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B&B's are the 'inn' thing to do

August 21, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Two Sharpsburg bed-and-breakfast inns have gotten new owners in the past year, all of whom are new to the industry.

The owners of The Inn at Antietam had been looking for years for an inn to buy, while the new owners of the Jacob Rohrbach Inn started out just looking for a house.

Joanne Breitenbach said she and her husband, Paul, knew it was time to leave booming Severna Park, Md., when a McDonald's was built across the street from an existing McDonald's to capture traffic going both ways.

Looking for an old house in the Sharpsburg area that they could remodel at their own pace their real estate agent told them they had to look at the Federal-style inn even if they weren't considering owning a bed-and-breakfast.

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That was in January 1998.

After staying at the inn for Valentine's Day 1998 Joanne Breitenbach thought she too could be an innkeeper. The couple bought the bed-and-breakfast at 138 W. Main St. from former Mayor Chris Yeager in June 1998 and began operating it that August.

Breitenbach said serving her guests reminds her of her caretaking role as a nurse before she moved on to jobs as a nursing administrator and director of human resources for Johns Hopkins University Hospital's home care division.

Breitenbach has no expansion plans in Sharpsburg, a town whose elected officials discourage commercial growth.

"They don't want growth and that's absolutely fine with us," said Breitenbach, whose husband is a computer consultant.

The inn, built in 1832 as a private home, has been painted and masonry work has been done, while inside the Breitenbachs have added some personal touches.

In the Clara Barton room, one of four guest rooms, is a double bed Joanne Breitenbach's grandfather built. Above the headboard family pictures decorate the wall.

Breitenbach said she didn't book the room on July 4 because she was superstitious after learning Jacob Rohrback died in that room 136 years ago when he was shot to death by a horse thief.

Up the hill from the Rohrbach on the east side of Main Street is The Inn at Antietam, a bed-and-breakfast once dubbed one of 10 great romantic inns by "Travel America" magazine.

Charles Van Metre and Bob Leblanc had been looking for an inn to buy for years when they saw an ad for The Inn at Antietam.

Van Metre, 65, and Leblanc, 64, from New Hampshire, met while both were singers in a New York City production of "South Pacific."

In 1962 they opened a music theater in Rochester, N.H., operating it in the summers for 14 years.

The singers also worked on cruise ships during the winter for 22 years from 1965 to 1987.

In 1987 the pair started looking at inns, but were delayed when Van Metre returned to his hometown of Shepherdstown, W.Va., to care for his mother.

The pair bought the inn on June 23 this year.

"I'm the type that did not look forward to retirement," Van Metre said of his quest for an inn.

"I love people, dealing with people, meeting people - people that are out traveling and exciting," he said.

Van Metre loves to share stories of his travels with his guests as well.

The pair said they were lucky to have found the 220 E. Main St. inn since the previous owners, Cal and Betty Fairbourn, left it in such good shape.

The East Lake Victorian inn has five suites, but the pair are fixing one so it also can be used as two separate single rooms, each with its own bathroom.

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