AFTON, VA—Nestled in the hills of Virginia, just southwest of Charlottesville, is Ridgeside Bed and Breakfast—proof that millennials can fulfill their dreams as entrepreneurs.
I was fortunate to spend the weekend at Ridgeside while attending a family wedding. It is in a quiet valley surrounded by mountains. Really quiet. No cars, planes, background radio, TV, or music. Just cicadas, crickets, and birds. The night sky has thousands more stars than in Washington or New York. Guests can hike up the mountains without even taking out their cars.
Seven years ago Josh and Corinne McVeigh, then Richmond residents, were stranded in Afton when their car broke down. They decided they wanted to live there, and made it happen by opening their own bed and breakfast.
“I love the idea of making people happier,” Corinne told me. “It’s something that we are really passionate about. It’s exciting to be passionate about what we are doing.”
Josh added, “If you are a young entrepreneur thinking of taking a risk, you should proceed, following in a measured, careful, way. It would be the biggest shame not to do what you’re meant to do.”
In 2012 the McVeighs bought a large family house on 21 acres. While living in Richmond, nearly two hours’ drive away, they spent their weekends renovating. Josh did the plumbing and put in an additional bathroom. They scraped off wallpaper and removed linoleum.
After five years of difficult do-it-yourself work they were able to open in January 2017. Spring was slow, but business picked up, and Ridgeside is fully-booked for the next few weeks. Fall should be promising, since many tourists come to view the changing colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains and sample wine at the many wineries.
One important step was to remodel the unfinished walk-out basement into a large apartment for the innkeepers’ own use, so that guests could have the three bedrooms on the main floor. That required installing a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom downstairs.
The house was already zoned for agricultural use, which includes mixed zoning and bed and breakfasts. Nelson County, where Afton is located, provided substantial support with permits. For these entrepreneurs, red tape was not a problem.
Ridgeside’s style is rustic, and it is minimally furnished without clutter. Perhaps eventually the McVeighs will get more chests of drawers and wardrobes for the bedrooms. Floors and tall exposed-beam ceilings are finished with pine-wood paneling. Bathrooms have white tiles and showers or a claw-foot tub.
The great room features a large table, a selection of coffee and tea, books, television, and a mini-fridge. Outside are balconies with tables overlooking apple and peach trees.
Ridgeside has its own vegetable gardens with kiwi vines, potatoes, kale, tomatoes, beets, peppers, mushrooms, and herbs. A dozen chickens behind a 7-foot fence provide eggs for breakfast. Corinne makes different kinds of soap, on sale to visitors, and sells it through RidgesideSoapCompany.etsy.com.
Nelson County is dotted with small businesses, including wineries, breweries, farms, and small retailers. You will not find many nationally-recognized chains or store names when you visit. It is a county built on small businesses.
For a generation that is often disparaged as having little patience and discipline, Corrine and Josh McVeigh show that old-fashioned work ethic can pay off.
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