Bradenton historic B&B goes back on the market

mjohnson@bradenton.comJanuary 29, 2014 

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Tea time will have to be on a new innkeeper's time in the near future at the Londoner Bed & Breakfast, which owner Jennifer Taylor and her husband, John, are selling after six years in business in Bradenton. MATT M. JOHNSON/Bradenton Herald

MJOHNSON@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

BRADENTON -- Wanted: Innkeepers who want to live and work in a slice of old Florida hidden in downtown Bradenton.

Also: Must like tea.

The Londoner Bed & Breakfast, the only bed and breakfast and tea room in downtown Bradenton, is for sale. Whoever buys it will not only be going into the hospitality business, but into the local history business as well.

Located in one of Bradenton's oldest neighborhoods, the well-porched, circa-1906 Edwardian grande dame harkens back to a time when bank managers and downtown business owners carved out a breezy river paradise on a point of land between Wares Creek and the Manatee River.

The property at 304 15th St. W. was on the market two years ago for just under $1 million, but it recently has been listed at a lower price, $699,000.

Jennifer and John Taylor purchased the home - then a rooming house -- in 2007 for $637,000. They bought it a few months after selling another local inn, the Riviera Beach Resort on Longboat Key. The British natives put $150,000 into a remodel, then opened The Londoner as an English-themed bed and breakfast and tea room.

Since then, the inn has drawn a stream of visitors, from a Hollywood film crew in need of an old home for the setting of the psychic thriller "The Message," to European travelers and local tea drinkers. The movie role was a welcome one: The producers paid the Taylors $10,000 to use it as a filming location even before the Londoner opened for business.

Buying, running and selling the inn has everything to do with the Taylors' family life. After selling the Riviera, the family moved back to England. They lived for four months in a farmhouse before their daughter, Christine, pulled the plug.

"She was homesick and she wanted to go back," Jennifer Taylor said.

Seven years later, Christine is a senior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School and has been accepted to attend The American University in either Rome or Paris. Jennifer Taylor is selling the inn so she can spend about half her time in Europe to be close to her daughter.

John Taylor is already back living in the U.K. The couple recently separated, but the two remain business partners.

With its recent remodel and bright green paint, The Londoner stands out among its similarly aged peers in the Pleasant Point neighborhood. It was built at a time when "Braden Town" considered the river to be its Main Street. Homes in the neighborhood - known as Curry's Point in the early 1900s - were largely built between 1905 and the mid 1920s.

"It was a nice, breezy place to live," said Pamela Gibson, first vice president of the Manatee County Historical Society.

Measuring just over 3,000 square feet across three levels, The Londoner is typical of homes in the neighborhood that housed multigenerational families at the turn of the 20th century. According to Realize Bradenton's website, the home's first owners, Ryan and Beulah Dowling, lived there with Ryan's parents. All of them worked at the family's Bradenton feed store.

The Taylors only called The Londoner home for two years, while they were remodeling it. The six-bedroom, eight-bath home is now entirely for guests and tea drinkers.

When not occupied by guests, The Londoner's tea rooms host engagement parties, showers and Red Hat Society meetings. Neighborhood residents are also known to drive to tea in their golf carts.

To get maximum income from the property, the Taylors rent out a two-bedroom apartment above The Londoner's restored two-car carriage house.

Jose Lopez, the Keller Williams real estate agent listing the property, said the house and associated business is priced to sell for its current use. However, it could gain value as a business and property if a future owner uses the beer and wine license and restaurant license that come with it.

David Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, sees The Londoner's potential. He said a Sarasota buyer is interested in the property.

"It's a diamond in the middle of Point Pleasant," Gustafson said. "The people I spoke to, they're realizing that, they're recognizing that. They know there's a limited number of B&Bs in the area."

Other nearby bed and breakfasts include Harrington House in Holmes Beach and the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast.

The Bradenton bed and breakfast went through an ownership change in 2012 when a German couple purchased the business portion of The Londoner. The Taylors retained ownership of the home.

When The German Inn ceased operations in late 2012, Jennifer Taylor reopened The Londoner.

Taylor said a future owner can count on a client base centered in Europe. Many of her visitors come from Germany, Switzerland and England. Last month, occupancy was at about 70 percent. Rooms rent for $120 to $180 per night.

The Londoner also has local fans.

"It was getting away from home, but it didn't feel like that," said Adam Phelps, who traveled from Seminole with his wife so they could celebrate their 11th anniversary at The Londoner.

"It feels like you're staying at a relative's house."

Jennifer Taylor will spend six months a year in Bradenton, where she will continue to own and operate the Boxfit Gym on Manatee Avenue, and manage 18 rental duplexes she and her husband own.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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