Retiring in Williamsburg Blog

Lifestyles, Community Information. Helping you find your new home

Ready to Retire and Socialize? Isn’t it time you owned a B&B?


The person who owns and runs a Bed & Breakfast is multi-talented: usually they are a people person who also washes dishes, cooks and serves breakfast, cleans rooms, answers the phone and takes reservations, keeps records, and even gardens! They wear so many hats that it takes a special person. What IS a Bed & Breakfast? It is a cross between a luxury hotel and a private home. It is a place where the owners live on-site and interact with travelers as if they were invited guests rather than anonymous sales tickets. And the “breakfast” in Bed & Breakfast is a sumptuous, home-cooked meal, in a communal dining room. According to the Santa Barbara, California-based Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), in 1980 there were a relative handful of B&Bs/country inns–1,000 properties that hosted 1 million guests. At the latest count, at the turn of the millennium, that figure had swelled to 28,000 properties hosting 50.5 million guests. And they are a perfectly wonderful way to Retire – you’ll still work, but you’ll work at home – to have a gracious home to showcase a lifetime of acquired antiques, to indulge your love of being a host or hostess, and to contribute to your retirement income.

Many homeowners dream of creating a Bed & Breakfast from their current home. Likely, at the least, the owner will have to buy all new mattresses, linens, add fire-safety fixtures, and upgrade kitchens and laundry to serve the public. They’ll be zoning concerns, they’ll be licenses to apply for, and the owner won’t make an income until a website is up and running, there is advertising in place, and the first guest spends the night. A good rule-of-thumb is to expect to spend $35,000-$50,000 for each suite, to upgrade to a B&B, says Jerry Phillips, executive director of PAII. And you’ll have to upgrade many things, UNLESS you buy an established and successful B&B already running at a profit.

Today, we are going to showcase a premium retirement opportunity, purchasing and running a successful, profitable B&B found in a historical area and steeped in history and romance:

Marl Inn Retiring in Williamsburg Rolf Kramer

Marl Inn is a private-home Bed and Breakfast, owned by the fourth great-grandson of Thomas Nelson, Jr., Signer of the Declaration of Independence and his wife, Tom and Poppet Nelson. Marl Inn is the first B&B in the historic district of Yorktown. There is a significant owner’s suite, entirely separate from the four (4) suites that the guests rent – each with their own entrance, bath, and privacy. There is also the possibility of a fifth rental (in the owner’s area). Besides the lovely home (with over 100 major improvements made in the past 5 years), this place has Location, Location, Location! The entire area is rich with history. In fact, it is called the “Historic Triangle” to include Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown. Yorktown is where American and French forces won the last major battle of the American Revolution on October 19, 1781.  There is modern-day fun, too, such as the world-class roller coasters at Busch Gardens.

historic triangle rolf kramer

Marl Inn is so named for the hard clay called “Marl.” Marl is found in the York River riverbed and was often used by early colonists, in Yorktown, as a building material. In fact, the historic building Grace Church of Yorktown is built of Marl and the original building survived the Revolutionary War, but burned in the Yorktown fire of 1814 leaving only the marl walls standing.   Marl is soft when taken out of its native bed and becomes hardened by time and exposure, until it acquires the firmness and durability of solid stone. This photo is the stone that lies in the gardens of The Marl Inn – donated by a local restaurant and carted up the hill to place in the gardens, to be the namesake of the property! The Marl stone sits in the English Gardens, due to the green thumb of current owner, Poppet. She is British born and gardening is a passion and making beautiful outside living spaces is just part of who she is. Poppet has done extensive landscaping providing seasonal color and it is a sight to behold, even in the month of November!

Marl Stone Marl Inn Rolf KramerNovember garden Marl Inn Rolf Kramer

These photos were taken in the summertime. The walk through the English garden fill the guest with peace and tranquility. There are many spaces to sit, relax, and enjoy the calm of the romantic inn.

