Owners of Chicago’s only Black-owned B&B make it worth the trip

Mel Monroe Welcome Inn Manor

 

Situated on the quiet, southeast corner of 46th Street and South Michigan Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Bronzeville community, is a beautiful Queen Anne  home. As you make your way up the steps your getaway experience has led you to the Welcome Inn Manor bed and breakfast, and meeting its owners, Mell and Angela Monroe — and their bullmastiff, Sinbad.

Why did you convert your primary residence into a bed-and-breakfast?
Well, we had been living in the house for six to seven years. We purchased the home with the initial interest of getting more space and still being close to downtown. We came from the South Loop at first, so Bronzeville was the next step for us as an investment, and that was the initial foundation. But in the process of buying the place, we only had a budget that would allow us to do renovations, we never really actually considered restoration. The home was built in 1893 and we wanted to preserve it, more importantly, maintain the character and integrity of historic homes like these representing the turn of the century. In the process of thinking we were rehabbing, we quickly recognized that restoration was much more involved than we had expected. The long-short of it was that our big ideas one day turned into a couple of weeks when we realized that a bed-and-breakfast made perfect sense.

What’s the square footage? How many rooms are there? 
The entire house is 7,200 square feet. The personal living space and guest rental space is 1,000 square feet. There are six bedrooms.

What do you think the keys are for starting and running a successful bed-and-breakfast?
You have to really like people — I mean genuinely like people. You need to be curious about other cultures and ethnic groups. You have to be open and not paranoid about material things and have a trusting nature. And you must learn as much as you can about the tourist or demographic group you want to serve.

What were some the challenges you faced opening the bed-and-breakfast?
Cash flow. There is never enough. I didn’t plan well enough on the branding and marketing. I would have liked to have [had] 25 percent for marketing and advertising.

What’s it like having this business in this historic area? What are some of the amenities you offer?
Great! We are starting our fourth year and we know a lot more than we did before. We know how to lock in on a guest. We learned how to focus and be mindful of the services we offer and in many cases how they get around. We offer fresh hot breakfast — not all B&B’s provide that — every day. We provide transportation to pretty much anywhere in Chicago. We are the only inn of our kind offering free transportation service after breakfast every day.

Welcome Inn Manor is located at 4563 S. Michigan Ave. Two-night stay is required. Service animals are allowed. 85 out of 95 Tripadvisor reviews rank them as “Excellent” and 9 more as “Very Good”. For more information, visit www.WelcomeInnManor.com, or email [email protected]

 



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