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BB evolves into cottage industry

By Staff
The first of a two-part series on homegrown business growth
While cities throughout the country face struggling economies, some area business owners say Morgan County is worth their investment. Through existing business growth, they want everyone to know Hartselle and Morgan County are "Open for Business."
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Ray and Ann Hill credit God, family, good neighbors and the perfect location for nurturing the growth of their Hartselle business.
The Hills have hosted out-of-town guests at their Oden House Bed and Breakfast for nearly seven years but Hartselle and area residents have also spent many joyful occasions at the couple's historic home.
"We love serving and entertaining people," Ann said. "We want to make any kind of special event less stressful for folks. By coming here, they can just enjoy it and let us do the work."
The Oden House Bed and Breakfast hosts and caters events for all occasions, including engagement parties, bridal teas and showers, weddings, receptions, anniversary celebrations, birthday parties, tea parties, family reunions, corporate meetings, social and civic group gatherings, Sunday school luncheons and much more.
"Everyone is so busy with fulltime jobs, their children, errands, and just daily living that they don't always have the time to host big events at their own homes," Ann explained. "But they can come here and enjoy this and leave the planning and cleanup to us."
The Oden House Bed and Breakfast has become such a popular event location that the Hills decided to expand their business last year when a private residence next door became available for sale.
"We were so busy that we knew we had to either cutback or go on and expand," Ann said. "When the house next door came up for sale last June, we thought it would be just perfect."
The Hills transformed the home into the Oden House Cottage, a whimsical location dedicated solely to events and catering that opened in time for Hartselle's 2005 Christmas Open House.
Four rooms each comfortably seat 20 people for any occasion, and the front two rooms can be separated by French doors or adjoined for large parties. An outdoor garden area is also in the making for indoor/outdoor events. A tour of the Oden House Bed and Breakfast is included with each Cottage event.
The cottage easily accommodates 80 people for seated events and up to 100 people for seated/non-seated events.
"Each room has its own personality and d/cor," Ann said. "I do all the decorating for both houses myself. The d/cor and menu for the Cottage will change with the seasons and we always do special menu requests."
The Cottage also has a large kitchen for Ann to make all of her signature gourmet dishes that guests and neighbors love.
"I've always loved to cook," Ann explained. "My grandmother was my mentor and I've been cooking since I was eight. I have hundreds of cookbooks and love to read them like a novel, but all my recipes are my own."
The Hills are planning to open the Cottage for weekday luncheons for parties of four or more by appointment only this spring. A special menu will be featured daily.
"We're going to try the lunches this spring on a trial basis, but people are always welcome to call anytime to order meals for their family, for people just home from the hospital or sick, or for neighbors who've had a death in the family," Ann said. "We'll make you a good, hot, home cooked entire meal or single entr/e."
While the Hills are excited to offer their event guests more amenities, they are also excited to have more time with their bed and breakfast guests and more room in the Oden House. They have also expanded their business and freed up their time by hiring two fulltime and three part-time employees to help with catering and events.
"We have our home and bed and breakfast back the way it's supposed to be," Ann said. "I thank the Lord for our home everyday, and it's wonderful to get to come home now. With all the catering and events at the Cottage now, we don't have to set up and take down tables and chairs. I go there and work and come home to here. We love having people in our home and now we have more time to be with our bed and breakfast guests. This just worked out perfect."
The Hills moved to Hartselle from Jasper after visiting relatives here and touring the Oden House. The house's rich history and beautiful design tugged at Ann's heartstrings and the decision was made within three days for Ray to leave behind his auction business and Ann to leave the jewelry business to pursue their dream of owning and operating a bed and breakfast.
They are the third owners of the Oden House in its century history.
"You could write a book just on the history of this house," Ann said. "It would be a shame to not share it, so I tell people who visit as much as I can about it. I just love to look at the door knobs and I love all the dents and the dings."
If they had the decision to make all over again, Ann said they would start their business in Hartselle again in a heartbeat.
"Guests from everywhere fill so welcome here," Ann explained. "There is such a difference in personalities and attitudes in Hartselle. People are so polite and family oriented. It's amazing how much it's gown in the seven years we've been here."
While Hartselle has proved to be the perfect location for the Hills' dream home and career, Ann believes their faith in God has led to their success.
"I tell visitors it's all God's," Ann explained. "We felt like Hartselle was the perfect little place, but all the praise goes to Him. It was all perfect timing on His part and us waiting on Him and letting Him guide us."

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