This section is from "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia". Also available from Amazon: Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.
As to the choice of locality there are numbers of points to be considered - the amount of capital available, the class of boarder to be catered for, the style of the boarding-house, and the people who are expected to make use of it. There are the seaside, the inland watering-place - Harrogate, Bath, Buxton - the city, the country, and the suburban boarding-houses, and they may exist for pleasure-makers, invalids, or workers. Some cater for families, others for elderly bachelors and spinsters, others almost entirely for foreigners, and others, again, for young men or women engaged in some study, profession, or business during the day. There is, indeed, ample choice.
Sometimes a girls' boarding-school provides suitable premises at some seaside resort during August and part of September, and at one French seaside town an attractive convent school with large grounds is full of boarders in the summer. This remark might suggest a venture beyond our own shores, and the idea is worth considering. Last year the writer stayed at an English boarding-house at a port on the French coast, the proprietress of which closed it to return to England for the winter.
As English and Americans travel more and more on the Continent opportunities for opening English boarding-houses in tourist resorts increase. And in the northwest of Canada there are good prospects in the growing townships for those who care to emigrate.
One rarely finds a solitary woman taking upon her shoulders the responsibility of a boarding-house. Usually she has a sister, daughter, relative, or friend who shares her arduous duties; and, perhaps, the widow left with some capital, a good supply of furniture, a growing family, and a fairly large circle of frends might do many worse things than start a boarding-house.
The house should be advertised in local directories and guides, in newspapers, in railway time-tables, and perhaps at the nearest railway station ; also in educational publications if student boarders are desired, and in Church or Nonconformist weekly to suit the advertiser.
Special attention should be given to the printing of an attractive folding card, stating terms (from 25s. at least), and hours of meals, preferably with a photograph of the house, for people like to know to what sort of place they are going. It is quite worth while to put such a card into the hands of the station waiting-room attendant, who is sometimes quite beset for addresses during excursion times.
It is not unusual for an ex-teacher to open a boarding-house. She might like to have her address inserted in a useful little booklet of addresses in almost every country, " The Teachers' Guild Holiday Resorts " (Is.), for it is much used by teachers and their friends.
As to the profits to be derived from boarding-houses they differ so much that any statistics might be misleading, and if scores of results were given a house opened on similar lines would probably give a very different return ; but provided the suitable woman, the necessary capital, and the right locality be ensured, it is possible to make, if not a fortune, at least a good living.
Experience shows that once the first twenty or thirty regular visitors are secured profits are larger in proportion to the working expenses. Very little can be made out of a small boarding-house.
For the first few seasons there may not be a profit on the investment, therefore it is very important to get the house filled as soon as possible. When the project is mooted among friends they generally rally round to assist in the start, and every fresh boarder, if satisfied, may be counted on to make the house known, and to recommend it to others.
A visitors' book in which comments - they are usually commendations - are invited is usually placed on a side table, and helps to preserve the general glow of satisfaction.
Another means of advertising is a brass plate on the gate, or a large board on the front of the house. This summer the writer noticed one house described itself as ' Popular Boarding-house," and as it was crowded to overflowing the name was apparently justified. Even babies and baby carriages were accommodated.
The spirit of enjoyment and bonhomie was very evident, and it is safe to predict the house will need an annexe in the near future.
In contrast to this house there is the legend " Select Boarding-house," or " Boarding Establishment," and sometimes " Private " is prefixed, which may drive away some casual searcher who may be a most desirable person from every point of view, while it attracts others.
The answering of inquiries and applications for rooms by post should be entrusted to a good letter writer. A slovenly written communication, ignoring the questions asked, is not likely to attract a newcomer, and exaggeration of the merits of the house or the advantages of its situation are bound to react unfavourably.
In conclusion, the woman who thinks of opening a boarding-house is recommended to visit several of the type she is contemplating and observe carefully all that goes on, criticising from the point of view of proprietress and boarder alike. If the plan is feasible, she would find it advantageous to visit a French or Swiss pension, and find out how they are managed. She would probably learn a useful lesson in economy.