Story and photos by Lisa Carolin
It was a cold day in February when Carla Pizzoli learned that her engineering job had been eliminated.
The Dexter Township resident, who enjoyed the occasional visit to Chelsea, noticed that on the same day for the second month in a row, the Chelsea House Victorian Inn had a “for sale” sign in front of it.
Realtor Rick Taylor told Pizzoli that there was an offer on the house, which made the prospect of buying it even more intriguing to her. She talked to her husband, Steve Meisner, who was and still is employed at Ford, and the couple made an offer on the home.
They got it.
“We were hoping when we promoted it that it would stay a Bed and Breakfast, and so were many people in the community,” said Taylor. “Thankfully, these lovely buyers fell in love with it being a bed and breakfast.”
“We’re really enjoying it,” said Pizzoli, who along with Meisner closed on the Chelsea House on May 18. “People around here have been really welcoming. One of the things that we have truly enjoyed the most is the people that have stayed at the inn—talking with them and sitting on the porch with them and just listening to their stories and their history and sharing a glass of wine with them.
“It’s been everything I imagined and more,” she said, adding, “We want to make sure that the time they spend at the inn is memorable for them and that they have a great time and eat well.”
Pizzoli says that she and Meisner knew they had some big shoes to fill.
“Between the Myles (two owners ago, who did the renovations) and the Koha’s (previous owners that they bought from), the reviews on this place were awesome, and it was obvious that the hospitality they provided was exceptional,” said Pizzoli.
“So our first priority is to make sure that we maintain that level of hospitality,” she said, “And we will always be grateful that they both provided that history for us to live up to.”
The couple has had guests since they took over – including being fully booked some of the time. They’ve been putting in a lot of hours to get everything up to speed.
“I never run out of things to do—fix sinks, door knobs, toilets, and a washing machine,” said Meisner, who says having the bed and breakfast has actually made him more mellow at his other job.
Pizzoli has taken responsibility for most of the breakfasts as well as the laundry.
“I always liked doing brunches,” she said. “We just do what we know how to do like Steve’s buttermilk biscuits, and my blueberry French toast and brunch casseroles with broccoli and ham.”
The couple says it’s an advantage having an established business as well as a fully furnished home. They enjoy all the discoveries they’ve made around the house, from furniture to artwork to antique pieces.
Their guests have come from all around Michigan, Ohio, and even California. One couple got engaged at the bed and breakfast and another celebrated their wedding night.
Having the Purple Rose Theatre in town is a big part of the draw for visitors to Chelsea House. So is the Common Grill, which puts the ed and Breakfast’s guests at the top of its waiting lists.
The Chelsea House Victorian Inn was built around 1878 for Michigan State Senator James Gorman, and after WWII, it was split up and rented as apartments.
It first became a Bed and Breakfast in 1994, and much of the restoration was done by former owner Jim Myles along with his wife, Kim. Much of the design was characteristic of a Queen Anne Victorian style home from the late 1800s.
Pizzoli and Meisner are preserving the design work and rent out five separate rooms – the Carriage House, Nick’s Penthouse, the Glazier Suite, the Holmes Room, and the Congdon Room, which include private baths, air conditioning, free WIFI, cable TV, queen beds and robes.
During the summer, Pizzoli and Meisner can often be found sitting on their front porch with guests enjoying the warm evenings and Sounds and Sights on Thursday Nights.
“I had some glamorized idea in my mind of what it would be like to run a Bed and Breakfast,” said Pizzoli.
“I love the people of Chelsea, love the town, love the shops, love living downtown and sitting on the porch and being able to walk everywhere and especially love that I get to share that with the guests that come to the inn,” she said.
“From the first moment that we swept off the porch and talked to the people as they were walking by, I knew I had found my Nirvana,” she said.