Bed and breakfasts expand offerings
By Candace S. Hughes
Sharon Holnback, owner of Oracle’s Triangle L Ranch, specializes in providing bed and breakfast guests with a relaxed experience of the Southwest, while adding her artistic values to the business’ operations.
Her efforts are among the unique way hosts of the home-based businesses attract guests to their properties.
Holnback, 47, owner of the ranch for seven years, continues its reputation as a laid back bed and breakfast, but is adding art as an interesting feature.
After selling her Tucson gallery, she offers some of the ranch’s housing to artists and employees who either pay rent or help with animal care, landscaping and shooing cattle off the 50 acres of land near Coronado National Forest.
Water troughs are abundant amid sculpture in the desert as well as places to rest while enjoying the quiet environment and abundant wildlife.
The ranch’s old workshop is now a gift shop with recycled glass flowers as light fixtures and metal art made from items found in the desert and in the Oracle junk yard. A garden hut also is constructed of found metal.
Recent events include an edible architecture exhibit and raffle and holiday house party starting off a progressive self-guided tour of gingerbread houses.
In addition, she has added to her offerings the Oracle Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning and hosted an opening reception for her ADOBE Gallery’s Winter Exhibition.
Art adds to experience
Her business, Apparatus Iron, remains active although it’s no longer a full-time enterprise. Although Holnback sold her commercial art gallery in the Lost Barrio portion of Tucson south of Broadway, she continues with her own photography.
“It’s going great overall with more traffic and we’re really excited,” says Holnback, who adds that the events are intended to make the ranch more of a destination property. “The art and the bed and breakfast kind of play into each other in my mind,” she explains.
The farmers’ market and arts activities attract people who may want to use the ranch for a wedding or party or stay overnight during an art show, Holnback added.
“It was all set up as a bed and breakfast and I decided to continue with that tradition,” she adds during a discussion from her Arizona room where cardinals and finches are heard close by and a telescope rests for guests to peer at stars in the sky free of light pollution.
Events and workshops are a good use of the property and an excuse to draw people into the retreat. It makes it more lively and I like to share this place,” she adds.
Fall GLOW attracts evening visitors
To draw people into the property, she has been offering GLOW nights during a full moon weekend in the fall. “We create, collaborate and have fun in this place in the desert with illuminated sculpture on the pathways. It’s intended to have anything to do with light,” she says enthusiastically.
Blacksmiths forge, musicians perform and visitors wear glow in the dark clothing while they munch on desserts. About 1,000 people attend each of the two nights. “It’s really a peaceful and a wonderful time,” she says of her creation.
The popularity of the event now requires shuttles from the Oracle State Park and a permit from Pinal County.
Holnback juggles finding the right amount of time as an artist with tending to bed and breakfast guests and has enjoyed experimenting with menus to entice visitors. One of her creations includes breakfast potatoes laced with rosemary taken from her garden. Eggs are freshly gathered from the ranch chickens.
“I’m letting things evolve and this takes time,” she adds, pointing out that she has help from a cousin who teaches welding at the Aravaipa campus of Central Arizona College also resides at the ranch as the foreman.
“I bought this with the intention of it being an artistic haven and since it was set up as a bed and breakfast it made sense to do that. “I’ve met a lot of interesting families and 99 percent of the people are really happy to be here and I enjoy sharing with people,” she remarks.
“It’s nice when it’s busy and nice when I have down time.”
Business has been growing over the years she’s been owner, she says. “Word of mouth, the Internet and guidebooks such as ‘Hidden Arizona’ have helped,” says Holnback, who enjoys hosting weddings on the property.
Other Arizona bed and breakfast properties also have found unique ways to attract guests including the Sled Dog Inn south of Flagstaff, where guests can view a group of retired canines as they relax in a rural area. Weddings and retreats may be planned at the large home, and concierge services are provided.
The Guest House Inn near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument offers visitors a respite from the outdoors, with high speed Internet service if needed.
In addition, the Arizona Mountain Inn provides a bed and breakfast as well as housekeeping cabins on the edge of Flagstaff with hiking and sledding nearby.
Earning a living as a bed and breakfast owner can be difficult, and Susan Woodruff, owner of Cherry Valley Ranch Bed and Breakfast just outside Oracle State Park, holds down a full-time job at the University of Arizona.
The historic ranch offers casitas as well as rooms in the main house, and Woodruff uses assistants to prepare breakfast and welcome guests while she travels southern Arizona with a mobile health unit.
At the same time, she loves to meet visitors when she can and to show off the property’s beauty. And putting together an enticing array of experiences is what the bed and breakfast owners seem to be excited about.
Holnback, who followed Triangle L Ranch’s previous owner around for a day before taking over ownership, remembers from the encounter Margot Easton’s remark: “Congratulations! You are the steward of the land!” And Holnback is working to create what she calls magical spaces on the ranch to attract guests and artists.
History of Oracle and Triangle L Ranch
The Triangle L is more than 100 years old and was one of the first guest ranches in southern Arizona. It was homesteaded in the 1890s by William Ladd, a cattle and sheep rancher. Buffalo Bill is rumored to have been a regular visitor.