MARSHALL – A crackle of footsteps could be heard approaching the bridal suite of Villa in Verona before Logan Novess charges through the door with a book in each hand.
The one-year-old then dropped onto a sofa and cuddled up in her mum’s lap, where she listened to her favorite lines from a Dr Seuss book. Despite a few weekday afternoon visitors — a contractor remodeling the kitchen and a landscaping crew outside — the toddler seemed more than comfortable in the presence of strangers at the bed and breakfast that she’s called home since she was a baby.
“We wanted her to grow up here, learn hospitality and meet people,” said Mason Novess, Logan’s father.
Virginia and Mason Novess stayed at the Villa in Verona as guests with their wedding party when they married in 2019, the first year the house at 1110 Verona Road had been converted into a bed and breakfast. In March 2021, the couple purchased the 8-acre property and business, diversifying it by promoting the site as an event venue while sharing their residence as innkeepers and Airbnb hosts.
“How the (B&B) industry has changed is something I’ve definitely heard with more properties needing to attend these additional events,” Virginia said. “Sometimes overnight income just isn’t enough, especially with a property like ours that is huge and expensive to maintain, upkeep and upgrade all the time.”
Airbnb allows people to reserve a room or an entire house for private rental, while a traditional bed and breakfast serves guests on a more intimate scale, often with a homemade breakfast provided by an innkeeper. The Novess said that in addition to additional income, being an Airbnb host allows them to book guests without having to be at the villa at all times, such as when traveling.
“Now is a good time for that too, because people are quite comfortable with the Airbnb method. It’s not like we want to do this all the time; we certainly like meeting people and being part of the community. “hospitality of this place. It just gives us a bit of flexibility, so it’s nice to have that option.”
The pandemic has brought many challenges to the hospitality industry, and the Novess purchased the property during a tough time for bed and breakfasts nationwide. According to market research company IBISWorldBed and Breakfast was a $1.37 billion industry in 2020, up from $2.36 billion the previous year.
“Assuming (the pandemic) was going to end, a big assumption for sure,” Mason said. “There was a risk. If there’s another stop after buying it, we’re screwed. It’s a big mortgage. But there’s a bottleneck of people waiting to get in. The day where we closed, we had guests. We had a wedding two weeks before closing.”
According to the Michigan Bed and Breakfast Association, there were 240 bed and breakfasts in Michigan in 2021, down 30% from four years prior. Today, there are at least five traditional B&Bs in Calhoun County, including two in Marshall among the city’s 800 historically significant homes and buildings.
Villa on Verona is a Michigan Registered Historic Site as the Butler-Boyce House. Built between 1857 and 1861, it sits on land that once belonged to James Fenimore Cooper, author of ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. The Italian Villa was later the summer residence of WD Boyce, a Chicago publisher and founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
Villa on Verona has common areas on the first floor with chandeliers, marble floors, parquet floors and fireplaces. There are five bedrooms located on the second floor, including a honeymoon suite, and a basement with a relaxation area, fitness room, and bourbon bar. Seasonal outdoor spaces include a gazebo, tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, a saltwater pool and arctic spa hot tub.
Guests of the villa’s B&B can also enjoy a breakfast of poppy seeds and banana bread made from scratch by Mason’s grandmother, who lives a mile away.
“She’s really profitable,” Mason joked.
The Novess’ private residence is located on the upper level and is accessed through a code door and rear entrance. It has three bedrooms for the growing family, with pregnant Virginia expecting a baby girl to arrive this summer.
While Mason is from nearby Homer, Virginia is originally from Lansing and said she never considered small town life until she was charmed by the villa and the surrounding community.
“I love Marshall. I would never choose to live in a small town,” she said. “Marshall has been so welcoming and supportive. Everyone we’ve met has been happy a young family bought it over a venture capitalist and they’re thrilled we’re part of the community. He’s a great place to have a small business, for sure.”
Contact reporter Nick Buckley at [email protected] or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter: @NickJBuckley
VILLA ON VERONA
Or: 1110 Verona Road, Marshall
Built: 1860 (Butler-Boyce House)
Guest room: 5
information: villaonverona.com; 269-382-1796