An Interview with Casa de San Pedro
Renee Doehrel, Bisbee Marquee, January 2006
Bisbee Marquee’s Renee Doehrel visited this world class B&B recently and interviewed Karl and Patrick.
BM: What is the history of the Casa de San Pedro Inn?
K: The Inn itself was built in 1996 by five partners who actually wanted to built three of these — this one, the one in Patagonia and one in Portal — to be destination lodgings for birders. They had to hire managers to run the inn and it’s just harder to get a place operating the way you want it to with so many partners and hired staff. They focused almost exclusively on birders — this was too limited of a market in some ways, and also they did it at a time when the internet wasn’t a presence in terms of a marketing leverage.
They kind of ran out of steam and put it on the market three years ago. By then, the internet had become a major marketing modality and it broadened the appeal of non-birders, although 65 to 70% of our guests are birders.
Now we’re also doing weddings, tours, family reunions and romantic getaways. We also host cooking classes, concerts, and art openings several times a year. People from Tucson and Phoenix like to get away from the heat and come down here, and many of them get excited by the bird watching, history touring, and of course Bisbee is a major attraction. So we are serving a wider public, here at the end of the road in this quiet little spot. We get a huge number of return guests and their friends now, and that pleases us greatly – we must be doing something right.
BM: How long have you two been in Cochise County?
K: We purchased the inn in October 2002. We bought this place sight unseen. We saw it listed on the internet, waited for the price to go down a bit and then we bought it. We were in Seattle at the time. We were looking to get out of the fast lane, the high stress. This is definitely not the fast lane!
BM: Karl, what was your line of work in Seattle?
K: I was in the Air Force for fifteen years and then eight more in the reserves. I was a partner in consulting firm working in hospital administration for a number of years before we decided to come here.
BM: I hear this story from a lot of people who’ve moved here. They want to get out of the big city hustle even when they had a good thing going somewhere else….
K: I traveled all the time — 5 or 6 days a week. It was one high-stress environment to the next. I said, “Wait a minute! I’m 58 years old and I’m not going to make it to 60 if I keep running at this stress level.”
BM: And Patrick, what was your livelihood?
P: I worked as a buyer and seller of fine jewelry and then went into project management for Information Systems at hospitals.
BM: Do you have an unusual abilities or hobbies?
P: I’m going to school to become a Feldenkrais Practitioner. This is a discipline that teaches “awareness through movement.” It focuses on how to use your skeleton more than your muscles. I have 6 more months of training and then plan to develop the practice in the Bisbee/Sierra Vista area.
BM: Did either of you have experience in the Bed or Breakfast biz?
K: No, we never ran a bed and breakfast, but I was in hospital administration. The essentials are the same – people just come to you for different reasons. People come here to relax, go out to a nice dinner, have great breakfasts and enjoy nature – hiking, bird watching, biking.
One of the things I find amusing is that we are kind of at the end of the road and sometimes people from the city are a little apprehensive when they first arrive. We get to see the layers of stress just peel off of them over time. We actually had one woman cry when it was time for her and her husband to go back to Phoenix. Another guest said that when you drive down Waters Road it’s like coming through a portal into a whole different existence.
BM: It’s true. Was this place in good condition when you bought it?
K: Pretty good. We had to do some repairs on heating and air conditioning, water heaters, plumbing and other things you don’t see, but will appreciate! Much of the furniture came with the Inn, but we bought new bed linens and other items. The kitchen tables and chairs were custom-made in Mexico. We had a good start. This place was very tastefully decorated and we have continued that theme.
BM: The tables and chairs are exquisite. Speaking of the kitchen, do you have a breakfast menu or is it continental?
K: We’re a member of the Arizona Bed and Breakfast Association. We cook and serve a full breakfast every morning. We feature fresh fruit, home made muffins, biscuits or scones, and a breakfast entree with eggs, breakfast meats – prepared with a southwestern flair. We have coffee and teas available throughout the day and we feature home baked pies and cookies or brownies, etc. each afternoon. We recently received the Arrington’s Inn Traveler award for the Best Breakfasts in the Southwest. Everybody raves about the breakfasts and the pies.
BM: That’s great. Congratulations!
P: We also cater dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had 31 people for thanksgiving dinner this year. Judy (Schmitt), Karl’s sister in law, came to help. She comes here fairly often to help out. It was a wonderful dinner.
BM: What is the longest period of time that guests have stayed here?
P: Most guests stay for two to three days but an increasing number of guests are using us as their vacation getaway and stay for a week to ten days.
BM: That’s a nice, long visit. I’d imagine you get to be almost like family with those folks.
K: We cherish our wonderful relationships with our many guests. Many come back frequently – we feel we are a part of their families. We have a couple that comes for eight to ten days a couple of times per year. We get birth announcements on their grandkids, Christmas cards. So, yes, we’re part of their family! It’s a great feeling to pick up the phone and be able to recognize a friendly voice calling to check up on us – they call just to chat sometimes. This is a wonderful spot and we have the best guests. Many are well-educated, well- traveled. It is a pleasure to sit and visit with them. They’re here to relax, so it is the “best of times” to get to know somebody. Guests often become friends with one another. We all enjoy gathering around the tables in the dining room after breakfast to sit and chat in the morning getting to know each other.
BM: Have you had any unusual or famous guests?
K: We’ve had travel writers, Pete Dunne, Kenn Kauffman, and John Dunn (writers of birding books), and naturalist photographers. We have had birders from all over the world stay with us and several have written stunning reviews of their stay with us and of the fantastic birding in this area. They all claim to appreciate how well we cater to the needs of birders and how well we orient our guests to the many features of this great area.
BM: How about interesting wildlife stories?
K: The San Pedro River is the 2nd most diverse mammal habitat in the world. We have eighty-two species of mammals — which is rivaled only by the Amazon Basin. There are 355 species of birds that either reside here or migrate through, this number is half the species of birds in North America. We have deer, fox, coyotes, javelina, bobcats, Mexican jaguars – plus all the usual suspects of rodents and reptile in the yard regularly. But most people come to see the birds and butterflies.
BM: That’s impressive to say the least. Being here actually makes me want to take up bird watching! And, what are some of these landscaping features that I see here around the property?
P: Our guests have a lot of space here to do things together or by themselves. There is the Butterfly Garden over there to the right of the Ramada. You can use the lap pool and hot tub or hike down at the river. We just finished Labyrinth just two weeks ago. We put the “bones” in first and we’ll be adding some benches and more landscaping to it. There is also the Palominas Observatory right down the street so all the star watchers are also able to enjoy our famous dark skies and the many, many stars that pepper our night sky.
K: There are all kinds of little niches around to explore and enjoy. We just love it here and so do our guests!