Small Business Spotlight: The Willis-James
Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we visit The Willis-James in Chillicothe.
Last year we introduced you to The Willis-James, a magnificent historic home in Chillicothe that was being given new life as a boutique bed and breakfast. Today, they’re open for business and welcoming guests to enjoy the classiest, most restful overnight stay in the area.
Owners Drew Musser and Steph Moore take their jobs seriously as caretakers for the house and for all the generations of people who have called it home. Construction began on the house in 1805 but every generation left some mark through expansion and renovation, making it increasingly larger, more modern and more ornate.
Sadly, the impressive home was beginning to show its age by the turn of the twentieth century and needed work from the foundation up to the attic and everything in between. Steph and Drew began their renovation almost three years ago armed with a vision of possibility.
As avid travelers, the pair particularly enjoy the bed and breakfast experience. They have also lived and worked in resort communities throughout their married life. Plus, Steph has spent nearly thirty years employed in the luxury boutique hospitality business. In other words, they have a clear perspective on the needs and desires of the modern traveler. “We wanted to be true to the integrity of the house and the people who have called it home. We also wanted to create an experience that feels special, that feels classy. We want to offer the best accommodations in Chillicothe and to have something that is comparable to any boutique hotel anywhere,” Drew explained.
They focused first on the bones of the house – the beautiful hardwood floors, high ceilings, large windows and stunning woodwork like pocket doors and a gorgeous open staircase. They salvaged as much as they could from the original house and pursued replacement pieces as a last resort.
They were mindful when choosing furnishings. Rather than use antique furniture which is typically too small and uncomfortable for the modern traveler, they selected modern pieces with timeless flair. Comfy seating in the common areas and large beds with luxurious linens invite guests to stay and rest a while. Private bathrooms are large with natural light and exquisitely tiled showers to invigorate the weary traveler.
Look closely and you’ll see nods to the home’s place in local history throughout the décor. For example, the Confluence Room decor represents both the nature and people of the area. “We wanted to acknowledge the waterways that converge nearby. We wanted to acknowledge the people who have been brought together by those waterways and those we hope to bring together here,” Drew explained while pushing open the door to a large room in earth tones. The king bed, fireplace and writing desk situated between large windows overlooking Fifth Street feel like something in a gracious home.
The elegant bathroom features shower tile reminiscent of flowing water. Other elements nod to the flora and fauna of the area as well as the Mound Builders who called the region home nearly 2,000 years ago. “Most people wouldn’t notice these things but we wanted some extra touches to give every room character and a sense of connection,” he explained.
A large Amish made table takes center stage in the dining room while a bright and airy breakfast nook invites guests to linger over their breakfast before starting their day. Custom bookcases and a large desk in the library create a serene setting for travelers who need to keep up with work while they’re away. Guest rooms are equipped with wi-fi and televisions. The Spencer Suite can host up to four guests with a king bed, quality sleeper sofa, wet bard, sitting room and a private entrance off the Butler’s Pantry.
Drew and Steph have a clear vision of how they want guests to feel. “We want people to feel at home. That’s the most important thing. We want them to have the latitude to hang out in common spaces or to stay in their room and relax. Doors in common areas aren’t closed because we want them to explore, watch a game on the tv in the sitting room or read a book in the library. Sit together and chat. Explore the home and love it as we do,” Drew said. “We also want them to feel that we respect their privacy. If they want to hang out with us in the evening, they’re welcome and we are happy to chat. If they want to be left alone, we respect that as well.”
“We’ve already had people from all over the country stay with us. We’re hoping some of our neighbors here in town will come stay. Maybe for only a night to have a romantic date night or just to see what it’s like. We welcome locals too!”
Perfect for a girlfriends’ getaway, a romantic retreat, history lovers and even the business traveler seeking a homier setting than a hotel, The Willis-James checks all the boxes when it comes to amenities and atmosphere. They have even hosted some special events including a 70th birthday party and even an engagement. “That’s humbling when you realize that the house is so special someone would want to get engaged here!” he exclaimed.
Click here to read the VCNB story from 2021 and here to learn more about the history of the people who once lived here.
Need a quick Christmas gift? They do sell gift certificates! Follow The Willis-James on Facebook and visit their website to book your stay now! Click the slideshow below to view pictures of this magnficent place.