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    B&B boosts Safety Harbor's quaintness

    A community known for its small, charming downtown now has its first bed and breakfast.

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published November 30, 2001

    SAFETY HARBOR -- With its quaint, tree-shaded Main Street shops, famed health spa and quiet neighborhoods, Safety Harbor seems a natural for a bed and breakfast. But it never had one.

    Until now.

    The Ibis Bed & Breakfast, 856 Fifth St. S, opened Thursday with a party. More than 100 people, including friends of owner Helene Shepard, merchants and city dignitaries, were invited to the evening debut open house and tour.

    "I just think it's a wonderful addition to our community," said Mayor Pam Corbino. "We're always looking to make our town more inviting to other people, especially tourists."

    City Commissioner Neil Brickfield agreed.

    "I think you could safely say we are very pleased that it's here," he said. "It's our first, and it fits very well with what we've done downtown to try and attract new businesses."

    City officials supported plans for the business and watched its construction with interest.

    "I've been very interested in how they proceeded with the plans," said City Commissioner Nadine Nickeson.

    From the outside, she said, "it looks inviting, charming."

    The two-story house on a corner of Fifth Street and Ninth Avenue S is freshly painted a daffodil yellow outside and garnished with new landscaping.

    On the first floor, the bed and breakfast features a cozy living room, dining room, bathroom and outdoor patio. An enclosed stairway leads to three bedrooms and bathrooms, each decorated in a different ibis habitat (river, beach and lake) and a fourth room still to be completed for mixed uses, such as business conferences and wedding staging area.

    Mrs. Shepard described Ibis as "small, quiet and intimate -- a getaway, not a party place."

    Ibis is a 2,000-square-foot, $250,000 addition to an 850-square-foot concrete block house. Mrs. Shepard bought the single-story house, which was built in 1950, several years ago and rented it for a year before deciding to expand it into a bed and breakfast.

    The architectural firm of Donoghue Wood & Associates of Dunedin designed the addition. Tom Craig, also of Dunedin, was the builder.

    "They worked very hard to get me a house that looks like a house and acts like a house," said Mrs. Shepard. She lives in the original house with its remodeled kitchen opening through Dutch doors to the bed and breakfast's dining room.

    Mrs. Shepard, 59, is a registered nurse who has worked for 25 years as a self-employed nurse case manager specializing in disability management. Her travels throughout Europe inspired her to tackle a second career.

    An avid traveler, she has been all over Europe and always stays in a bed and breakfast wherever she goes. "It's a lifestyle I enjoy," she said. "It's a great way to meet people, and you really get a feeling for the flavor of a place at a bed and breakfast.

    "I love meeting new people and entertaining. It hit me like lightning: This is what I want to do with the rest of my life."

    Her brother Richard Vogel started a place similar to the Ronald McDonald House next to a hospital in Milwaukee, she said. He gave her the encouragement she needed to start the project.

    Among the bed and breakfast's packages are an anniversary one-night stay for $295 that includes a welcome champagne basket and flowers, dinner for two, an hourlong massage and a silver service late breakfast in bed. A $425 honeymoon package for two days includes welcome flowers and champagne basket, silver service breakfast in bed, dinner for two and hourlong massage.

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