The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 10, 2009

Shinnston’s Gillum House offers guests simple service

SHINNSTON — Kathleen Panek’s dream of operating a bed and breakfast started with a simple trip with her husband and four of their six children in the early 1980s.

“It was dark, and we went past a sign that said ‘Millstone Inn Bed and Breakfast,’” she said. “I said to John, ‘If they have availability, I want to stay there.’”

Kathleen said the family “rolled out” when they checked out because of the elaborate breakfast they had been served. She left with a new idea rolling through her head.

“I said, ‘I can do that,’ and John just said, ‘There has to be a hook,’” she said. “We went to seminars, and we immediately found the hook — cleaning.”

For this installment of “Working in West Virginia,” I traveled to Shinnston to work at a bed and breakfast. My work included a stay at The Gillum House, but I think I earned my keep.

Learning the Business

Kathleen said she never was a June Cleaver kind of mother, and she isn’t really a June Cleaver kind of innkeeper, either.

Kathleen said when she started The Gillum House in 1996, she had more time than money, so she attended every workshop and conference she could.

She thought The Gillum House was ready, but three weeks prior to her potential start date, she attended a Mountain Association of Bed and Breakfasts conference. She learned so much at the conference that she delayed her opening by two months, she said.

Kathleen was marketing chairwoman of the MABB from 1999 until August 2008 and also was elected to Shinnston City Council. She serves on the zoning commission, building commission, hosts the tourist information center for Shinnston, serves as president of the Garden Club and is part of the OnTrac Community team. She was named the Small Business Association’s home-based business champion of the year in 2006.

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