Marl Inn Gazebo Rolf Kramer marl garden  Marl Inn pergelo Rolf KramerMarl Inn deck Rolf Kramer

What is unique about the travelers that stay at Marl Inn? The repeat traveler is the pride of Marl Inn. Many of the same people stay again and again (and the current owners were once those repeat guests!). Obviously you’ll have the romantic getaway and the tourists stay at the B&B, but you’ll also have business travelers (and unlike the tourist trade, business travel isn’t seasonal). And with the College of William and Mary, you’ve got a built-in market, at least during certain times of the year (Homecoming, Parent’s weekend, conferences, and graduation).

As part of a business decision, in 2013, the Marl Inn Bed and Breakfast started offering No Breakfast, Continental Breakfast, or Full Breakfast options to their guests – over 90% choose No Breakfast or Continental Breakfast – which has made the daily maintenance considerably easier. The breakfast choice has increased occupancy as well as reduced the amount of work and expenses – a good thing for Inn owners. The Marl Inn only requires less than an hour to thoroughly clean a suite after guests’ checkout.  Even though most guests stay multiple nights and choose No Breakfast, and cleaning and maintenance is lower than most inns, B&B owners need to build relief into the business plan: an inn-sitter, time off, or maybe someone to clean on occasion.

B&B’s don’t usually operate at “at full occupancy.” No innkeeper expects year-round total occupancy, particularly in the winter months. Even though it has lower-occupancy the colder months, a river-side B&B, in a historic area, with season celebrations doesn’t sit empty.  The photo, below, is a block behind the Marl Inn, at Riverwalk Landing on the York River with the Coleman Bridge as a backdrop, at sunset. Stunning, isn’t it? The current owner tracks 49% occupancy for the year. No wonder!

Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown Marl Inn Rolf Kramer

In closing, we interviewed Thomas Nelson, Jr. and his wife, Poppet, the current owners the Marl Inn, and they said that many guests asked about the amount of work they do, on a daily basis. In Tom’s experience, “Shopping, cooking, and serving a full breakfast, every day, scares many potentially interested B&B prospects… we, too, felt the burn out from that lifestyle. The plan that we have implemented here really works. Bookings are up (because of the decreased cost to the customer), the amount of work we do is down (because only 10% of the bookings want a cooked breakfast), and we have discovered the guests appreciate the peace and quiet. Bottom line: We have been very successful, here at Marl Inn, for 3 reasons: 1) our Christian values drive the way that we run the business 2) we treat our customers like family, and 2) we love sharing our home with people. Owning a B&B is a lifestyle. It has to be that for the next owner, too. This lifestyle has given us a gracious home, the ability to entertain interesting guests, allowed us to live in a beautiful and historical area, and gave us a monthly income for our retirement years.”   Is being an Inn Keeper your retirement dream? Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining? Do love history and historical settings? Can you picture yourself relaxing, with guests, in an English garden? Then THIS is your opportunity.

Marl Inn sign Rolf Kramer

For all photos, pricing and full listing, visit the Real Estate Listing here

Significant details:

  • Originally built by Eugene Marlin (1977)
  • The B&B Special Use Permit (1999)
  • Sold to second owner of the B&B (2001)
  • Sold to third owner who was a frequent guest of the B&B, prior (2009)
  • There have been over 100 major improvements to the property and infrastructure (2009-2013)
  • Beautiful grounds: patio, vine-covered Pergola, secluded Deck, wrap-around deck surrounded by landscaping designed to produce a year-round rainbow of color
  • The Owners’ Suite includes a master bedroom, a second floor studio apartment and a detached heated/cooled Library/Office
  • Grounds has a large enclosed storage for tools, specific to grounds keeping
  • Any-weather ready: 17-KW natural gas powered back-up generator and leafless gutters
  • There are 4 potential rental suites each with a private entrance, a full bath (with high-efficiency toilet), new flat screen TV, new Blue Ray-DVD player, Wi-Fi, coffee maker, dishes, and iron.
  • The second studio apartment (currently part of the owner’s suite), could potentially be rented out, as well, bringing the number of rentable rooms to five.
  • Year-after-year, there is a 50% occupancy (with 4 rooms rented)
  • 60% of utility, insurance, security, COX cable, and like expenses are tax deductible
  • Grounds and external building expenses are 100% deductible
  • Has been operating with an abundance of positive cash flow (since 2009)

