Seelys won't let pandemic ruin B&B plans in Delaware

PAUL COMSTOCK
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Diane Seely and her husband, Rob, are owner-innkeepers of Georgia's Bed & Breakfast at 76 N. Franklin St. in Delaware. Diane Seely is in one of the restored sitting rooms in the house that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc around the globe, but it hasn't stopped the dream of Diane Seely.

In November, she and her husband, Rob, purchased a house at 76 N. Franklin St. In Delaware to fulfill her longstanding ambition of running a bed-and-breakfast.

Before the couple could get the business operating, the pandemic struck.

"It was just weeks into it, starting our project, and we get hit with this global pandemic. Of course, that caused us to stop and think about 'what are we doing? Is this going to work?'

"Not only that, there were delays in renovation. We didn't do a lot of renovation. ... We had wanted to ... make sure every room had its own private bath.

"So in the middle of this, we we're trying to complete the bathrooms and get it completely furnished and ready to go," Diane Seely said.

Her husband said their contractor's supply chains were delayed or shut down, and subcontractors backed out, all because of the pandemic.

"It was a culmination of all kinds of issues. Our bank was telling us, 'You may want to consider just not even opening this up and getting out of it before it gets worse.'

"We were getting it from all different angles," Rob Seely said.

In a video on their website -- georgiasbedandbreakfastdelawareohio.com -- Diane Seely spelled out the ultimate consideration.

"I think that looking back 10 years from now, I would regret not trying, COVID or not. I would regret not trying at least to have my dream come to fruition," she said.

The bed-and-breakfast had its first customers in late June, she said, with subsequent business "slow and steady" and roughly one booking each weekend.

"We also had our first wedding there last weekend, which was absolutely beautiful," she said.

"The weather turned out great. It was just a very small ceremony about 25 people," she said Aug. 19.

The event was held in the backyard, and the bride and groom drove away in an antique automobile.

"It was very appropriate for the setting of our historical home," Diane Seely said.

The house was built in 1876 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The business is named in honor of Diane Seely's mother, Georgia Smith, who died in 2013.

One of the bed-and-breakfast's rooms is called the Blossom Suite, for Georgia's love of flowers.

The Cotton Fields room is named because Georgia -- born in 1932 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma -- worked on the family's cotton farm as a young girl.

The Blue Threads room pays homage to Georgia's skill as a seamstress and houses some quilts she made.

The business' remaining guest room is the Frank Suite, named after former owners Max Frank and his family.

Each room has a sitting area and private bath, Diane Seely said.

The bed-and-breakfast's business thus far isn't going to pay the bills, she said, but she and her husband say that could change with an easing of the pandemic.

"We have some optimism we are able to get some bookings as a new business," he said, particularly because Ohio Wesleyan University is nearby.

The couple live in Jerome Township, near Plain City, and were told Delaware has a shortage of lodging space for visiting parents of OWU students and others.

They also heard "a lot of conversation there's not a lot of places in Delaware to have meetings, small baby showers and things like that," Rob Seely said.

Georgia's can accommodate such activities, he said. The first floor is set up nicely for such parties or business meetings, he said.

Although the bed-and-breakfast isn't drawing enough customers yet to be sustainable, he said he sees cause for optimism.

"We're optimistic ... just because of how much activity we have had" in spite of the pandemic, he said.

The delay in renovations had a silver lining, Diane Seely said. It allowed the couple to prepare COVID-19 precautions "to ensure that our guests felt safe being there," she said.

Those precautions include requiring masks outside the private rooms, scheduling staggered breakfast times for guests and allowing enough time for a cleaning schedule. No more than three guest rooms will be occupied at once, Diane Seely said.

The couple did "research, research, research on best practices" and had many phone conversations with the Delaware General Health District, she said.

Georgia's guests typically check in at 4 p.m., when they receive a snack that might be cheese and crackers, crab dip or a fruit bar, she said. They check into their room and typically go out for dinner.

Breakfast is between 9:30 and 10 a.m. the following day and could include yogurt parfait, french-toast bake, quiche, fruit salad or mini muffins, plus coffee and orange juice.

Checkout is at 11 a.m.

More information about the house's history and amenities is available on the website.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews

Diane Seely stands in the kitchen of Georgia's Bed & Breakfast, 76 N. Franklin St. in Delaware.