It’s been said that good things come to those who wait, but entrepreneur Dana Mares may be proof that good things come to those who keep searching. A little over 34 years ago, Mares and her husband Scott were honeymooning at bed and breakfast in Washington state, known for its lush landscapes and seemingly impossible beauty. As dreamers and budding entrepreneurs often do, they turned to each other one afternoon with a similar thought – “One day, we want to do this.” More than just a passing whim, the idea of owning their own bed and breakfast was a planted seed that held fast throughout the years of raising a family and being swept up in the busyness of life.
During those years, a glimpse into their family would reveal hints of what was to come. Dana is a natural hostess, and their home was a popular hangout spot for her kids’ friends. Dana was ever ready with a plate of warm cookies and a kind word to welcome them. On the other hand, her husband found his wheelhouse tackling the household handyman tasks. These combined skills would prove invaluable for what lay ahead on their entrepreneurial journey. And like time has a habit of doing, the years marched forward towards other important milestones that would make way for the dream of long ago.
“We had looked at each other all those years ago and said one day we want to do this, and one day finally came. All the kids had left for college, and we started seriously searching for our bed and breakfast. I had never heard of Waynesboro, but on one trip, we came down from Northern Virginia, and we found it. We knew it was the right spot. It was totally an answer to prayer, and we feel very blessed,” Mares explains.
The right spot turned out to be a large historic home built in 1847 with 7.7 acres of sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and natural beauty around every corner. “The location of the house here on a hill overlooking the pasture lands, the mountains, the small little main streets just down the road, everything just felt right,” Mares fondly recalls.
Once the decision was made to purchase the home, Mares and her husband put their teamwork to the test to get the bed and breakfast up and running. “We have different skills that complement each other. I’m definitely more of the hospitality side of things, and he’s more of the handyman side of things, but I think together, we make a good team and work well together,” Mares says.
Their efforts paid off. Guests have come from as far away as China to experience both the historic charm and simple luxury of Heritage Hill Bed & Breakfast. Mares enjoys her role as part hostess, part chef, and part tour guide. “I’ve always liked to entertain and try new recipes. Scones are usually always on the menu, and we raise chickens, so we have fresh eggs. I’m also very open to cooking for people with different allergy issues,” Mares adds.
Beyond the three dedicated bed and breakfast guest rooms, the property also transforms into a wedding and event venue. In terms of location, Heritage Hill is in a unique position to offer both acres of countryside and close proximity to the city of Waynesboro. Whatever the reason for the visit, guests tend to leave enchanted with Heritage Hill as well as the Shenandoah Valley.
As for advice for aspiring bed and breakfast owners, Mares offers tried-and-true guidance. “One thing that really helped us was having older friends that had a bed and breakfast in Middleburg that we would visit often. I could ask them questions, and when we finally did buy our property, they came to visit. Getting advice from people who are doing what you want to do is helpful. Along with that, researching to see if the market is oversaturated is important. Then obviously being willing to put in some hard work and be patient,” Mares explains.
The seed for owning a bed and breakfast may have been planted all those years ago in Washington, but lucky for us, Waynesboro is where it bloomed.
To learn more about Heritage Hill Bed and Breakfast, visit heritagehillbnb.com. For our complete interview with Dana Mares, check out Ep. 15 of the Waynesboro at Work podcast on podcast on YouTube and Spotify.