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Home away from home for the holidays

FRANKLIN LIVING—

Whether coming into town for the holidays or any other time of year, visitors to Franklin County have a lodging option they might not know about. Tucked away in Red Bay is a cozy cottage rental for out-of-towners from near and far.

Airbnb, the popular online marketplace for lodging, lists just half a dozen Airbnbs in Franklin County. One of them is Creekside Cottage, Beth and Richard Hammock’s charming retreat just across from the Dixie Youth fields in Red Bay – barely a mile off Highway 24 – nestled into the quiet woods alongside a small creek. “We had some property … and we built it for this purpose. So it’s new construction, and that’s nice,” said Beth, who decided to build Creekside Cottage after six years of managing a bed-and-breakfast with her sister.

Creekside Cottage opened to guests about a year and a half ago. Beth said she recognized a great need for an additional lodging option for visitors of all types, from motorhome customers to Red Bay High School Tiger football fans and more. “We just have so many people who come into the city,” she said. “We get all kinds.”

The open-floor plan cottage is a two-bedroom, two-bath home, with a full-service kitchen and dining room, den and one bedroom/bathroom downstairs and a second bed and bath upstairs. A gorgeous feature is the vaulted tongue-and-groove ceiling, adding extra texture and appeal, and the concrete floor downstairs adds a trendy, modern but not-too-modern touch. Guests can make use of the laundry room, back patio, grill and hammock swing, and the cottage is complete with Wifi, satellite TV, central air downstairs, a wall unit upstairs and ceiling fans throughout. A futon allows the cottage to accommodate even more guests than might appear possible at first blush. Along with the space and amenities, Creekside Cottage also offers a supply of pantry staples for breakfast, like eggs, milk, orange juice, cereal, bread, butter, jelly and pancake mix.

Richard, who works at Tiffin Supply Company, was able to handle some of the construction himself, and the Hammocks hired out the rest. Less than a year from the start of construction, the Hammocks were looking at their new enterprise.

When Beth opened reservations, she said she wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but she knew her goal: “to never ever get a bad review.” Within a week, she had her first booking, and she’s been able to achieve her goal of positive reviews ever since.

“We like being able to help people; they are tickled to death when they realize we are available and they have a place to stay,” Beth said. “When they get in, we’ve had nothing but positive comments about it. We’ve had all five-star ratings and really positive reviews. One review – the best review we’ve ever had – she said 25 years ago, their family gave up traditional hotel stays and sought out places like this … and of all the Airbnbs they have stayed at in the past 25 years, ours ranked in the top five.”

To furnish Creekside Cottage, the Hammocks were able to use some items they already owned: The coffee table is a trunk that belonged to Beth’s grandmother, and the downstairs bedspread belonged to her grandmother as well. Other pieces were sourced from the B&B she once managed with her sister, and the Hammocks shopped frugally for the rest to provide a mix of old and new.

In addition to the cozy interior, the idyllic setting certainly gets partial credit for guests’ delighted reactions, as they rave about the peace and privacy. Even with its proximity to the Dixie Youth Fields, guests can enjoy a quiet atmosphere thanks to the sound-muffling provided by the woods around the cottage.

Hammock said she has learned a lot since hosting their first guest, from how to manage booking and payment within Airbnb’s system to the best way to clean and flip the cottage between bookings. She handles housekeeping tasks herself, and Richard takes care of outdoor maintenance. Between scrubbing the bathrooms, disinfecting surfaces, washing the linens and cleaning the floors, plus mowing the lawn, clearing fallen sticks and taking care of the landscaping, the Hammocks have a job each time they prepare to welcome new guests. “My husband says I am way too meticulous,” said Beth, who will take about two hours to clean Creekside Cottage’s 1,300 square feet from top to bottom. “After a certain time, though, you get a system, and it goes pretty quick.”

Creekside Cottage stays booked, Beth said, with weekends booking first but long weekend and full-week stays numbering among them. They even hosted one extended stay, a travel nurse who was working in Hamilton for three months.

“We meet a lot of people from all over the United States,” said Beth, who also serves as ticket sales coordinator for the Bay Tree Council for the Performing Arts. “It helps out people tremendously, and it’s so worth it. I like hosting people and getting to meet them … It’s been a fun endeavor.”

“It’s awesome,” agreed Richard, who said as long as Beth is happy with their little side business, that’s good enough for him. “You get to meet a lot of friends and new people from all over the states – we had a call the other day from Hawaii. It’s just a good experience.”