Fair Haven Guest House is not your Bob Newhart idea of a country inn. It isn’t in the country. It’s not littered with antiques. Host Raven Long and his wife Flame Bilyue do not bake muffins or brownies. After their children had grown and left, they wanted to live at a more appropriate scale. They also wanted satisfying work that liberated them from the 9 to 5. So, instead of downsizing to a smaller house or apartment, they capitalized on Charlotteville’s zoning allowance for an owner occupant to host up to three short-term guests in their home. They moved to the lower level of their 1960’s era bi-level, rent out the three upstairs bedrooms, and turned the former living and kitchen area into the public space of the inn. “We used to be part of the hostel here in town. When that closed, we realized we could pick up some of that slack.”
Raven and Flame are front and center about their hippie roots. “We met in a commune. I chose the name Raven.” Flame is an artist whose cards are on display for sale in the main space, and a massage therapist who offers sessions for guests. In the past three years, Raven has been able to leave his day job to run their inn and be the technical spine of Flame’s pursuits. “This is all about working for ourselves. We’re looking for a way to not be tied to a job and a place, so we can travel. The inn takes care of the ‘job’ part, but we’re still tied to ‘place.’”
Raven is good at being an entrepreneur with a soul. Fairhaven has an 8.9 guest rating on Booking.com as well as a Certificate of Environmental Commitment from Virginia Green. When he took me on a tour of the premises he pointed out the recycling system, the organic fruit, eggs, and cereals available for breakfast. “We have everything you could want except a TV and microwave.”
He’s interested in cooperative business enterprises. This winter, during the slow season, he plans to form a cooperative business group in Charlottesville. In the meantime, “I feel a ministry, a sense of community, here in the guest house. Every night we create a mini-community.”
Indeed, when I stayed at Fairhaven I set up my laptop in the dining area and met others coming and going. I would never do that at Super 8.
How will we live tomorrow?