Episode 11 takes us to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet John and Ellen, hosts of https://www.stayinthesouth.com/ and http://www.heidtkehouse.com/.  We had a lot of expectations for Nashville, knowing it for country music, from albums and TV shows, the Southern food and hospitality and from rumors of a quickly growing entrepreneurial culture.  All of these things turned out to be true at some level, as our night at American Legion Post 82 or our family lunch at Monel's, or conversation with every Uber driver about people moving to Nashville' would prove.  Somehow, however, Nashville both defied our expectations and surpassed them entirely.  


The Property

With Sense of Place we'd been to the countryside in Italy, and have hit several urban destinations, but hadn't really done a comfy American suburban home before, and it was a welcome experience.  Just 10 minutes from downtown Nashville, surrounded by leafy trees and lawns, and warm and comfy on the inside, the Heidtke House was a perfect home base for our Nasvhille adventures.

 

 
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Key Takeaways

We were surprised by how much Nashville felt like a small town in a big town wrapping.  Legendary music row is not a line of skyscrapers, but rather a leafy, almost suburban street of beautiful homes-turned-studios.  The Honkytonk Highway is touristy, sure, but every band from their to the offbeat dive-bars is really, really good.    What it came down to was a more textured experience that we found only through the eyes of our hosts, John and Ellen.  Their Nashville was a city unlike any we had expected to find.  Through their spirituality and giving nature, we found Room in the Inn an organization that provides shelter for the homeless, which John initially became involved with, but now his 84 year old father leads the charge.  Through all of this we learned, much as we had in Rome, that with the right hosts, no expectations can quite prepare you for a world-famous-city explored with local knowledge.

Read Matt's full essay here.

Key Culinary Connection - Patty Myint

Patty is the owner of several Nashville restaurants, including our favorite dining experience of the trip: The International Market and Restaurant.  Aside from the absolutely amazing Thai food, the warmth, friendliness and zaniness of Patty and the staff makes for an unforgettable experience.  Unfortunately, after more than four decades as a fixture in Belmont, the restaurant will be closing this year, but Patty's cooking will live on in her other restaurants, and through her son, a Top-Chef contestant and chef in his own right.

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Key Activity: Music

After exploring many other facets, we got a double dose of Music City, USA.  

 

While we ended up with a completely different Nashville experience than we might have expected from popular media, we did have an interest in the country music scene.  The mentor for the producers of this show cut the Will the Circle be Unbroken record in Nashville in 1972, and other recent favorites of the whole team have landed here as well, such as Jack White and his 3rd Man Records.  Luckily, an inner circle member, Kelly Sanchez, was plugged into the scene here, and took all of us to the American Legion Post 82, where regular Honky Tonk nights and country dancing are the order of the evening.  We had an absolute blast at what felt like walking into another era, yet filled with young people, dancing, laughing and singing.  

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Text about American Legion artist goes here.


 
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Welcome to the VRMB Learning Corner

A Sense of Place is first and foremost a travel show, so in the process of filming and editing we so often found ourselves unable to include industry tidbits that could help so many owners and managers grow. This section by VRMB, the top marketing resource in the vacation rental industry, is dedicated to sharing that valuable learning information with newcomers and veterans alike.

A Sense of Place Deconstructed: Nashville

Each destination and vacation rental host has multiple layers to its success. So we decided to pull back the curtain and watch, over Matt's shoulder, as he shares insider commentary on the people, places, and best industry practices that made this destination so unique. To record this video, we've used the Logitech c920 webcam, the Blue Snowball microphone, and Camtasia screen recording software.

 
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Host Interviews

 You may have noticed a one-on-one interview with the host that ran through this episode in order to establish a narrative. But in the several hours we spent interviewing, there was way more valuable insight geared towards vacation rental industry professionals. Below are packaged nuggets of wisdom that you can use to improve your vacation rental business.

Validation is huge. And seeing the result of hard work is a really important thing. In many industries, professionals don't get enough of it. But in vacation rentals, our work is directly validated -- reviews are the vehicle for this validation and John considers his collection one of the most precious things he owns.

Ready for the most enjoyable market research ever? John recommends investing in a stay at the nicest vacation rental you can find. Take notes about the experience and how you can improve. Ask the host questions about how they operate and what products they use. Sit down at the end of the stay and create an Action List of next steps. Oh and in the process, don't forget to sit back and relax: this is the vacation rental industry after all.

 

Constantly look to improve your guest experience -- don't ever sit still or get complacent: this is one of the universal attitudes we've observed about the world's most successful vacation rental professionals. John is always on the look out for amenities or upgrades to his home -- in fact, he aims to have at least one improved element before any guest stays a second time.

Upgrades to your vacation rental properties should be viewed as investments. Not only are they generating better reviews, commanding a higher price per night, and setting you apart from the competitor down the street. But they are actually investment assets, increasing the overall value -- on paper -- of your business.

 

"The cost of doing business" is a phrase we heard from John several times. It can be easy to disregard small gestures like welcome snacks or courtesy drinks as additional expenses. But John views them as integral elements in the guest experience -- and so they are not added costs, but rather costs of doing business. Calculate these costs into your total nightly rate so that it's quite literally a line item in your business expenses.

One of the biggest “disrupting” factors about the vacation rental industry is that many hosts define success in ways other than cash flow. This “lifestyle” element of the business — getting to meet new people, pursuing passions, creating one’s own schedule — changes the terms of the playing field. It means hosts are making decisions through a different lens and the results are surprising.

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This episode of A Sense of Place is brought to you by aBundle, a new e-commerce site that puts all the essentials in one place for vacation rental owners, managers and hosts. We first learned about aBundle through their parent company, the American Hotel Register, which for 150+ years has been supplying the hotel industry with the best supplies guests could ask for. Now aBundle is bringing things like soaps, shampoos, towels, and sheets to vacation rental hosts...and you don't have to buy a gazillion to try it out -- you can buy just one. We think that's important for an evolving industry looking to professionalize. 

To celebrate this perfect partnership, we invite you to save 20% on your first order at aBundle.com. Use code SENSEOFPLACE through March 31st.

 

Key Additional Links from the Show

The Moose Nashville: https://moosenashville.com/

Monell's: https://monellstn.com/

Slightly Off Retreat: https://slightlyoffretreat.com/

East Nashville: http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/neighborhoods/eastnashville

12 South: http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/neighborhoods/12south

Sprinkles: http://sprinkles.com/locations/tennessee/nashville/cupcakes-ice-cream

 

We would love to hear from you!

What was your biggest takeaway from this episode?  Do you have a question or comment about the show, or host, or destination?  Please write us below, or leave a comment on Youtube, Facebook, or hit us up on Instagram.

 
 

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