Small-business profile

Nature on display at Songbird Prairie

2011-05-29T00:00:00Z Nature on display at Songbird PrairieBy Lesly Bailey Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 29, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast spotlights the sounds and sights of nature.

"Our guests can enjoy a three–course hot breakfast in our sunroom. It features huge glass windows that look onto 6.25 acres, which bring a lot of wildlife," said Barbara Rivera, who owns the Valparaiso bed and breakfast with husband Efrain. "The songbirds entertain and serenade them as we have microphones that pipe in songs. Woodpeckers right now are calling their mates and songbirds have stepped up their operas."

From bluebird and cardinal to the new robin suite, songbird–themed guest rooms have whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, flat screen TVs and Wi–Fi. Guests can add different elements to their experiences by including massages, dinner packages, flowers, fruit bowls and spa treatments.

"Our birds and wildlife make us unique," Barbara said. "The back of the inn is natural so you can walk into nature, our 6.25 acres of meadow and woodlands backs up to 450 acres. It's quiet and peaceful."

Barbara said the bed and breakfast brings together the couple's backgrounds and they split the work as Efrain is general manager at Panera in Schererville.

"My talents are design and gardening and (Efrain's) is in restaurant. He takes care of maintenance and I take care of the rooms and breakfast," she said.

The two began the process of opening the business in 1997 leading up to the launch in 2000. They secured a bank loan to finance the inn and see it laying the groundwork for their retirement days.

"We had visited many bed and breakfasts and liked the concept," Barbara said. "We built the inn from scratch. We didn't renovate another building.

"We have been increasing sales every year -- even last year," she said. "We look to keep the business going after we retire."

The staff is celebrating being named to Midwest Living magazine's list of 30 favorite bed and breakfasts in its May/June issue.

"It is an honor being chosen among the Top 30 in the Midwest," Barbara said. "We are just thrilled."

They look to pass along their expertise to potential bed–and–breakfast owners with "So you Want to be an Innkeeper?" The weekend allows anyone considering the business to walk in the shoes of an owner while staying as a guest too.

"They can see what it is like behind–the–scenes by working with me and still spend time in a guest room," Barbara said. "It's a 24–7 business when you live where you work. You always see that last thing before you go to sleep that needs to get done."

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