Backstory: Couple give guests at Arrowhead Inn an ‘experience’ – not a ‘stay’

vbridges@newsobserver.comAugust 5, 2013 

Phil and Gloria Teber planned for years to open a bed and breakfast before they bought the Arrowhead Inn in Durham in 1998.


  • Advice from Gloria and Phil Teber

    •  Figure out how you can help your business expand.

    •  Work smarter instead of harder.

    •  If you work with your spouse, establish a system to handle conflict, and develop different areas of expertise.

— About 30 years ago, Phil and Gloria Teber attended an innkeeping seminar at a bed-and-breakfast on New Hampshire’s Squam Lake, the backdrop for the movie “On Golden Pond.” An instructor asked them to go into separate rooms and list desired area amenities for their future bed-and-breakfast.

Phil Teber listed a beach. Gloria Teber listed a university culture and good hospitals.

“As you know, I didn’t win,” said Phil Teber, half of the husband-and-wife team behind the Arrowhead Inn, off Roxboro Road in north Durham.

The Tebers purchased the then-13-year-old inn in 1998 – about 15 years after the seminar. They had fallen in love with inns over the years and explored options across the country. There were beach inns, mountain inns and business inns. After visiting the Arrowhead twice in a year, the couple decided Durham was the small Southern city with a university culture they wanted for their business.

The bank was hesitant to lend them money because they didn’t have bed-and-breakfast experience, Phil Teber said. The loan officer ended up giving them the loan, however, because she believed in Phil Teber’s skills to transform the structure into a luxury inn.

“It inspired us,” Phil Teber said. “It gave us hope.”

They sold their home in New Jersey, where they had raised four children. Phil Teber closed his custom carpentry shop; Gloria Teber quit her marketing and sales job.

The Tebers took over Arrowhead in May 1998.

Over the next 10 years, the couple focused on an extensive room-by-room upgrade to the inn’s cottage, cabin and seven rooms, which are now adorned with Phil Teber’s carpentry accents and have fireplaces, giant spa tubs or steam showers.

The Tebers live in a two-story apartment on the property that includes six acres of gardens and manicured lawns.

The two continue to attend conferences as a way to keep up with the changing trends of the industry.

“People are demanding more services,” Gloria Teber said.

They have also honed their system of managing the business as a husband-and-wife team. Designating areas of expertise is key, Gloria Teber said.

Phil Teber, a trained chef, is in charge of preparing breakfasts and other meals, maintenance and the garden. Gloria Teber handles the marketing, sales and bookkeeping. They employ seven part-time workers to help with cleaning rooms and other areas but are able to expand and contract expenses based on the economy.

About half of their customers live within three hours of Arrowhead, Gloria Teber said. Their guests are often drawn to the area to visit a local university, hospital or event. The Tebers’ aim is to provide a luxury retreat.

“We want them to have an experience as opposed to a stay,” Gloria Teber said. “We are going to do everything to ensure they have a very special time.”

About six months ago, Gloria Teber sought help from a Colorado firm that specializes in marketing and Web design for bed-and-breakfasts. About 85 percent of the inn’s customers come from Internet traffic, but she was spending too much time on search engine optimization and not enough time with guests, she said.

Since hiring the firm, Arrowhead Inn has experienced about a 20 percent increase in revenue, Gloria Teber said.

“It is important to realize what you can do and what you can give to someone else,” she said “We are working smarter.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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