Well, it doesn't have to be an actual horse but pouring your heart and soul into something and building your business around that thing, is quite powerful and very alluring. Just ask the innkeepers of the Cherry Wood Bed Breakfast and Barn in Zillah, Washington, aka Yakima Valley's Wine Country.
Pepper Ferrell, who co-owns the inn with her husband, Terry, and runs it with help from their adult children, sort of stumbled into things. A farmer and horse lover her whole life, Pepper and her husband were out seeding a lot when she noticed some horses nearby. "I kept seeing these horses and my husband said 'If you can figure out a way to pay for that, you can rescue as many as you wish.'"
It didn't take long for Pepper to start offering horseback riding tours to wineries and using parts of her home for overnight lodging, as a way to support her growing stable of horses. "This is beautiful wine country and a lot of people were coming and more wanted to be invited. There wasn't enough room to stay. My husband joked 'Why don't you just pitch a tent out back?' and we kind of laughed but then we thought 'Why not?' and put up the teepees."
Now guests exclusively stay in the teepees. "It is something totally different and everyone wants to sleep in a teepee," said Pepper. These aren't just fancy tents, mind you -- this is glamping in all its glory. The 22-ft teepees offer cloud-like beds, fluffy comforters, private water closets, and an open-air shower. Homemade, complimentary, breakfasts are served each day. There's free WiFi too -- when the signal is strong enough.
Cherry Wood Bed Breakfast and Barn has six teepees, which can sleep up to 30 people. Summers are hot, though teepees do have fans. In the evenings, temperatures can drop below 65-degrees. All teepees are equipped with electric blankets too.
Pepper's daughter, Tiffany, is the head wrangler and trail boss. She leads the horseback winery tours, giving Pepper time to focus on rescuing more horses and re-homing them. The horses that stay at Cherry Wood have found a new life. "We use the rescue horses for the winery tours. They like it and it gives them a purpose, and really 4 to 5 more years of life," she said.
The winery tours via horseback only make two stops, to curb drinking and riding. "That's why the cowboy limo kind of came about, so the guests can visit more wineries," explained Pepper, adding that otherwise the insurance can get pricy. The Cowboy "limo" ride is a tractor pulling a hay wagon.
Another lucky accident? The ingenious twilight tubs -- open-sky bathtub soak sessions for guests. "One day, I was thinking how much I loved our hot tub but I didn't want people using our hot tub. We've been antiquers for years and I had some old claw tubs and my daughter had one and we put them out there on a whim." Pepper said the tubs are a big hit with guests because you feel as if you're floating since you're overlooking the twilight in the valley below.
It didn't take long for media to find Cherry Wood. Well, local media wouldn't really give her the time of day but her local tourism board helped Pepper attract national press. In fact, she vividly remembers when Entrepreneur called to interview her for a story. "We were doing our little happy dance! We knew it just cost so much with all these horses, we have about 30, we knew this would bring more interest and we had no idea where this was going or how this would grow. We're just blessed. If it wasn't for the horses it would be just another glamping site. I think it's the combination of things that interest people."
While Pepper's website is loaded with information, and photos of many of her rescue horses, you won't find a reservations page. "You have to call and talk with me personally. We want to know our guests. We want to keep it small, that's better for everybody and it's definitely better for the horses. The B&B isn't to make money, it's to support the cause, and I think that keeps people coming back."