Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an Airbnb Host? We certainly have! Our Posts from the Hosts series offers a peek into what it takes to create an unforgettable experience and how inspiration helps these unique properties stand out from the rest. This week's Posts from the Hosts comes to us from William, proud Super Host of Cozy Redding Retreat located in Redding, CT. Welcome, William!
When did Huckleberry Quarters open its doors to travelers?
We officially opened in March 2016!
What is the overall history of Huckleberry Quarters?
In a way, I guess I sort of backed into hosting out of a desire to turn a small set of
rooms off the back of my house into a revenue producer. I’ve owned my place since
2006; it’s an old house, a 1918 farmhouse; it’s actually called the Huckleberry House
and was probably one of the earliest houses on Huckleberry Road. The house has a
lot of character and the land it is on is exquisite, part of what was once a large,
The house had a small set of rooms off the basement looking out over the backyard.
When I first saw the house, I wondered what the original purpose of the rooms had
been? It was in pretty rough shape then but it had a fully functioning bathroom. I joke
that it had a claw-foot tub without the claw feet, it was up on blocks! I mused that
perhaps the space had been an “old farm-hand’s quarters” back in the day?!
In 2015, I set about completely gutting and renovating the space with the intention to
rent it for a little extra money. With the help of some good friends who also happened
to be skilled artisans, we totally transformed the space from top to bottom into what
you see today.
My first renter was a good friend’s son who took the space for several months until
February 2016 when he needed to move closer to work. As I wondered what direction
to go with the space after my first renter, my partner, John Talley, suggested giving
Airbnb a try. He had heard from some friends who had been doing it elsewhere were
having a worthwhile experience with it.
As I began to ready the space for Airbnb, I believe I had an intuitive sense of what
needed to be accomplished. The space is small, yet very “cozy” hence our by-line
“Cozy Redding Retreat”. It had to be furnished efficiently to make most of the space
to avoid it feeling cramped.
The kitchen struck me as very important to the overall “home-away-from-home” guest-
experience; it needed to be well appointed so that anyone wanting to prepare a nice,
home-cooked meal could do so with ease. Last Thanksgiving, my guests prepared for
themselves, a 7-course Thanksgiving dinner that included roasted duck and all the
fixings!! You can see a picture of the meal they made in our Huckleberry Quarters’
After a lot of preparation, with everything ready by mid-March 2016, we went live on
Airbnb. I remember lying in my bed that night, half-asleep when my phone made a
funny ring I had never heard before. It was the Airbnb App letting me know that I had
my first reservation, Mitchell from NYC! I was stunned and certainly thrilled!!
As the reservations continued to come in, I began to refer to the space as the
Huckleberry Quarters, based on my original inspiration of the farm-hand’s quarters.
And the name has just sorta stuck.
What was the best hospitality experience you’ve ever had? It could have happened at a hotel, an Airbnb, or even a friend’s house. Does that experience have any influence on how you host?This is a difficult question to answer as most of my travel has been predominately for business and these experiences are typically utilitarian in nature and nothing really jumps of the page at me.
In terms of the influences on me as a host, perhaps my family’s own hotel roots have had an impact on me; I discovered later in life that I actually have the hotel-gene after all. This hospitality sense is coupled with my own professional experience as a sales and marketing executive from the luxury world where how the customer experiences your brand is paramount
What were you most worried about when becoming a host? Has that fear ever played out in reality?
I suppose there is always that concern that you run across the poorly-behaved-guest but quite honestly, it simply has never occurred. It is not to say that it cannot occur as it surely does somewhere at some time. The worst I have ever had is a guest who left the space particularly messy to the degree that in verged on inconsiderate. I chalked it up to their inexperience with the Golden Rule of Airbnb behavior, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
How did you decide on the design elements of the property?
I do not consider myself an artist but I am a very visual person and perhaps blessed with some good taste. Professionally, I have worked for some of the great luxury brands and with artists and designers and all this experience has been an influence on my design point of view, best described as “less is often more”. I have also been inspired by my partner, John, who has a great sense of style and taste and we compliment each other’s design sense quite well. He deserves a great deal of credit for keeping my design sense on track!
What is the one thing you hope your guests experience while at Huckleberry Quarters? Is it the surrounding beauty, a weekend full of booze and romance, an overall feeling of peace, or just a break from the grind?
