ALBION — In January 2009, Albion resident Tammy Luce was in the crawl space of her historic red brick home, trying to feed wires for cable TV and the telephone up through the floor. Friends were waiting above, ready to grab the wires.
The temperature was well below freezing.
“I love ice fishing, but I’ve never been that cold in my life,” Luce said. “I was in there two or three hours.”
Luce was installing the wires as just one task before she opened her bed-and-breakfast inn, on top of a hill overlooking downtown Albion and the Noble County Courthouse Square. Her frigid experience under the house was an epiphany.
“This must be how Noah felt when he built the ark,” she said.
Thus the Brick Ark Inn was born in the 1880 Italianate home. Luce opened the inn with three guest rooms on her birthday in July 2009, and later expanded to five guest rooms because of demand. The pandemic has slowed the number of visitors, so Luce has dropped back to three guest rooms in order to follow guidelines, do extra sanitizing and keep both guests and her family safe.
The inn marked its 11th anniversary this year. Luce said when she first opened the inn, she thought she might have visitors from the tri-state area, maybe five states and maybe five foreign countries. She underestimated what would happen.
“Indiana is truly the crossroads of America,” she said.
Luce has hosted guests from 49 states, with Hawaii as the exception, and 72 countries, including Australia and China.
“That has been one of the biggest surprises and biggest blessing,” she said. “I have friends worldwide.”
She has visited some of her guests in Ohio, Georgia, Indiana and Florida, and hopes to travel more, even abroad, when she retires. “Visitors are a wonderful blessing. The world comes to me,” Luce said.
She semi-retired from her accounting business in October 2019 so she could have more time to visit her daughter, Jessica, and son-in-law, Pat, in Evansville.
Jessica is a speech and language pathologist for an Evansville school district and Pat is a lawyer. Luce’s son, Kaleb, died in a car accident in 2013.
Luce said she’s learned how to cook breakfast for her guests, preparing dishes like wontons and rice for her Chinese guests, or cheese, meats, breads and fruit for her guests from Spain, France and Brazil. She often asks guests what their favorite breakfasts are and cooks accordingly.
She also cooks an America breakfast, using her grandmother’s recipes, which she tweaks a little to contain less sugar. She gets recipes from the Food Network’s “Brunch @Bobby’s” and other cooking shows, and finds recipes in magazines.
“I love to serve dishes with local produce and from my own garden,” she said. “And I love Country Roads coffee.”
Country Roads is a nearby coffee roasting business. Luce sources her eggs, produce and maple syrup from local growers. She also caters to her guests’ dietary needs with a number of recipes for gluten-free, Keto and vegetarian dishes.
The length of stay for guests often determines whether they want to eat an American breakfast or something more familiar. Guests who stay only short time often eat the American breakfast, Luce said. Those who stay longer like the comfort of their own familiar foods.
Customer service is Luce’s guiding principle in the inn’s operation. She can offer flexibility in check-in and check-out times in cases where guests are here to attend a wedding or funeral. She takes credit cards to hold reservations, as most inns do, but doesn’t process the transaction until she is sure her guests are satisfied with their room and the food.
“The best folks stay with me,” she said. “I have learned so much, something new from every guest.”
Luce has hosted ultramarathon runners, who visited Albion to run a race at Chain O’Lakes State Park. She’s hosted a West Point cadet and many business travelers. Luce is writing a book about how the inn was a step forward in faith, and will share some of those stories.