Feeling content as they celebrate their first decade in business, Dan Cocilova and his wife Candy, owners of the Arbor Guest House in Napa, are probably in a small group of business owners that do not have their sights set on growth, but instead are enjoying the present.
As the Cocilovas see it, they are living in the reality of a life-long dream and want to enjoy every moment.
“We have met all of our goals with the inn and, honestly, we really just want to keep status quo,” Dan said after pondering the question of future goals for their bed and breakfast.
“If everything continues as it is, with us happily entertaining our guests, we will be very comfortable.”
While the couple had always planned to move to Napa from South San Francisco at some point in their lives, the leap into the innkeeping business was not part of the original plan but was years in the making, according to Dan.
“After our first experience at a bed and breakfast back in the ‘90s Candy could not stop talking about wanting to open our own B&B,” he said.
It was Candy’s persistence and faith in knowing that owning a bed and breakfast was the right move that finally convinced Dan to reach out to a lodging property broker.
“I thought calling a broker and having her run our financials would finally show Candy that we couldn’t afford it,” Dan shared. “Well that blew up in my face ‘cause our broker called me and said we qualified and that began the ball rolling.”
“When the Arbor House came up for sale we knew it was a perfect match for us,” he said. “You know how they say ‘things happen for a reason’; well that is how it happened for us.”
The couple purchased the Arbor Guest House in late 2008 and, after a smooth renovation, reopened in February of 2009. The guest house is located at 1436 G St. in Napa.
Aside from the part-time job Dan got as an innkeeper at another bed and breakfast in Napa prior to purchasing the Arbor Guest House, the couple admits to doing little preparation to become inn owners.
“Honestly we had no idea and kind of went into it willy-nilly,” Dan admitted. “We are not professional decorators or landscapers, but we know what we like our home and garden to look like — Candy has a great eye — and we both are good cooks. We kind of flew by the seat of our pants.”
Dan said that the biggest challenge of 10 years in business has been meeting people’s dietary needs.
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“We had hiccups in the beginning, but we fixed those and now everything we do is a system,” he said.
“People always say ‘Oh it’s so much work’ but really it’s not because we enjoy what we do so much.”
For the Cocilovas, it is clear that doing what they love is paying off. The Arbor Guest House has been operating at an average 70 percent occupancy rate since they took over ownership, they said.
“We see people from everywhere, even places I’ve never heard of, and that’s what makes it so interesting and rewarding for us,” said Dan.
“With this business, once you establish a small clientele you have a lot of repeated guests. We have become friends with many of our guests.”
Loving what you do can take a business far, but Dan and Candy know that having a great staff makes a huge difference.
“You can’t do this by yourself, so if you don’t have good people working for you it’s too hard,” he said. “But when you have good help and people who take as much pride in your property as you do it is really a blessing.”
Dan was referring to his staff — two housekeepers and an afternoon innkeeper — who, along with their own families, have become a part of the Cocilova family. Dan and Candy are also thankful to have their two daughters help at the inn whenever possible.
It is this family-centered focus, according to Dan, that helps the Arbor Guest House stand out from many of the other bed and breakfasts in the region.
“There are not many B&Bs that are family owned and operated anymore, and the rest are owned by corporations or people that own hotel chains,” he said.
“So this is a niche that I think we will always be able to fill for those guests that want to get to know us and that is something most other places can’t offer.”
Looking back to when this journey began, Dan said he is thankful for his wife’s persistence.
“I had no clue we would be successful,” he said. “You look back 10 years and think ‘where’d the time go?’ but really it has gone so fast — like a blur.”
For more information about the Arbor Guest House, call 707-252-8144, or visit arborguesthouse.com.