Relaxing in a cozy home with no worries about upcoming mortgage payments or household chores may seem like a dream. But for guests at a bed and breakfast like Long Beach Lodge (305 Church Ave., Long Beach, Miss., 228-363-0268, www.longbeachlodgemississippi.com), it's reality — for a few days, at least.
This space is no stranger to being a home away from home. In the 1980s it was an independent living center for seniors and operated as Westchester Personal Care Home in 2004 when Dan and Gina Miller purchased the business. A year later, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast community. The husband-and-wife team repaired the damaged facility but decided to address the community's new needs by reopening as a bed and breakfast instead of a senior home.
"It was something we had to do," Dan Miller says. "There were lots of people who needed lodging."
The Long Beach Lodge became a home for people who didn't have one of their own. Dan says families sought out the lodge for a place to congregate, especially during holidays. Although the surrounding area was repopulating very slowly, the bed and breakfast managed to attract steady business.
"It did well because it was embraced by the community," Dan says. "[People were] looking for hope and regrowth."
About a year later, the lodge — with an interior that has a soft, ski resort look with a hint of Asian influence in its strict cleanliness — became the site for many weddings and family reunions. Today, Dan says weddings and family functions still make up the bulk of the lodge's business, but even guests just staying for a long weekend receive stellar treatment. The lodge's chef provides dinner that includes filet mignon and "out-of-this-world fresh market seafood chowder" on Friday and Saturday nights and breakfast that often lures guests to stay a little bit longer in the mornings.
The Millers want to prove that a good bed and breakfast is more than a cottage and a tray of orange juice — and that there's no place like a home away from home.
"Bed and breakfast is no longer somebody's extra bedroom," Dan says. "It's an industry all by itself."