The Muse Gallery Guesthouse

Row of books with brass bookends on a mantel in front of a mirror.

Happy New Year from Andrew and Mary Ellen at The Muse

Happy New Year from Andrew and Mary Ellen at The Muse.  And an added wish for better days ahead for all of us.

March 2020 came and we were enjoying our annual rest on Tybee Island, Georgia, just barely aware of this thing called Covid.  The President announced a travel ban and the next thing we knew every time we picked up the phone to check emails we had another slew of cancellations.  By the end of our time down there – the third week of March, EVERY SINGLE RESERVATION for the year had been cancelled (some $41K in lost bookings!). Needless to say we were in shock about this and made our way back home in deep concern and worry. So much for a restful vacation…

And then like everyone else we began to get our head around what a pandemic looked like and meant for a travel/hospitality business like ours.  We read, we listened to podcasts and webinars by industry leaders, we powwowed with our state bed and breakfast association, we checked on all our local small business friends and tried our best to strategize our way through a summer of lost bookings.

We let people know that we were still open – that we had made recommended changes to the way we hosted so that we could provide as Covid-safe experience as possible and we waited to see if any of it helped.  We also went back to work at day jobs to be able to keep our business alive.  Unfortunately, there didn’t seem like there was much positive to say and we were very busy trying to keep our heads above water so writing blogs just didn’t happen.

We were lucky enough to have a few guests over this period who came to us because they were very concerned about staying at a place that was taking Covid seriously and working hard to make sure they were safe.  They were very accepting of the fact that contact with us would be very limited and that the usual fun of a wine and cheese hour and communal breakfast with other guests was no longer on offer for the obvious safety reasons.  They helped us by giving us good reviews and describing how one could still have at least a little fun during a hard time.  We were very grateful to them.

We find ourselves here now. Occupancy rates this week in Milwaukee – a holiday week no less – were about 13%.  And the long “low season” looms ahead.  We are not getting too down about that because we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  We feel pretty confident that before long travel will resume and the great amount of pent-up travel desire will trickle our way.

The thing that has really kept us going through this all is looking for, enjoying and admiring the creativity involved in the pivots people have had to make to get through this time. We have watched all sorts of local businesses do this and we have seen the clever ways family and friends have worked things out to stave off isolation and stay connected.

Last night was just one great example.  Some neighbors always host an incredibly fun NYE party at their home – it is truly the highlight of our holiday season.  Obviously that couldn’t safely happen in the same way.  So their yard was strung with bright lights and several points in their big backyard were ablaze with big, bright and incredibly warm bonfires. Hot drinks were in crockpots on a picnic table.  The guest list had been pared for a safe number of friends/sq foot of yard and we were lucky enough to make the cut. And for 4 hours we caught up with some truly amazing people.  It was a real shot in the arm.  We commiserated some about how awful the year had been but the focus was more on the blessings, discoveries, creative pivots, and positive plans that had revealed themselves.  We left buoyed and as we walked thru the gate the host took our picture kissing under the mistletoe.

And with that kiss we made a wish for the health and prosperity of all our family, friends, past and future guests in this coming year.  The Muse is still standing and we have renewed resolve to create and curate a delightful stay should you find yourself in Milwaukee at any point – even as a staycation.  We are grateful for your patronage and we look forward to hosting you soon.

Stay healthy and hope to see you before long!

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