I suffer from the same self-diagnosed problem a lot of us women do: Vitamin Me Deficiency. My quest? To find a quick fix. In an effort to explore a possible remedy, then, I planned a one-night "Retreat in the City" getaway, bid my family goodbye and drove to the Short North on a Friday afternoon.
I popped into ZenCha Tea Salon for a late lunch, then blew the dust off my credit card and did my bit to boost the GNP before checking into the Victorian Village Guest House, an exquisitely appointed apartment I had all to myself for the next 24 hours.
Lisa Craig Morton and her husband, Jeff, built the guest house behind their 115-year-old Queen Anne-style home and now rent it out. As Lisa handed over the key, she pointed out the amenities in the fully stocked kitchen (including bittersweet fudgie cookies from Pistacia Vera!) and the ruby-red-walled bathroom (with fluffy towels and French toiletries). After she left, I ordered a take-out dinner of beet salad and mustard-crusted trout from nearby Basi Italia and settled in for a little alone time.
The next morning, I ditched my breakfast plans (instead opting for the organic berry cheesecake I hadn't eaten the night before ... hey, this was all about me time, right?) and then strolled to Inner Connections Holistic Bodywork Center half a block away on Neil Avenue.
Morton, the guest house owner, and Suzi Wilkoff, owner of Inner Connections, together dreamed up this "Retreat in the City" concept. After my night in the guest house, I was prepared for the bodywork portion of my retreat.
Wilkoff greeted me with my itinerary of treatments and a tray of healthy snacks. The center, in business for nearly 15 years, is home base for a variety of practitioners. I had opted in advance for the Healthy Balance package, which included hypnotherapy with Chel Hamilton, deep-tissue massage with Lonni Perry and acupuncture with Deb Engelgau.
Though I would have loved to squeeze in some yoga, Wilkoff explained that this many treatments would be more than enough for my system, and she was right. The treatments were fantastic, but afterwards I was surprised to find I had zero impulse to head out for more shopping.
Wilkoff confirmed that many holistic treatments leave you feeling "ready to hibernate," which is why, if I were planning such a retreat again, I might opt to spend the night at the guest house after the visit to Inner Connections.
As it was, I had to head back home--but I returned, at least, refreshed.
The Making of a Hostess
In hindsight, the timing of Lisa Craig Morton's career crisis couldn't have been better. In January 2008, after years in the banking industry, Morton felt herself losing interest, so she began working with a career coach to find something she'd be excited to wake up to each day.
"One of the things we discussed was that when my husband and I travel, we love to stay in bed-and-breakfast places," Morton said. "I loved the idea of doing something like that."
Morton knew she had the perfect space for it. Not long after buying their fixer-upper in Victorian Village six years ago, Morton and her husband, Jeff, got permission from the neighborhood's historic commission to reconstruct a carriage house behind the home, at the western edge of their long lot.
"We dug up the insurance maps from the 1920s and could see what used to be there," Morton said. Using that footprint, they built a two-story structure with a three-car garage on the bottom and a 950-square-foot apartment above.
"At the time, we didn't know what we'd use it for," Morton said. "And really for the first four years, it was just sitting there."
Then came the guest house idea. Morton decided to ease into the hospitality industry by opening a guest house rather than a more time-intensive bed and breakfast, because she wasn't financially ready to quit banking just yet. She formed her business in April 2008 and welcomed her first guests that July. In October, she found out she was being laid off the following year.
"The economy tanked, but it was OK," Morton said, "because by then I had pretty much decided I was done with banking."
She hasn't looked back, investing her professional expertise and passion for the Victorian Village neighborhood into her business. She has filled the guest house with antiques and furniture picked up through years of travel in the U.S. and Canada, blending everything to create a cozy yet sophisticated space.
Morton, an active member of the Short North Business Association, seeks out resources available to women-owned businesses, and has been forging partnerships with other local businesses like Basi Italia restaurant. The Retreat in the City venture with Suzi Wilkoff's Inner Connections Holistic Bodywork Center began nearly a year ago.
"For me, the most rewarding thing in all this is that we just fell in love with this neighborhood," Morton said. "Now I can be an ambassador for that."