Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Lake George grad Brittany Townsend builds new biz around rise of AirBnBs

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Brittany Townsend
As AirBnB and other short term rentals become an increasing part of the economic landscape, a support system is growing around them too.

Lake George grad Brittany Townsend is among those building a small business in sync with the short term rental biz.

At 33, Ms. Townsend projects as ambitious, sharp and enthusiastic in her efforts to suss out what’s needed, what’s value-added, and what she can offer that’s new — from cleaning units between rentals to curating resort-like amenities for a 360-degree get-away experience.

“My business is Calendula Properties LLC,” Ms. Townsend tells The Chronicle.

We met her on a tour of the new short term luxury rental units above Rude Betty on Glen Street, in the former Tyrer Auctions building that Tom Elliot purchased and finished renovating. The project is a “wow,” and so is Ms. Townsend, we noted.

“Brittany has such good energy. She’s an entrepreneur,” Mr. Elliot agreed.

“Tom is my ideal client,” says Ms. Townsend. “He’s a professional, making luxury accommodations; we are here to help with the guest experience.”

How they connected: “My best friend is Tom’s partner,” Ms. Townsend explains. “We grew up together in Lake George. Tom needed someone to run the properties, and my friend recommended me.”

She describes Calendula as “a professional co-host service.

“It’s not just cleaning between guests. It’s concierge services. We can make recommendations for activities, dining, make reservations for people.”

“We manage 12 properties fully and provide turnover services to another 30 or so,” she said.

Helping ‘stage’ a space is part of the value Calendula Properties aims to add, Brittany Townsend says. Chronicle photo/Cathy DeDe

“My standard operating procedure is to give homeowners a peace of mind. You know the place is good. I have a checklist for when my people are done cleaning. It’s very thorough.

“It’s not like a hotel. It’s a home. You can’t be there and someone lifts the cushion and there’s popcorn in the couch. My crew has to sign off on every room, and send a video of the place when it’s done.”

She says, “I work with AirBnB and all the platforms. I can manage the listings for owners, do the descriptions, run all the guest experience stuff.”

She’ll also work with the owner to equip, decorate and stage the rental unit.

She points to some signature amenities — the way they fan-fold hand towels in the bathroom; how each guest receives a miniature Victorian key as a welcome gift.

Besides that, she says, “we are building our own direct booking website. AirBnB and the other ones, they’re great platforms, but the homeowner doesn’t have any control over the guest experience.”

She’s got a different idea, she says. For example, Mr. Elliot has a property in Argyle with several out-buildings — a multi-bedroom house, a small cottage, and a unique little cabin that serves as the communal kitchen and as living space for three restored Airstreams arrayed around it as bedrooms.

“I can offer a whole experience for the group, with yoga classes, Reiki. I have a network of healers I work with. We can bring in a chef to cook for them. Guests like the full boutique experience.”

“I have a lot of ideas,” Ms. Townsend laughs. “I take what I think should be done, I have someone build a system, and then we work out the kinks.”

“My crew is great,” she says. “Everyone is there for each other. She employs 8 people currently, up to 25 in the summer she said.

“I have key members, team leaders that keep an eye on everything, any conflicts. Even though I own the company, my job is to be part of the team too. I am significant, and they are as significant in the day to day operations.”

Are short term rentals good for the community? “Our rentals are enjoyed by families coming here to spend money in town, and go to some restaurants. We are providing hospitality to people who are visiting our town.”

Ms. Townsend says she started her current career “in the dealership business,” selling cars. “I’m a single mom of a six-year-old. I learned a lot about business systems, client follow-up.”

She didn’t like when a deal feel through over some thing like supply chain issues that were out of her control, she said.

“My mom has an AirBnB across the street from her. She was there all the time, cleaning and everything. It’s her retirement investment. I don’t want her to continue to have to do that. I started by cleaning that house for her, and I started my business in July of ’21.

“My mom is my co-parent. It’s the least I could do, to use the business I’m building to make her investment property better. She’s a stickler. I learned that from her.”

Ms. Townsend adds, “I grew up in Lake George. I worked at Capri Pizza for 20 years, and learned a lot. It’s a tourist town. I’m used to hosting people, networking with other business owners.”

She said she moved for several years to Estes Park, Colorado, but came home when she had her daughter to be closer to her family.

Ms. Townsend is also proudly in recovery, and says she aims to be “inclusive,” encouraging others also in the recovery community who are looking for opportunities to work.

She named her company Calendula after the herbal flower, she said. “It’s an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, with healing properties.”

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