“I was approaching 50 when my sister said, ‘You’re always talking about wanting to open a bed-and breakfast; why don’t you just do it?’ ” recalled Kathy Heckert. “Randy, too, said, ‘Let’s do this. You’ve been following me around for years, doing what I want to do, so let’s do something you want to do for a change.’ ”
So in 2004 the couple purchased the 1918 home of Mark Hambleton, the developer of the nearby Colonial Heights neighborhood.
“He and his wife, Della, raised five children here,” said Kathy.
But for decades the structure had been an art gallery and an apartment house, among other lives. It had a blue tarp on its roof when the Heckerts began gutting the vacant building and bringing it back to its original beauty.
“It was a restoration that started out as a demolition,” joked Randy, who called the work “an adventure.” “We thought we’d be open in three months,” said Kathy, “but it took us three years.”
The roof was replaced. Electrical wiring and plumbing work were updated. Two new furnaces were installed. Major appliances have been modernized.
Still, when the Hambleton House opened in 2007, much of the 1918 charm of the Tudor Revival home was retained — the brick exterior, its hardwood floors, crown molding, a living room fireplace, leaded-glass doors, and a built-in, leaded-glass china cupboard in the dining room. And the footprint of the home, which now has six bedrooms and 5 1/2 baths, was altered little, said Kathy.
“We converted closets to bathrooms so our guest rooms would have private baths,” said Kathy, who also pointed out how the kitchen had been enlarged by using the space of a back porch. “But that’s basically all we did to change it. Everything else is like the Hambletons owned it.”
The aroma of baked goods and coffee wafts enticingly from the kitchen.
“I try to bake something every day,” said Kathy. Her husband calls the room the “nerve center” of their establishment. “The guests always end up hanging out there,” said his wife. “They like to chat as I’m cooking.”
A tour of the second-floor bedrooms is a step back in time. One is Della’s room and another is Mark Hambleton’s — they slept separately as was so often the custom in that day. A third bedroom was slept in by Hambleton’s father, Oscar, a Civil War soldier who is said to have been an escort for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the South’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
The third floor is nicknamed “The Apartment,” and not just because Malone College (now Malone University) students once rented the space.
“We were told that three of the five children (of Mark Hambleton) were boys, and they all lived up here at some point after they were married,” explained Kathy.
“What we’ve done is made it into a two-bedroom suite, with one bathroom,” added Randy. “We usually rent this to families or couples who are traveling together.”
A small sitting area is part of that suite. On a coffee table is a bowl of buttons, gathered through the years by the Heckerts.
“Go ahead,” Kathy urges with a smile, reaching to them and letting the buttons flow through her fingers. “Everybody who comes here has to put their hands into them.”
Such is the amusing and comfortable decor of the Hambleton House. The Heckerts display antiques, items purchased at flea markets, the clothing of ancestors, and knickknacks purchased expressly to be hung or placed on surfaces throughout the Hambleton House.
“I was always putting aside stuff with the back-of-the-mind idea of having a bed-and-breakfast,” Kathy explained.
Antiques have been an avocation for the couple.
“I also had a small antiques business,” said Kathy.
Their preference for travel lodging has played a part in the way they operate the Hambleton House.
“We’ve stayed at bed-and-breakfasts all through our marriage when we’ve traveled,” said Randy, “so we’ve incorporated what we’ve seen.”
The daily operation of the Hambleton House shows the ready hand of Kathy. The landscaping of the bed-and-breakfast is maintained by Randy, who is chaplain for Malone University. Both interact with enthusiasm with a steady stream of new and repeat guests.
“We’ve had everybody from descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys, to professional athletes, to politicians, to people who only live a few blocks from here,” said Randy.
Malone University commencement and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival create annual bookings for the Hambleton House. Businessmen seek out the bed-and-breakfast throughout the year for its city location.
“It’s 10 minutes from the airport and two minutes from downtown. It’s close to everything,” explained Randy. “Business people like that.”
Other guests return for a variety of reasons that reflect well on the thoughtful attention given them by the Heckerts.
“Love the gracious hospitality,” one wrote in the establishment’s guest book. “Many thanks for the restful and delightful stay. An oasis of peace.”
It’s peaceful for the Heckerts as well. Dreams that are realized can become comfortable.
“I love it when people are sitting around the table conversing,” said Kathy. “We pinch ourselves every day. How blessed we are to get to do this — have guests in here and take care of them.”
HAMBLETON HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST
2716 Market Ave. N, Canton
Innkeepers: Kathy and Randy Heckert
Rates: Rooms start at $99, and range to $185 for the third-floor suite.