Most businesses start with a spark of creativity and enthusiasm, or as Sheila Dowhy referred to it as "a moment of insanity." Both Mark and Sheila Dowhy were well established in their respective professions in the health care industry when they decided to pursue a dream of opening a bed and breakfast.
"We were always the entertainers of our group of friends and family. Mark loves to cook and I am a bit OCD about cleaning," said Sheila. "We didn't want to open a restaurant, but there was something about the idea of cooking breakfast and being a host that really appealed to both of us."
The Great Tree Inn, an 1820s farmhouse and barn in Mayville, New York, at the northern tip of Lake Chautauqua includes seven en suite rooms in a bucolic 10-acre setting adjacent to the famous Chautauqua Institution, a community founded in 1874 that encourages intellectual exploration and enrichment through a unique slate of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship, programs and recreational activities throughout the year.
The Great Tree Inn met the qualifications on the Dowhys' business checklist. The owner was looking to retire, seven rooms made the inn economically sustainable and it was located in close proximity to their day jobs. The next step was financing.
The Dowhys didn't hear back from the first local bank that they approached, but Adam Desmond at First Niagara saw the potential of the project and brought in NYBDC to partner on the $650,000 loan to help the Dowhys purchase the property and assets.
"It can be an intimidating process for new business owners to go through the analysis that the financing process requires, but Mark and Sheila had everything in order and had done their research," said Adam Desmond, First Niagara. "We weren’t just looking at the pedigree and the possibility of The Great Tree Inn, we were looking at Mark and Sheila. People like them are the best reason to make this type of investment."
"NYBDC partners with local banks to help support financing in what would be considered risky investments," said Michael Taylor, NYBDC. "The hospitality industry is tough for a number of reasons, but The Great Tree Inn has a lot of merits, especially the dedication and professionalism that the Dowhys brought to the table."
The Dowhys have enjoyed great success as the proprietors of The Great Tree Inn. They exceeded their first year expectations and are now exploring ideas to market to new audiences, such as special wine and dine packages and reaching out to birding and hiking clubs.
"This is fulfilling and rewarding," said Mark, who has since stepped away from his previous career. "It's great to meet all different types of people and see them take a breath and relax. We love to see the nice compliments on TripAdvisor and have return visitors. That's why we are doing this."
Pictured Below: Mike Taylor of NYBDC, alongside Mark and Sheila Dowhy, Owners of The Great Tree Inn