by Natalia Dutt, AmeriCorps Member
Upon entering entering Mountain Primrose Bed and Breakfast I was greeted by the barefoot matron, Dawn Smith, and a steaming cup of strong coffee. Her mother, Thelma, was busy fiddling around the kitchen baking something that smelled absolutely heavenly. I assumed they were two women who always wanted to be in this line of work and had some roots in this neck of the woods ( I mean how else do you hear about Thomas, West Virginia?). Turns out my preconceived notions were completely wrong! When I scheduled this interview I thought it would be like any typical b&b. The story where the owner always knew they wanted to work with people, have a fancy victorian decorated home, and planned and worked for years to achieve this dream. That is not even close to the story I heard! I listened to a story of fearlessness, a love of nomading, and being brave enough to uproot the life you have grown comfortable with in exchange for a new adventure.
Dawn and her mother moved to Thomas practically on a whim around two years ago. The idea of opening a B&B was planted in her mind by a colleague at her courthouse job. Being perfectly happy at her position there and with plans of retiring within 10 years she scoffed at the idea. Though she lived all over world with her parents and her own military career she set up a life in San Diego; her family and grandchildren were all very close. However, once the seed was planted in her mind she couldn’t let it go. She realized she could retire early and set off on this new adventure. Having seen pictures of West Virginia as a little girl she was enamored with the mountains and set her mind to live there someday, with the prospect of a new adventure someday was now. With a tentative goal of four years to plan she started checking out nursing facilities and medical in West Virginia and came across Cortland Acres and eventually Thomas. While doing her research she found the house that would eventually become Mountain Primrose. She went home, asked her mom if she wanted to move to West Virginia and open a bed and breakfast, in true family fashion her response was, “I haven’t done that yet… sure!” And that was that. These two strong ladies run away from conformity, so just like that, decision made! They like to see the world and try new things as much as possible, and opening this business was nothing different.
The first time Dawn ever visited West Virginia is when she came to look at the house and ended up putting an offer on it. Four months later she drove out and started the process of opening up the business, and never looked back. Naming the business after her granddaughter, Primrose, this wonderful name adds many aspects of magic that you can’t be denied. For one, the Primrose flower is known for inviting fairies into your home and life, and when opening her doors she keeps the folklore alive.
As a veteran, West Virginia made it incredibly easy for her to establish the business. Once the serious effort began to get everything up and running it took her a couple of months of fixing the floors, some electrical issues, and $32 investment with the state she was open for business. She says that the people are the ones who make every part of this venture worth it. The main goal is to make sure her B&B is comfortable. She wants her guests to kick back in the living room, play board games, listen to music, and enjoy the atmosphere. Still a relatively new business she has found early success. She, her mother, and their two dogs have officially settled and made Thomas their home. Her advice for anyone is to be open for any opportunity that knocks on your door. If you don’t try you’ll never succeed whether that means moving clear across the country to open a business in which you had zero experience or moving to a foreign country. Jump in the deep end without your water wings. Be bold, and if you keep your heart open you will find home anywhere.