Oh, what a difference a week can make.
A five-day sprint renovation project turned an overgrown, ignored back yard into a "glamping garden" for an independent bed and breakfast owner — with the help of design and construction experts whose business it is to help makeover small businesses. The transformation is giving the decades-old small business new ways to make money.
Husband-and-wife team Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood, a former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, bought and renovated a home called the Akwaaba Mansion in New York City, opening the 1860s villa in 1995 as a bed and breakfast.
Pogue and Greenwood turned what neighborhood kids once called "the haunted house" into an elegant boutique bed and breakfast in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. The four-room guesthouse includes 14-foot ceilings, intricate parquet wood floors and luxuries such as an in-suite Jacuzzi tub for two.
The hospitality entrepreneurs have since expanded their bed and breakfast business beyond Brooklyn: a Cape May, New Jersey, inn opened in 2002; the duo bought a Washington D.C. location in October 2003; Pogue and Greenwood bought a second Cape May, New Jersey, inn in Spring 2006; they opened a boutique spa and resort in the Poconos Mountains in May 2012; and in July 2018, they added an inn in Philadelphia.
Pogue and Greenwood appeared on CNBC's "Five Day Biz Fix" and taped their episode in May. At the time, the Akwaaba Mansion was "barely profitable," according to the show.
The Brooklyn inn has four guest rooms that average at $205 per night, Greenwood told "Five Day Biz Fix." Pogue and Greenwood were looking to increase their revenues coming in from their Brooklyn location.
"Airbnb has been a disruptor for our industry," Greenwood told CNBC's "Five Day Biz Fix." "We know we can improve our bottom line, but I am limited in space," she said.
Enter Erik and Chrissy Kopplin, the husband and wife co-founders of KCC Design + Build, a design and contracting company headquartered in Queens, a borough of New York City, with a specialty in hospitality, retail and office space projects.
As part of the CNBC show "Five Day Biz Fix," Erik and Chrissy come to the Akwaaba Mansion to figure out how they can increase sales, by improving the design and functionality of the space. Erik and Chrissy observed that the Brooklyn mansion is lucky to have so much private land behind it, but that the space was virtually untamed — and therefore nearly unused.
Pictures of the backyard of the Akwaaba Mansion before the renovation. Photo credit: CNBC.
"How can a small B-and-B survive in an environment that constantly eats into profits? By maximizing every square inch of its property. That's how," Chrissy says on the show.
She suggested a total renovation of the backyard space that would both allow Greenwood to increase the overall price of rooms and for customers to pay extra for an opportunity to rent a tent in the backyard, too — to go "glamping," or camping outdoors with luxurious amenities.
While the landscaping architectural plans were drawn up ahead of time, the actual construction of the glamping garden happened in five days.
Pogue and Greenwood in conversation with Erik and Chrissy Kopplin during the construction of the back yard. Photo courtesy: CNBC.
The renovated outdoor space includes a living-room-type area, a 14-seat dining area and two glamping tents which can be reserved for an additional $80 per night. Guests at the mansion who select the "glamping" add-on can choose to sleep outdoors if they want (but they still have to reserve a room in the mansion for the bathroom and showering), or they can sleep indoors and hang out in the private glamping tent.
The rates on rooms at the Akwaaba Mansion are going up $25 per night, per room, starting in Spring 2020. (When the show was shot in May, the Brooklyn bed and breakfast was already mostly booked for the summer, and Greenwood didn't want to increase rates on rooms already booked.)
Further, the outdoor space is scattered with items that customers can purchase if they so choose, such as Akwaaba-themed pillow-covers, candles and tableware, for example. In the first month that the glamping garden was open, retail sales for merchandise were $1,800. In the same four weeks a year ago, retail merchandise sales were just $200, CNBC's "Five Day Biz Fix" says.
Greenwood looking over her new backyard space. Photo courtesy CNBC.
"Having this new outdoor oasis is really going to be a game-changer for my business," Greenwood tells CNBC's "Five Day Biz Fix." "Such a total transformation."
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