“It’s simple,” said Bobbi Noe. “People come here as strangers and leave as friends – sometimes, almost like family.”
That attitude toward guests helped Licking County’s Welsh Hills Inn to be named TripAdvisor’s #1-rated B&B/Inn in the United States – twice … and #4 in the world – twice. In fact, the inn has ranked in the top one-percent of TripAdvisor’s traveler reviews each of the past 10 years. Not bad for a 12-year-old property that offers no skiing, boating, white sand beaches or ancient ruins.
“We didn’t even know about the first number-one ranking until a former guest alerted us,” said Jeff Noe, who, with wife Bobbi, has operated the Granville-area inn since 2010. The Noes had no experience in the hospitality business, but had shared a dream about running their own B&B for several years, while working as engineers at nearby Owens Corning.
The opportunity finally presented itself about 15 years ago, when Bobbi’s mother expressed a desire to buy the couple’s Buckeye Lake home. About this same time, the Noes discovered a large, modern, farmhouse and 15 acres of wooded, rolling hills near Granville was for sale. Bobbi’s mother got her home on the lake and the Noes made the big plunge.
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Immediately, the couple began re-shaping the 1980s house to accommodate five guest suites, several common areas, a huge dining room and private living quarters for them and their 10-year-old daughter, Emily. Outside, the swimming pool and pool house were already in place. The Noes added porches, an outdoor fireplace, bocce ball court and gardens. Jeff stocked a spring-fed pond with fish, created a walking trail and sprinkled the property with hammocks and rope swings.
When it came time to move, the long-time art lovers took their huge collection of paintings and sculptures by Ohio artists with them, and they continue to add to it. Works by Paul Hamilton, Emerson Burkhart, Alice Schille, David Hostetler, Aminah Robinson and others – hundreds of pieces, in all – grace every wall. As many guests have noted, “It’s like walking into a museum.”
Now, the Welsh Hills Inn, named by the Noes for the area that was settled by Welsh immigrants, stays almost completely booked. Many of the guests are parents of Denison University students. But social media and word-of-mouth have drawn visitors from all 50 states and 30 foreign countries. The Noes estimate 40-percent of their business is from return guests.
Of the inn’s success, Jeff said, “We’re very lucky.” But it’s clear from the inn’s online testimonials that much more than luck has contributed to their success.
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