B&B lives on under new ownership

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After 30 years of running the Thomas Farm B&B Glenn and Edie Schneider were ready to retire, and thankfully they already had a plan to keep the business running without them. Enter Rich and Nancy Belisle, the Schneiders successors.


The Belisle’s are used to new places and new adventures. The couple has moved 12 times and travelled all over the world. Rich flew search and rescue helicopters for the U.S. Coast Guard for 21 years, and Nancy was a teacher up until 2005 when she began to focus solely on her fitness and yoga career.


The couple found themselves staying at the farm as guests while visiting their children when they were attending Cornell University. Owning a bed and breakfast joint of their own had been a dream for a while so they told the Schneiders to give them a call when they were ready to sell.


“In the fall of 2015 they called and said ‘Are you ready? Are you still interested?’ and the timing just wasn’t right for us,” Nancy said. “We said, ‘Thanks for letting us know but we just can’t do it.’ Figuring they were going to find somebody else.”


The Schneiders have two children who would often cover for their parents and run the business while they were away. The Beliesles would only take over the business if none of the kids wanted to.


But fate would bring the two couples together again as they passed each other in the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport in 2017, the Schneiders returning and the Belisle’s going back to Michigan, where they were living at the time. The topic of taking over the business came up again and this time it was right for both pairs. By November of 2018 the Belisle’s had officially become the new owners.


“This became our home away from home,” Rich said of the bed and breakfast when they were still coming as guests.


“When we stayed here, we just felt so welcomed,” Nancy said. “We just thought ‘Wow, that seems like that would be a cool thing to do.’”


Nancy’s own parents ran a bed and breakfast so the ins and outs of the business were not completely new to the couple. It is the first time they have run a business. They found a lot of resources and help from the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and a local bed and breakfast association that they are a part of, especially when it came to figuring out the taxes for a business.


“This was a perfect Segway to the next thing we want to try,” Rich said. “We get to do it ourselves, we get to work with each other, and we’re the odd married couple that we actually like being with each other.”


The opportunity, having been presented to them at the right time, was too good to pass up. If they didn’t take it now but still wanted to run a b&b later, they would have to go searching for an opportunity. It wouldn’t be the same taking a business from a stranger in an unknown area.


The community of Ithaca and the surrounding areas was a big attraction for the Belisles. They both love getting outdoors and the number of trails to hike, and other outdoor activities available in the area, made the area a perfect place to live in.


“Moving here, this is our twelfth move in coming up on 35 years of marriage, so we’ve moved a lot and one of the things that always was a priority was where we live had to have easy access to either walk out the door and run or walk or just be able to get outside,” Nancy said.


The business often hosts parents of local schools, making it “somewhat recession proof” because parents will always want to come visit their kids. According to the website, the home has been accepting visitors since the mid-1800s and was passed down through the Thomas family for years before being left to a family friend, a relative of Edie’s. After taking over the Belisle’s made a few small changes (adding a few pieces from their own collection of antique athletic and sports gear, rearranging some of the rooms, and putting in a few personal pieces to the common areas) but predominantly kept the business as it had been under the previous owners.


Meeting the various and unique people that come to stay at the bed and breakfast is what the Belisles are most looking forward to. Nancy has always loved to cook and her homemade granola is a big hit at breakfast. They are settling into being business owners with ease. Despite being in such a rural area, many of the neighbors have stopped by to welcome the new owners and say hello. The Beliesles chalk this up to the warm and welcoming reputation of Edie and Glenn.


The former owners aren’t going far, though. They will be building a new home nearby to stay in the summer. “We feel very fortunate to have such a loving and enthusiastic couple taking over!” they wrote in a goodbye message on the business website. “We wish them and our guests the very best.”


Looking to the future, the Belisles plan on bringing their own talents to the business. Nancy would like to start teaching yoga classes at the bed and breakfast. They plan on connecting with events and other businesses in the area to help connect their guests to all that Tompkins County has to offer. They plan on updating the website and utilizing social media to connect with people who may not otherwise find or stay at Thomas Farm.

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