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Urbandale Bed & Breakfast will cater to tourists, business travelers


Facing a possible layoff from the Department of Human Services six years ago, Diane Wells began to contemplate how she might spend the rest of her life until she realized that her love of gardening, decorating and playing host all came together into one business opportunity – a bed and breakfast.

Wells, along with her husband Dave, has battled through five years of bank loans, because some banks weren’t sure a bed and breakfast could survive; building permits, because the city wasn’t sure if it was a house or a commercial property; city ordinances, which originally didn’t allow for bed and breakfasts; construction; and now snow and ice to get Wells Bed & Breakfast ready for guests.

“This project has had a life of its own,” said Wells, who left her job with the DHS last week. “And I’ve really had to learn how to accept and be open to changes and listen to the little angel whispering in my ear that says ‘don’t give up.’”

Wells Bed & Breakfast, 2724 72nd St. in Urbandale, is accepting bookings for March 1 or later. The newly constructed Victorian-style home sits on a 1.3-acre lot and includes five suites, a morning room, exercise facility, library and video room and covered porches, with gardens planned for the spring.

With quick access to Interstate Highways 80 and 35 and Iowa Highway 141, as well as many businesses in the northern suburbs, Wells believes her bed and breakfast will fill a niche market in Greater Des Moines by catering not only to tourists but also business travelers.

“I’ll have a fax and copy machine and Internet access in every room, so I’ll have the basics that a business traveler needs,” she said. “But I want to take that up a notch and make it more ‘executive friendly,’” with the possibility of adding features such as video conferencing in the future. Some companies have expressed interest in using the space for meetings or office Christmas parties, as well as housing out-of-town clients.

The five suites have names, though Wells had not originally planned to do so. The themes began to emerge, either through the design of the room or the décor. The Bellagio is the first floor master suite, decorated in an old world style with a fireplace, sitting area and four-poster bed. The Lodge is the second-floor master suite with a view of the woods and decorated with a mountain lodge theme. The upstairs is finished off with the French Country, Grandma’s Attic and Scottish Castle suites. The 2,300-square-foot lower level will serve as the Wells’ private residence, though it will not be completed for another two to three years.

Wells plans to hire a chef to prepare breakfasts and afternoon desserts. But the chef will also work independently to cater meals for showers, business meetings, Christmas parties and other events at the house. The cleaning, for now, will remain Wells’ job “so I can learn what is realistic to expect of someone else.”

Depending on the success of Wells Bed & Breakfast, she has given some thought to franchising the business in the future, a concept that has seen success, particularly in the southeastern United States.

“If I can get to where I want to be in five to 10 years, I may franchise out,” Wells said. “First I need to focus on this and get this going.”

For more information, visit www.wellsbedandbreakfast.com.

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