An interview with the owner of The Sono, a Chicago Bed and Breakfast

chicago b&b

Are you aware that there are Bed and Breakfasts in big cities like Chicago? I was under the impression that a “B & B” is typically located in a quaint little town, in a historical area or maybe near a coast. Not until my girlfriend Kim quit her job and with her husband and brother, designed and built an urban B&B in downtown Chicago, did I get a clue!

Recently Kim and I sat down to catch up on life, but more importantly, to get caught up on the details of their B&B, The Sono, which has been open just over a year! I had so many questions for her! I mean, I cannot imagine what it’s like to have strangers staying in your house.

B&B

Before we get to the Q & A, here are a few fast facts:

  • The meaning behind the name, The Sono, comes from the neighborhood area it’s located in. South of North Avenue and West of Halsted, in Chicago.
  • The Sono was started by Kim, her husband Tom, and, her brother Kevin.
  • Their place is unique because it’s brand new and was built to be a B&B (unlike most B&B’s that are converted houses or buildings).
  • Kim and Tom live in the house. Running the B&B is Kim’s full time job.

Chicago hotel

First off, why a B&B? Why leave your career for this?

“It was sort of by accident. I really had no plans , but the industry I was in was definitely changing and it was time to do something new. My brother mentioned that he was interested in doing it {a B&B} at some point, I thought it sounded interesting and asked if he would be willing to consider doing it with me. Within a few days, we purchased property and put our own house (her and her husband Tom) on the market and the plan was in place! (When I first agreed to discuss this with my brother, I was kind of kidding!)” 

Are B & B’s popular in cities?

“When my brother mentioned it, I didn’t even realize they existed. He had already done the research and found there were several in Chicago and all were extremely successful.” 

How do people find out about B&B’s, how do they find you?

“There are quite a few ways. The Sono is listed on all the major online travel agencies, so hotels.com, booking.com, expedia, etc. Also, a lot of word of mouth and people doing searches for accommodations in our area.”

Why would someone stay at your B&B instead of at a hotel?

“It is a completely different experience than staying at a hotel. I think {The Sono} offers guests a chance to stay in Chicago as a local as opposed to a tourist. They are staying in an awesome neighborhood in an authentic Chicago home that is easily accessible to downtown. We are near anything one could possible want to do while visiting. We have free parking, close to the El, and walking distance to downtown and great restaurants. It’s a perfect location! You won’t get the same service at a hotel. At the Sono you have the owner, who is the face of the business, on hand, and I’m pretty great!”

Sono kitchen

Do you become friends or hang out with the people that stay with you? 

“In general, no. We do not become friends. Guests are in and out pretty quickly while they are here and I feel as though I am here to serve them as opposed to becoming friends. But we will definitely have cocktails on the rooftop deck with anyone willing to hang out at the house for a bit.”

Do guests expect you to socialize with them? “Everyone is different, so I just take cues from them. Some love to chat throughout the day and others are in and out and barely acknowledge me. I’m good either way, I want them to feel comfortable.”

Do you make breakfast everyday? “We serve a continental breakfast. It’s simple but still delicious. We found that people are up and out of the house very earless they want something quick so they can start exploring. Also, we have the best restaurants in the world so people save their appetites for that.”

Do you offer any services, such as making reservations?

“I will do just about anything to help my guest have an amazing experience in Chicago. With the internet, most of them have everything pretty well planned out before they get here. But I love helping guests make decisions on activities, restaurants, etc.”

 

chicago b&b
View from the rooftop deck at The Sono!

Now a few more personal type questions:

What is the worst part of owning and running, The Sono, a B&B? “There definitely isn’t a worst part. It does get hard having people in your home 7 days a week without a break. This role never stops and I can never have a bad day or really even a bad moment. If you think of your family staying with you for the weekend and how tired you are when they leave, that is me, only the family never leaves!”

What is the best part? “Day drinking. 🙂 And we have the best guests! At times we have 3 different languages being spoken at breakfast and none of them are English! It’s like traveling the world without ever leaving my home.

People are quirky, they are interesting, they are fun, they are grateful, I love being a part of their experience in Chicago. I take this responsibility really seriously, I think Chicago is the best city in the world. I am definitely biased, but it’s still true! Accommodations are a huge part of that experience and I want guests to love where they stay.

I’m confident I give guests that feeling. I also love working hard for me. In my last job it was hard to feel like my hard work was paying off, and I had less control over what I could and couldn’t do for my customers. Now I do whatever I want, with no restrictions.”

Tell us a funny or weird story. “People, in general, are funny, weird and unusual. I’m pretty private about my guests but we definitely have had ones that I am ready for them to wrap up their stay. NONE (of the weird, unusual, bad) stories are funny at the time. They stress me out more than I can express, but once they are gone, they make for great stories over drinks with my girlfriends! We have people try to light fake candles, a woman’s hair caught on fire when she got too close to the fireplace. People are obsessed with fire. It’s all a little like babysitting.”

bed & breakfast

Any unusual requests? “I don’t know if I would say weird, but people definitely have opinions about things they think should be in the rooms. The suggestions are usually pretty comical. It’s as though it’s their own home and they are moving in…..squeegees for the shower, (we clean the showers daily), more storage space (the bathrooms have custom made large vanities and cabinets, dressers),  stools to help them get in the beds (I guess they are a little high) and just random things I would think of if it was my own home but not somewhere I’m staying for the weekend.”

Ever ask anyone to leave or refuse to let them stay? “Yes to both. We’ve had people who were disrespectful and I thought a B&B probably wasn’t the best fit for them and asked them to leave. There were also people that attempted to stay with us but due to certain circumstances, told them they would be better off staying somewhere else. I always have to take my other guests comfort into consideration and safety comes first. At the end of the day, this is my home and I am very particular about who stays here.”

Overall, are guests generally clean and tidy or messy and gross? “This is also one of the most interesting things about running a B&B. People are SO different. In general, people are very neat and clean and you wouldn’t even know someone was staying in the room. Other rooms look like a teenager moved in with half eaten pizza, clothes everywhere, beds a mess, I don’t know how someone can do that much damage. There is no rhyme or reason to how a guest is going to be. There is a lot of unexpected things that crack me up. The cleaning ladies will call me up to the rooms to show me the damage. It’s comical.”

Sono Chicago

Overall, Kim does not give away too many of the personal, dirty details except that she does plunge toilets and has had texts from guests in the middle of the night. She might not love that but she loves her job and she’d love for you to come visit and stay at her house!  Just make sure to tell her Kelly sent you! Here is the link: www.thesonochicago.com  

Chicago b&b

 

 

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