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Lesbian-owned B&B puts a modern twist on the business
by Lisa Klein

Tucked onto a quiet street in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, Nina's Bed and Breakfast brings a distinctly modern yet homey feel to the city's accommodation options.

"Most B&Bs have that old feeling," said co-owner Sheilia Henley. She and her business partner ( who wished to remain anonymous in this article ) wanted to make theirs more contemporary for the sophisticated traveler looking for something a little bit different. ( Incidentally, "Nina" is the nickname of the silent partner, given to her by her brother when he was young because he couldn't say her actual name correctly. )

After traveling to B&Bs across the country, Henley and her partner realized that "there's always something missing for the woman traveler." They decided to open their own B&B to accommodate women's needs, and did so in Chicago last September.

Although an opposite-sex couple has stayed at Nina's, the B&B caters specifically to women and lesbian travelers. Henley said they provide things that all women need and won't have to ask for, including some "special surprises."

"Our services can match any five-star hotel downtown," said Henley.

Nina's is in an old Victorian house, built in 1896, with a completely renovated inside. The two guest rooms are on the top floor and Henley and her business partner live on the bottom.

The 500-square-foot master suite features vaulted ceilings, a sitting area, fireplace and Jacuzzi. It also comes with a personal robe and slippers for each guest.

The smaller, cozy guest room has its own private bathroom across the hall.

Both rooms feature plenty of natural light and modern d├ęcor. Coffee, tea and a microwave are available near the entrance.

Guests have access to the newly-renovated kitchen area in the morning, when "everyone congregates around the table" for breakfast, accompanied by the "resident dog," Rusty. There's also a sitting porch outside in front of the house and a patio in the back.

Henley, who grew up in Chicago, and her business partner did a lot of research before deciding on the perfect location for their B&B. Henley said their customers are looking for a "unique urban setting," and get that in Andersonville.

Henley said that about 80 percent of their guests end up never leaving the neighborhood, enjoying walks down the "nice, tree-lined streets," and browsing the boutiques close-by. If they want to go downtown, the El is down the street, making things easy.

"It makes them feel like they're at home," said Henley of Nina's neighborhood setting.

Henley said they've had a wide range of guests visit so far, including women from Panama, Australia and Spain. To her, meeting different types of people is the best part of running a B&B.

Henley and her business partner plan to open two more B&Bs in different cities, staying within unique urban settings.

"It's been a blessed experience," Henley said, adding that their goal is for customers to walk away thinking Nina's was a really unique bed-and-breakfast.

Nina's B&B is located at 1303 W. Winona St. The summer room rate per night is between $125 and $200. Amenities include DVD players, non-alcoholic beverages, in-room mini refrigerators and off-street parking. Visit Article Link Here for more information. Photos by Lisa Klein

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