My hope is that our guests simply enjoy themselves and have fun!!! It all begins with the experience we’ve created for them with the Huckleberry Quarters; it’s fun, it’s their palette, don’t worry, it will inspire you!! They’ll make their own magic, drawing from all that this wonderful area has to offer from nature, history, open space and…. it’s stonewalls!! You can’t talk about Redding without mentioning its myriad adorning stonewalls. If you simply ponder that all of these walls were made hundreds of years ago by bare hands, beasts of burden and sweat, from stones deposited from the last Ice Age, you can’t help but be inspired! The space will draw the stress right out of you.
Many of your reviews mention the little extras you provide, like how coffee, milk, juice, bread, butter, eggs, fruit, snacks and cereal will be available during a stay. What made you decide to go that extra mile?
I believe it all boils down to the experience that we are trying to create for our guests and of course, the second “B” in Airbnb could be interpreted as to mean “breakfast”, to my mind at least. We want our guests to feel at home, to be comfortable and enjoy themselves. Who doesn’t want to brew their cup of coffee in a French Press from freshly ground, locally roasted coffee beans?! If you’re going to do it, do it right and a little cinema never hurt anyone!!
Huckleberry Quarters has received over 180 reviews in just two years - and if I’m not mistaken, every single one has given you five stars! That is incredible! You seem to have a pretty amazing occupancy rate, especially for being in Redding, CT. Do you do any marketing beyond just being featured on Airbnb? If so, would you be open to sharing some marketing tips for other Airbnb Hosts?
We rely on the Airbnb platform to drive our business, visibility and reservations; during peak season, we have had over 2,000+ views per month of the Huckleberry Quarters listing and certainly our strong guest reviews and ratings must help turn lookers into bookers.
In early 2017, I decided it was time to create both Instagram and Facebook pages for the Huckleberry Quarters which is of course how you found us, but its purpose is more to provide our guests with valuable content and information whether they’re planning a trip or when they’re actually visiting; about the space itself, its surroundings, local restaurants, etc.… who I do post about if it’s merited. The area has some really enjoyable restaurants who are working really hard to provide great food and dining experiences for their patrons and there’s something for just about every palette!
Instagram in particular has been an effective way to convey the story creatively and meaningfully and it gets really fun when our guests post their own pictures and tell stories from a totally unexpected perspective which we often repost; that’s really the icing on the cake!
Lastly, I always suggest to our guests to please, if they think of it, to spread word about their experience at the Huckleberry Quarters, so hopefully this word-of-mouth helps as well.
Metro North has a stop in Redding, CT, that is about 2 hours from Grand Central. If a visitor is using this transportation, is it easy to get to your Airbnb from the train station? How would they do that? What about getting around town etc.?
We actually have a lot of guests who do take Metro-North from the city to visit us and we always recommend the Branchville stop on the Danbury Line which is one stop prior to Redding so a little less time spent sitting on the train and very close to the grocery and package stores. Depending on the train they catch, the ride is around a 1:30.
Uber and Lyft are both available and it’s a quick, 10-minute drive to the Huckleberry Quarters from the Branchville station. There is also a wonderful supermarket, Carraluzzis that is right on the way so if guests would like to stop and pick up food, etc… it’s very convenient for them so do so. They can also stop @georgetownpackagestore to pick up their spirits (no pun intended!).
Once you are here at the Huckleberry Quarters both Uber and Lyft are available to bring you anywhere you many want to go and some of our guests have used Uber Eats to have food delivered from any one of the great local restaurants.
If a guest had 48 hours to spend at your Airbnb, what activities/sites would you recommend?
Here is my Huckleberry Quarters Soundtrack, in order:
What books make great reading material for a stay at Huckleberry Quarters?
The Stepford Wives original film was shot on location in Redding in my family’s old house in 1974, as well as many other locations in and around Fairfield County such as the Lockwood Mathews mansion in Norwalk, site for the sinister, Men’s Club!!
We had to move out of our house that summer while they shot the movie there and our Jack Russell terrier, Mr. Beasley, starred in the movie as “Fred” the dog and he actually plays a pivotal plot role.
I keep a copy of the movie on DVD in the Huckleberry Quarters for our guests if they want to watch it. I am actually thinking of creating a movie tour map so guests can visit the various locations where the movie was filmed.
What's the ideal meal to prepare at Huckleberry Quarters?
Well that’s easy, Jacques Pepin’s Poulet à la Crème Followed by Huckleberry pie for dessert!
Thank you, William! Readers, I recommend booking William's Cozy Redding Retreat soon! As of publishing this post, two weekends in October remain available for just $95 per night. Reserve them while you can!