yet friendly relationship with our guests and set boundaries. While I am genuinely friendly with our guests, I have to remember that it is my job to be their host. It’s rare, but sometimes folks have misinterpreted my friendliness, and I have found it is not wise to invite guests into my private living space. For example: once while I was practicing my yoga stretches, in my living room, I saw a reflection in my TV of a man standing behind me, I was horrified. It was a guest whom I had invited in earlier while checking in, who then thought it was OK to just let himself in and hang out. He would later phone all the time wanting to just chat. It crossed the line for me, so I made signage that clearly indicates our private quarters, and keep entry doors locked.

I have learned to cater to the type of guests that are best suited to this boutique Inn. We want adventure seekers, travelers, and workers to stay here and know that this is a peaceful and respectful environment to unwind and relax. If all someone is looking for is the cheapest room they can find, then this isn’t the place for them, though our rooms are reasonably priced.

I am going to join an Innkeepers Association to gain access to legal questions, and take courses such as identifying human trafficking. I had one instance that made me uneasy and I still think about it. I still have much to learn.

Quincy Feather Bed Inn – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The house was built in 1893 by an Englishman, Edward Huskinson, who made his money in mining and banking, and maintains the historical details of the frontier Victorian era. Later owners converted it into a B& B. We run it as an Inn because eating establishments are a short walk away. The rooms are very clean with attention to detail with our choice of linens and amenities. We have five upstairs rooms with private entrance and private bath, some with claw foot tubs. We also have two cottages that can accommodate families.

We are known for a friendly, quaint and quiet respite for travelers and workers. Children are allowed in the cottages only so that the guests in the upstairs rooms can be assured that their rooms will be quiet. We have outside gathering spaces for guests to enjoy. Part of the joy in staying here is you can walk to restaurants, shops and drinking establishments and stroll right back to your room.

What sets us apart is guests can enjoy a historical room in a quiet setting with furnishings that are comfortable and quaint. Brass beds and clawfoot tub with bath salts makes for a unique experience you would not find in some of the other lodging establishments in town.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success depends upon your reputation. The Inn enjoys a good reputation, and the reviews left on social media reflect that. With a good reputation come paying guests, and paying guests keep the Inn alive.

My own personal reputation is even more important to me, and I like to do what I say I am going to do. I value authenticity.

Making money is essential to being successful but it is not the only thing that defines success. Most importantly, having a loving family and friends defines success in life. Because without that, what’s the point?

Pricing:

  • $130 for rooms off season, $132 high season (May – end of Oct)
  • $145 for cottages off season, $147 high season (May – end of Oct)
  • $20 per extra guest, per night, above double occupancy in cottages only

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shelley Hunter and Colin Birdseye

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