The Montgomery B&B

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a trend in unique staying experiences – something more personal and memorable. At The Montgomery B&B in Starkville, that’s exactly what the host, Lyn Berch, has seen.

“I think people nowadays are looking at out-of-the box, out of the hotel,” she said. “They’re looking for someplace smaller, quaint, quiet.”

by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

The Montgomery sits on a very quaint and quiet piece of land. In fact, Berch has befriended a fox on the property, it waits for her to bring the compost out every evening; and the deer have come to recognize her car and voice, so they don’t run away when she pulls up and starts talking to them.

Berch said most of the guests are returning customers, most of whom are in town for Mississippi State University, whether it’s a game day, graduation, their first campus tour or orientation. Though she’s seen the likes of all kinds of people: Cross-country travelers, people driving their way up the Natchez Trace Parkway, one guest was on their way to the Grammys and even a vigneron.

Berch, who lives at The Montgomery, has worked in the hospitality business her whole life, so she can easily read her customers to determine who would prefer to be on their own, and those searching for company.

“I hang out with my customers,” she said. “But that’s what it’s about –– they want to know about me, and I want to know about them, they want to know how I got here.”

So how did Berch get to The Montgomery? A few years ago, she was at a popular tourist destination in Mexico, meeting people from all over the world. She decided to return stateside, but as a huge fan of the coast, expected to wind up nearly anywhere other than her hometown of Starkville. As luck would have it, her dear friends, Jennifer and Lee Carson, both architecture majors from MSU, contacted Berch to ask if she would be interested in being a live-in host for their latest project, The Montgomery B&B. That was in March 2019.

By May that year, the construction plans were approved, and work began. The owners before the Carsons had done several remodels on the 1837 raised cottage home, like overhauling the kitchen, but the Carsons needed to add a few tweaks to be more compatible for guests, like a covered walkway, so guests don’t have to worry about rain when checking in. The Carsons made several other changes, like putting in a fire suppressant system throughout the house, a “new stairway, four new bathrooms, a lot of painting, tankless hot water heaters, a lot of plumbing,” Berch added.

Berch was there for it all, going behind the contractors to clean up and get ready for the next project. Jennifer Carson took on the continual job of hunting auctions, antique stores and estate sales to find furniture from the period.

“Practically everything in this house is from the time period,” Berch said. “Jennifer did a great job going to auctions, estates constantly. Plus, those half-tester beds we have upstairs, those are not easy to find.”

The renovations were completed and the B&B opened for business on Aug. 17, 2019, just in time for football season. By the end of the renovations, there were four rooms available to guests. This year, the Carsons have started to remodel a log cabin right behind the main house, which will be available in time for the 2021 football season.

In a time of vacation rentals like Airbnbs or Vrbos, some travelers are still seeking that personal connection and experience that B&Bs provide. For Berch, getting to interact with and befriend her customers is her favorite part.

“They’re what makes me tick,” she said. “I don’t like to be here in this house if I don’t have customers. I mean, I don’t sleep good –– I don’t sleep at all.”

Whether her customers popped in for a bridal shower, a post-Christening luncheon, a wedding, or anything in between, Berch has a standing rule: Never say goodbye.

“We never say goodbye –– (it’s), ‘Until next time,’” she said. “I don’t tell any of my customers goodbye, and I think someone wrote (a review) and said, ‘What I remember is she never said goodbye. She would not tell us goodbye.’ It’s, ‘See you next time.’ And that means something to them, and it means something to me because I fall in love with my customers.”

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