DULUTH (AP) -- Three of Duluth's stately bed and breakfasts are on the market for someone willing to put in the long hours of an innkeeper. Or someone who just wants to own one of Duluth's most historic homes.
Fully one-quarter of the city's 12 B&Bs are on the market. You can own The Mansion for $3.875 million or the more modest Charles A. Weiss Inn for a mere $549,900. On Friday, the Lord Frazer House joined the group of eligible inns. Its price? $685,000.
Yet another bed and breakfast, Manor on the Creek Inn, also was listed for sale earlier this month. It was offered for $1.15 million but was pulled from the market after a few days. The owner declined comment on the status or future of the property.
The surge is partly a reflection of the real estate market.
Keith Olson, owner of the Lord Frazer House, said that after watching a house down the street from his B&B fetch a handsome price, he started giving more consideration to selling.
But property values were far from they only reason. Being the proprietor of a bed and breakfast is a big-time commitment, he said, and he and his wife, Patricia, want more flexibility and new challenges.
Sue Monson, owner of The Mansion, and Dave Lee, owner of the Weiss House, both cited a desire for more time as the primary reason for their decisions to sell.
Monson and her husband, Warren, are both in their 60s and thinking about retirement. They launched The Mansion, Duluth's first B&B, in 1983.
Lee said he and his wife, Peggy Ann Kirsch, want more time with their three children.
The Monsons have demonstrated 20 years of staying power on the B&B scene, but Sue Monson said burnout is fairly common. The business demands relentless attention.
"People often underestimate the work involved in running a bed and breakfast," said Bill Brakken, owner of the A.G. Thomson House, another Duluth B&B. "From June to October, it's tough to get away at all."
Brakken has mixed feelings about seeing friends and colleagues preparing to leave the business, especially now that it is gaining momentum.
"I think Duluth has really been coming into its own as a recognized bed and breakfast destination."
He said the city seems to have achieved a "critical mass" of B&Bs, a number attractive to visitors. What's more, Duluth B&Bs started a collective marketing campaign and have a joint Web site -- http://www.duluthbandb.com .
The Lord Frazer House bed and breakfast in Duluth is one of three stately bed and breakfasts in the city that are on the market. (AP Photo)
In the short term, the number of B&Bs in Duluth could shrink.
Brakken considers it unlikely that The Mansion will remain a B&B after it's sold. Given its price, he said, it would probably be difficult to maintain the cash flow to make a B&B feasible.
Olson said his B&B is small enough that it could be restored to a single-family home if a buyer isn't interested in running it as a business.
Lee said the Weiss House is a strong candidate for continued operation as a B&B. He plans to sell it as a turnkey operation, complete with period furnishings, linens and all the accouterments necessary to keep it going.
Change won't likely come overnight. Lee said B&Bs nationally typically spend a couple years on the market before selling. Lee, the Olsons and the Monsons all plan to continue operating their B&Bs while they remain on the market.
Regardless of how the properties ultimately are used, Brakken said B&B operators deserve credit for restoring the homes to their former splendor.
Lee said the Weiss House was within days of demolition when he and his wife purchased it in 1988. The next four years were consumed by major renovation before the house was ready to welcome its first guests.
Looking back, Lee said opening and running the B&B has been a lot of work, but it also has been gratifying.
Brakken said the sense of stewardship Lee demonstrated is a recurring theme in the stories of other innkeepers.
"I've always felt more like the caretaker than the owner of this house," Monson said. "It has been a labor of love, but it has definitely been a labor."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.