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Inn Your
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Credit the cubicle with inspiring throngs of gay people to dream of opening a bed-and-breakfast. But for those who actually ditch their 9-to-5 jobs for wake-up calls, the innkeeper life has its share of nightmares. Meet four gay couples from Connecticut to California who are living the dream.

Right: The Inn at Kent Falls

At Ira Goldspiel's archetypal New England countryside property -- The Inn at Kent Falls -- everything is just so. Frette sheets cover the overstuffed mattresses on the wrought iron beds, and Aveda products fill the en suite bathrooms. On cold nights a fire roars in the sitting room, and on summer days the outdoor pool is perfectly heated. Like other gays and lesbians who've escaped the fluorescent office life by buying an inn, Ira has found that his handsome colonial property is more than a job -- it's his 300-year-old baby. And like any toddler, this one needs unconditional love and around-the-clock attention.

"For this job," says Ira, "it's good to be more than a little anal-retentive."

One recent summer night Ira realized just how demanding his 18th-century little darling can be. The guests from all six rooms had checked out in the afternoon, and he had no reservations lined up that night. Finally alone, Ira convinced his boyfriend to go skinny-dipping in the pool to enjoy a rare quiet moment under the stars, surrounded by the inn's lush grounds and babbling creek. But, as Ira recalls, "you learn early on when you take this job that you're never alone." Sure enough, a couple without a reservation, who had seen the inn's recent rave review in Travel + Leisure, showed up unannounced and found them.

The Inn at Kent Falls

What's notable about Ira's story is not that a gay innkeeper was caught splashing around naked in his pool -- that's nothing new. It's that gay B&B owners are increasingly less dependent on gay and lesbian clients. The inn Ira bought and renovated in northwestern Connecticut is gay-friendly -- but hardly pride flag-waving. The couple who caught Ira and his boyfriend in their birthday suits was, like most of his guests, straight.

Scott Coatsworth, who started the online LGBT travel directory Purple Roofs with his partner, Mark Guzman, has noticed a growing trend of inns owned by gay and lesbian people popping up in "nongay" areas. "The places we listed used to be confined to gay meccas," he says. "But now you can find an LGBT-owned property almost anywhere." When he started the site in 1998, Coatsworth figured they would struggle to list 100 or so gay- or lesbian-owned B&Bs, inns, and guesthouses. Now they have over 1,000 listings from around the world -- some in fairly non-traditionally gay locations like Utah, Alaska, and Peru. "As the gay and lesbian community has shifted out of the ever-more-expensive urban gay ghettos," Coatsworth says, "gay-owned businesses have followed."

Clinging to the cliffs two hours north of San Francisco, the quaint town of Mendocino -- with a population of just 800 -- is best known for its TV appearances as the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine, where Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) solved mysteries in her sensible shoes. It has no gay bars and no lesbian coffeehouses. But a handsome 30-something gay couple own one of the better-known local inns, Stevenswood Resort and Spa. Michael Webster and Seth Kelman bought Stevenswood in 2004 and have slowly transformed their pride and joy into a chic, eco-friendly, 10-room property with an innovative spa and notable restaurant deserving of its AAA four-diamond status. But they don't have many gay guests.

"Gays don't generally go for cool misty mornings and foggy afternoons," jokes Kelman, who could pass easily for Lance Bass's older brother. But that didn't stop Kelman and Webster from snatching up this place miles away from Fort Lauderdale, Provincetown, and Palm Springs.

Having studied the business for many years as hospitality management consultants in Southern California, the couple started their search for the perfect inn about 10 years ago. They looked in New York, Vermont, France, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, and all over California, taking a few key lessons into consideration: at least 10 rooms to make a decent profit, room for improvements, and for their personal satisfaction, located near a body of water. But neither Webster nor Kelman considered the gayness of the destinations as critical.

Of course, they are quick to point out that they didn't choose some bigoted backwater to call home. "Being gay in Mendocino is a nonissue," says Webster. "It's a very, very liberal community with just a handful of gays, but it couldn't be less of a thing here." And that's the way they seem to like it: as the gay couple who own an inn that appeals to both straights and gays in a town where gay or straight is immaterial.

Above: Todos Santos Inn

John Stoltzfus felt the same way when, out of the blue, with no prior experience, he up and left Los Angeles and bought a charming 19th-century Mexican inn. He and his partner were ready to escape their day-to-day lives and try something dramatically different. So rather than doing anything related to his previous experience running a company that made dental hygiene products, he settled on buying the Todos Santos Inn in the eponymous town near the tip of the Baja peninsula. "It seemed like a long shot," says Stoltzfus, "but when we came down and saw this charming town with its artist-meets-surfer sensibility, we were convinced."

Right: The Todos Santos Inn

At first Stoltzfus thought it would be a challenge to be a gay couple in a small Mexican town but that turned out to be far from true. They found urbanites to locals in sleepy, colonial town a cinch. "The community accepted us immediately," says Stoltzfus, "and we were pleasantly surprised that in the end we turned to out to be one of several gay couples living in the area."

Five years after making the plunge, Stoltzfus feels that being an innkeeper is what he was meant to do. And despite being away from the large gay community in Los Angeles, he has never regretted the choice to open an inn that draws a mostly straight clientele. As he puts it, "Todos Santos Inn is open to all and run by a gay man." He points out that while gay men may have some extra hospitality skills, anyone, gay or straight, can be a great innkeeper. He adds, "When I look around any given night at tables full of happy guests, there's no greater feeling of satisfaction."

Above: The Casitas Laquita Inn

Even inns in traditional gay enclaves are attracting straight guests. Across the border in uber-gay Palm Springs, Calif., Joanna Funero and Denise Roberson run an adorable hacienda-style inn called Casitas Laquita. The couple have run their 15-room lesbian-friendly spot for about nine years, and unlike the town's clothing-optional places, they welcome both genders and straight folks.

"Our clientele tends to be lesbians, but we've had lesbians with their guy friends, transgendered folks, married straight folks," Robertson says. "We're open to anyone." What do they all have in common? They want to come back to this relaxed getaway draped in bougainvillea. The atmosphere is not sexually charged. And with kitchens in the units, the inn caters to quieter folks who like to stay in at night.

Above: The Casitas Laquita Inn

Roberson and Funero say they still love the choice they made to escape Los Angeles and run a little inn in the desert. They admit, though, that the job can get tiring. "We like people, so we enjoy it," says Roberson. "But it's like having guests in your house every day."

Back in Litchfield County, Conn., Ira Goldspiel has learned his lesson from his skinny-dipping scenario. He's now pulling back a bit to give himself more personal time. On those infrequent nights when he has no guests, he unplugs the phones, turns out all the lights, and shuts off the "Open" sign. With light solely from candles, he and his boyfriend hunker down in the lakes suite and soak in the extra-large claw-footed tub before jumping into the king-size bed. After all, Ira says, "even innkeepers need a romantic getaway."

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