ANTIOCH – It may have started out sunny, but the rain and gloom had settled in by early Sunday afternoon, pinging against the roof and windowpanes of the house at 1034 Main St. in Antioch.
While gray has coated the outside world, the hot pot of tea and warm light filling the common living room of the house keeps it from creeping inside, as well.
A pair of candles flicker in a small, crystal candelabra. A muted game show plays on the flat-screen television tucked away in a corner of the room. And Sheri Gronert sits comfortably in a red, upholstered wing-backed chair, sliding her tea cup and saucer carefully onto the organ bench that doubles as an end table, peering at the memories of the decade she spent with her husband, Kyle.
“They were the best years of my life,” she reflects.
Gronert is the owner of Dragonfly Bed and Breakfast, the first and only of its kind in Antioch. Gronert and her husband bought the property in 2009 to be their primary residence, but always dreamed of running a B&B together, even going so far as searching for other properties to buy and convert into one.
When Gronert unexpectedly lost her husband a few years later, she made it her mission to carry on their dream and convert the home they’d built together into a B&B.
“I kept saying, ‘I feel so incomplete; I didn’t get to finish his work,’ ” she recalls.
Once she made the decision to realize the dream they’d shared, she adds, “It was like a load lifted off me.”
For Gronert, every piece of furniture in the Dragonfly is a memory. Antiques fill the rooms of the Dragonfly, while old black-and-white family photographs and original artwork grace its walls, infusing the house with charm. A slate plaque hangs on the wall beside the entrance to the dining room, bearing the menu of a typical homemade breakfast at the Dragonfly: caramel French toast bake, bacon, fresh berries, yogurt, homemade granola and orange juice.
While the rest of the house honors her family’s history, Gronert has set aside a wall to honor the house’s history as well. Across from the slate menu, on the other side of the doorway to the dining room, hangs a black-and-white 1915 photo of the house – the oldest surviving photograph of the 1885 Victorian home. Above the photograph hangs a plank of wood Gronert discovered during her work on the house bearing the signatures of the Brogan family, the original family that first built the house.
The Dragonfly can accommodate up to eight guests in its four guest rooms upstairs: the Harbor Suite, the Geranium, the Daffodil and Jessica’s room, each with a unique style, but all filled with antiques and photographs bearing their stories.
Gronert’s had a family book all four rooms while visiting for a special event – a wedding or a reunion, perhaps – and she’s also had the home filled with strangers who end up leaving as friends.
“It’s great when its all strangers because they’re at the dining room table and they meet new friends and have great conversation,” she said, leaning against the doorframe of Jessica’s room. “It’s really good. I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Her favorite part of running a bed-and-breakfast is the people she welcomes into her home.
“When you stay at a B&B, it’s an experience,” she said. “You get to meet the other people or if it’s all family, you have fun together. It’s intimate; you have a great breakfast. I love hearing the people’s stories. I love hearing their stories. They wanna know my story. We end up giving each other hugs when they’re leaving. I’ve gotten invitations to their homes for dinner. All kinds of things. It’s really – it’s the people.”