When people travel, some look for the nearest hotel off the highway. Others choose lodging as part of their adventure and to feel more like a local.
“Staying in unique places makes the community feel that much more interesting,” says entrepreneur Lyndsay Edmonds, founder of Harless & Hugh Coffee and The Public House, the first craft-cocktail bar in Bay City.
Lyndsay Edmonds turned a living quarters above her Harless & Hugh coffee shop into an Airbnb for travelers wanting to experience Bay City like a local.To help people looking to experience the community in a different way, Edmonds operates two Airbnb destinations in the Bay City area — Harless & Hugh Loft and Sail Harless & Hugh, a 1983, 27-foot Hunter sailboat.
The Airbnb loft is located in Downtown Bay City, just a short walk from riverfront parks and numerous entertainment options.“I’ve seen other bar/coffee shops do the eat-sleep-drink idea and I really love that,” she says. “It was a different way to offer hospitality other than beverages and food.”
Airbnbs are a great way for those looking for unique, and local, travel experiences. They allow for hospitality entrepreneurs to profit by renting out their own spaces, such as apartments or lofts. The spaces often are close by attractions.
“Airbnbs are an important part of the travel industry,” says Arielle Roth, Travel Marketing Manager for Go Great Lakes Bay. “And we welcome them to participate within the Great Lakes Bay marketing efforts.”
According to Roth, people choose to stay in this region for a variety of reasons — such as shopping, dining, outdoor activities, historical and cultural tours, and waterfront experiences.
“Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region offers visits that engage in deeply authentic, handcrafted, live-like-a-local insider experiences,” Roth says. “Our visitors feel connected to each community and culture before, during, and after their visits.”
Roth explains that guests in our region want to feel like insiders by experiencing untouched, out-of-the-box adventures through affordable, family-friendly options.
In September 2018, Harless & Hugh Loft opened, albeit out of a difficult time. In 2017, The Public House was hit with a lawsuit over noise coming from the bar by residents of Shearer Condominiums. Feeling the financial strain, Edmonds turned her living quarters right above Harless & Hugh Coffee Shop into her first Airbnb.
“It was just super convenient that it was above the coffee shop,” Edmonds says.
To appeal to guests, she added interesting touches to the space. “We cross-market The Public House and the coffee shop by offering gift cards, placing menus, things like that.”
The fact that Edmond’s Airbnb rentals are directly related to businesses makes them all the more unique.
Harless & Hugh Loft offers guests a central location on Washington Avenue in Downtown Bay City. Inside this open, urban loft, one can find plenty of amenities: a full kitchen, full bathroom, a master and second bedroom, coffee and tea, internet, and a second-floor urban patio that offers great views of the city. Bay City’s nightlife and waterfront attractions are all within walking distance. With Edmonds’ level of hospitality, your morning espresso is literally right downstairs, and evening cocktails are just two blocks away at The Public House.
Despite coming out of unfortunate circumstances, Harless & Hugh Loft has been successful.
“It’s interesting that most tourism has been so strong in our area. It’s been refreshing to see,” Edmonds says, talking about what people look for when staying at her Airbnb rentals. “Even Whiting Forest in Midland. We get a lot of people from out of town that come through this area during Christmas time. There’s a ton of people from Frankenmuth and Bronner’s, or visiting family. I would say it’s a broad mixture.”
Edmonds also says she benefits by being midway between Traverse City and Detroit.The boat comes fully stocked with electricity, a small kitchen, and an outdoor grill.
Growing up in Bay City, Edmonds spent a lot of time sailing. “I thought it was so unique that there’s not a younger population out on the water, and it’s here,” she says. “And that there were no Airbnb properties out there.”
After seeing success with her loft space, Edmonds transformed a sailboat into a waterfront Airbnb.Edmonds had always longed to live on a sailboat, finding it adventurous. After searching for a few years, she purchased a sailboat in May 2019 and spent the summer living on board. “And then that kind of developed into ‘We should rent this thing out,” Edmonds says.
Drawing inspiration from The Public House by being creative in small spaces, she worked on the sailboat to have it guest ready.
“I think it just generally makes people feel cozier,” she says, discussing the comfort a small space can provide. Sail Harless & Hugh also has been a success with guests.
The sailboat’s exact location is only given to guests once they have confirmed their stay. It is fully equipped with electricity, running water for both handwashing and dishes, and with drinking water provided. Inside, guests find a kitchen with a propane cooktop and a fridge. For outdoor cooking, there is a grill on deck. The boat is currently stationary; however Edmonds plans on obtaining her charter captain’s license for special occasions such as cocktail-sunset tours on the water.
To see and learn more about her Airbnb rentals, check out @stayharlesshugh on Instagram.