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Taneytown business Q&A: After bleak outlook when COVID struck, Georges on York B&B owners ‘busier than ever’

Named after three former owners of the property with the first name George, housed in a building well over a century old, Georges on York Bed & Breakfast, at 10 York St. in Taneytown, is nearing its three-year anniversary.

Owners Sharon and Chris Tillman purchased the property in 2017 and put it through an extensive and lengthy renovation. But all the history, all the time spent rebuilding and then building the business, was put into jeopardy when COVID-19 arrived in March 2020. We caught up with Sharon Tillman to see how Georges on York B&B made it through the pandemic.

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Sharon Tillman, owner/innkeeper at Georges on York Bed & Breakfast in Taneytown
Sharon Tillman, owner/innkeeper at Georges on York Bed & Breakfast in Taneytown (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

When did your business open and what is it most known for?

Georges on York Bed & Breakfast opened on July 9, 2018, after a yearlong renovation of the “Baumgardner House.” Georges on York B&B offers a mix of comfortable elegance in the historic setting of the 1870s-era home. All through the renovation of the home we paid close attention to maintaining the history of the house while blending the modern amenities and comforts that today’s travelers expect. The inn is a great location for those looking for a weekend getaway, those coming to the area to attend a wedding or event, planning a college visit, and for business travelers coming to visit one of Carroll County’s many corporate sites.

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What role does your business play in your community?

Georges on York B&B guests support local restaurants, attractions, shops, breweries, wineries, distilleries and more. As innkeepers it is our job to know the area so well that we can help visitors experience it “like a local.”

We offer local families a unique and beautiful space for their important life events. Intimate weddings, bridal and baby showers, reunions and more happen here. We are very proud to be a part of Taneytown’s growth and revival.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business?

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Dramatically. While we never closed, our guest rooms remained empty for April and May 2020. And, we refunded thousands of dollars in deposits for 2020 reservations that were canceled. From the start of the shutdown in March 2020 the outlook for our business was bleak. Then as some people felt comfortable traveling or needed to travel, we saw reservations slowly pick up. There was a definite increase in “nearcation” travel last fall. We welcomed guests from as nearby as Westminster and Frederick.

Since the release of the vaccine and with travel restrictions lifted, we are seeing a dramatic rise in reservations as people come back for large wedding celebrations at area venues, travel for fun, and visits with friends and family for the first time in months.

What steps did you take to help your business survive the pandemic? Did you secure state/federal grants?

We never stopped marketing. We never stopped being in business.

Our first call was to our bank. Sandy Spring Bank worked with us to defer our secured business loan for a total of six months. We were able to obtain an EIDL through the Small Business Administration. As a business without any additional employees we were not eligible for any state of Maryland assistance .

We were able to qualify for and receive several Carroll County Rebound Grants after the eligibility requirement restricting the number of employees who were also not owners was lifted by the Carroll County Board of Commissioners in June 2020. We also received a small grant from Hospitality Strong.

As a business owner, what did you learn about yourself, your employees and/or your customers during the pandemic?

We learned that we are resilient and resourceful, and that we have the best guests. Early on I said that we had to survive the pandemic because I would not allow someone else to come in and make a success of our business. We fought to change the parameters of the county’s Rebound Grants so that the smallest of small businesses could benefit from them.

Once we began to emerge from the pandemic, what changes made out of necessity did you do away with and what changes worked so well you will continue?

Cleaning has always been a top priority for our B&B and we continue to clean to those same high standards. We placed three air purifiers in the common areas of the first floor, and we put smaller units in each of our five guest rooms. We will leave these in place.

After a most uncertain 15 months for businesses, how do you feel your business is positioned for the future?

Georges on York B&B has been busier than ever since March 2021. Reservations are steady. Intimate weddings and elopements are now being booked not out of necessity but because couples want to have a smaller affair.As a relatively new business this last 15 months could have been devastating. We learned from the experience and grew as business owners, and we are better for it.

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