The Albion Heritage Bed and Breakfast has been a familiar face in the Albion community for the past 12 years. Because of its location so close to Albion College’s campus, it is a common spot for parents, guest speakers and everyday travelers to stay while passing through Albion. Many students notice it for its quaint exterior, but have no idea the stories it holds inside.
It’s immediately obvious why guests at the bed and breakfast feel right at home. The main floor is set up with a foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen, complete with comfortable, old-fashioned furniture and colorful wallpaper. The whole atmosphere is warm and welcoming, but even more charming than the décor are the owners, Dick Lewin and Mary Slater.
Lewin and Slater purchased the home in the fall of 2003 to fulfil their dreams of owning a bed and breakfast after their retirement.
“When we travelled, we liked to stay at bed and breakfasts forever, and we just said someday when we retired, we thought that would be an interesting thing to do,” Slater said.
They never expected to end up here in Albion, though.
“We kind of always thought that if we did go into the bed and breakfast business, it would probably be in a community that was sort of a resort community,” he said.
Lewin and Slater found their way here when their daughter, Karen Erlandson, was hired as a professor at Albion. She needed a house in the area, and while Lewin and Slater were assisting her in her search, they stumbled across this house. After looking more seriously into it, they realized how perfect the house layout and location would be for a bed and breakfast. After eight months of renovations and zoning changes, the Heritage Bed and Breakfast opened their doors.
“We never really thought about a college town and then…it just became more and more obvious that a college town would be a good match,” Lewin said.
Now they wonder why a college town wasn’t at the top of their list in the first place. Since they opened in 2004, the Heritage Bed and Breakfast has had an average of 30 to 40 guests per month.
“You’ve got parents coming and going; you’ve got lecturers,” Lewin said. “You’ve got visiting applicants for teaching positions, and you’ve got Nobel Peace Prize winners.”
Some of their remarkable guests include filmmakers, ambassadors to places such as Kuwait, civil rights leaders who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. or were apart of the Little Rock Nine and even a chief from Cameroon making his first official United States visit.
“You don’t know who you’re going to be sitting next to having breakfast, which is the neat thing,” Lewin said.
Out of all of the guests they’ve had, Slater’s favorite was the author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series Alexander McCall Smith. He was her favorite author even before he visited, and she was thrilled to have him stay at the bed and breakfast. Despite his fame, Slater said that Smith had been a very nice, normal guy.
Lewin’s favorite guest was Juanita Abernathy, an internationally recognized civil rights leader.
He worked with her husband in the past, and about 50 years later he had the honor of getting to know her as well.
“It was really very special,” he said of that particular visit.
The Albion Heritage Bed and Breakfast is alive with guests and their stories that are told around the breakfast table or living room. Whether it’s a photographer, journalist, speaker or just a college student’s parent, Lewin and Slater have no problem finding something interesting to talk about.
Photo by Sarah Finn