For all photos, pricing and full listing, visit the Real Estate Listing here

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rolf kramer, real estate, Williamsburg, VARolf Kramer, REALTOR®, ABR, SRES, e-PRO 757-564-4455

Licensed in Virginia with Liz Moore and Associates, 5350 Discovery Park Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23188

Williamsburg has become a Mecca for retirees over the past dozen years because of its history, charm, vacation amenities, proximity to major cities and airports, and affordable cost of living. Check out for information about the Williamsburg community, lifestyles available, and search for homes for sale.


Author: retiringinwilliamsburgrolfkramer

Licensed in Virginia with Liz Moore and Associates, 5350 Discovery Park Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23188 Williamsburg has become a Mecca for retirees over the past dozen years because of its history, charm, vacation amenities, proximity to major cities and airports, and affordable cost of living. Check out for information about the Williamsburg community, lifestyles available, and search for homes for sale.

8 thoughts on “Ready to Retire and Socialize? Isn’t it time you owned a B&B?

  1. The Marl Inn has very gracious hosts, is in an amazingly romantic town for as small as it is, and sunsets over the York River and Coleman Bridge? Breathtaking. You should definitely book a romantic getaway and stay at this place, at the very least (if you don’t decide to become the next owner/operator!)

  2. My parents owned a Bed & Breakfast; that is the way that they were able to retire! It was good income and a rich social life. They continued to learn about the area and history and they continued to make lots of new friends, in their retirement years. It was good for our family and great for them! And I adore Yorktown, Virginia – in fact, I was married there! I would recommend the idea of owning a Bed & Breakfast, in retirement years, to anyone.

    • Nice feedback – thank you. I have always thought it would be a very social retirement, but I hadn’t thought of the continued learning aspect. Because everyone visiting is curious about the history and the home and the restaurants, etc, etc – you would be forced to continue to learn. I like it! One thing about this property that it unique is that the owner’s quarters are completely separate from the guest’s – that privacy, even while you are living a social life, is important – especially if this is a life that you are buying into, in retirement, and not in younger years. We like our privacy – and this B&B has that, for the proprietors.

  3. The Marl Inn is the first B&B to have a special use permit in the Village of Yorktown. Located within the British trenches, where America won its’ independence, you meet folks who are here to absorb history at its best. Poppet and I have really enjoyed the pleasure of meeting and chatting with our guests. Living in Yorktown provides easy access to the Yorktown Victory Center and Colonial National Historical Park. The future purchaser of our Inn will find every tool available and every bit of knowledge handed to them to be successful operating the Inn. What is amazing, you will find the Inn and living space are separate areas. Guests come and go through their own entrances and not through your living area. The blog is well written and we both agree with its’ contents.

    • Thanks, Tom & Poppet – you both have been fabulous to work with, in obtaining all the details and fabulous photos of your garden, for the blog post about owning real estate in Williamsburg and the surrounding communities. You have created something new, as far as the owners of B&B’s are concerned. 1) the COMPLETELY separate living quarters -that is completely unique. 2) the fact that you have a “no breakfast” option that most people choose – lowering both your costs and amount of daily work…and GREAT features for the next owner! I know that the future owner of The Marl Inn will be as blessed as you two have.

  4. Pingback: Why I love, Love, LOVE living in Williamsburg, Virginia! | Social Media Simplified - Beautifully

    • Williamsburg is an amazing place to live in and the history of it and the surrounding communities is rich!

  5. What a beautiful place. I’ve always wanted to own a B&B ever since I saw the Bob Newhart show in Vermont!

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