Local registry celebrates 25 years, new owners
By BECKY EMMONS
Tribune Staff Writer
SOUTH BEND — “It’s so much happier work than police work,” Wanda Shock says, with a chuckle.
Sitting close by, her husband, Dave Shock, nods in agreement.
The two well-known police officers, now retired, have undertaken a new career — as owners of the Bed ’N Breakfast Registry, a network of local homeowners who open their homes for University of Notre Dame football weekends. They bought the business in January. This is their first season operating the registry, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Wilma and Gene Behnke recently hosted a casual gathering of the current and former owners in their south-side home. The registry was Wilma’s brainchild in 1983 when she read that Notre Dame football fans had trouble finding rooms in South Bend.
“Well, I have three empty bedrooms,” Wilma thought.
She ran the idea through a few friends who agreed to join her venture and the registry was born. She ran ads in the student newspaper, the Observer, and Blue and Gold Illustrated. Before she knew it, she had a growing, successful business.
Over the past 25 years, it has continued to grow and become a blessing to fans and a boost to South Bend.
Wilma operated and expanded the registry until 2000, when she decided to retire, and sold it to Joyce Smigielski, who also joined the recent gathering. Smigielski had been one of Wilma’s hostesses before buying the business. But in 2007, Smigielski’s husband was transferred and the couple moved to Rome City, Ind. Much to her disappointment, Joyce realized the difficulties of operating the registry long distance and realized she’d have to let it go.
Enter the Shocks.
Being in the bed-and-breakfast business isn’t a spur-of-the-moment thought for the Shocks. Wanda and Dave had talked about it in 1990 and went so far as to attend a B&B school in Massachusetts.
“They actually wanted us to stay and run their B&B,” Dave recalled. “Then I got the Crime Stoppers job.”
When the couple started thinking about retiring in 2007, they considered renting out their house for Notre Dame games. They knew Joyce and called her about being on the registry. Instead of listing their house, Joyce told them she was selling the registry.
“When Dave called me back, I knew they were serious,” Joyce said. “I met with both of them and everything just fell into place.”
“I left Crime Stoppers Dec. 3, 2007, and we bought the registry on Jan. 8,” Dave said. “We had the phone number and Web site installed at our house and started receiving calls right away.”
As the Shocks begin their first season, their excitement seemed hard to contain. Much of the hard work is behind them — visiting the 43 hostesses and checking out their homes and scheduling all of the reservations. They have taken photos of all the homes and the bedrooms and e-mail the scheduled guests photos of the rooms they’ll be staying in. The homes run a wide gamut from small one-bedroom offerings near campus to luxurious Granger homes offering spacious private suites. The rooms range from $120 to $225, depending on the type of room. Breakfasts are always included.
“All of our homes are within 10 miles of campus — most of them within seven,” Wanda says. “The key thing is, people want to be near campus. If only every house could be within walking distance.”
As Wanda pointed out, following the lead of Wilma and Joyce, she and Dave send a packet of material including maps and written directions to get the guests two weeks before the game.
“Being ex cops we know the city well and we can give little tips as to the best ways to get places and the best places to park,” she said.
Here Joyce jumped in.
“We’ve always given our guests a lot of one-on-one attention. We treat our guests better than any hotel,” she said.
Right now the Shocks are happy with their 43 hosts, although they have a waiting list of interested homeowners.
“We don’t want so many that they won’t get booked,” Wanda said. “Although it is nice to have some as backup if we need them.”
One of their regular hostesses is Margaret Moore, who started with Wilma more than 10 years ago.
“We have met some really nice people,” said Margaret, whose husband, Wally, is a former assistant football coach for the Fighting Irish.
The Moores offer three bedrooms, including their master suite (“We sleep downstairs in our finished basement.”) and often are scheduled with families, who love seeing all the Moores’ football memorabilia.
“We used to serve breakfast in the dining room, but over the years found that guests seemed more comfortable in the kitchen. It’s a big, eat-in kitchen with an island and now that’s where we serve breakfast,” she said.
“It’s been an enjoyable experience. It isn’t that much work and it helps keep us in touch with Notre Dame,” she said, adding, “And the extra money helps pay our taxes.”
None of the parties involved plan to get rich, but open their homes because they enjoy meeting people. A few extra dollars is a bonus.
“Wilma had a great idea,” Wanda said. “The hosts get some pocket money. We get some pocket money. And the fans save a lot of pocket money.”
Staff writer Becky Emmons: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6480