brick and mortar

The Innkeeper Influencers Are Busy

Photo: @leaptallbuildings/TikTok

Gilmore Girls looms large in the world of innkeeper-fluencing. “Have you wondered what Lorelai Gilmore actually does for a living?” says Caroline Cardamone, a 20-something innkeeper at a bed-and-breakfast in Wisconsin, in one of the dozens of TikToks she’s posted about picking up breakfast burritos for guests, dusting a lot of doily-adorned wood, and doing laundry. John Lavin, who bought a century-old bed-and-breakfast in Blue Ridge, Georgia, in early COVID and soon started posting about it on TikTok, has been described by followers as “Luke Danes and Lorelai Gilmore rolled into one person.” Lavin says he’s never watched the show, but understands what they’re getting at: “People project this kind of fairy-tale life.”

Which is kind of the point. Lavin’s videos show staff preparing blueberry French toast soufflé, fireplaces decorated with garland and taper candles, and sunny parlor rooms filled with antiques (also available for purchase). The micro-genre feels like a hybrid of cottage-core and small-business grind culture by way of Richard Scarry’s Busytown. Lavin talks about quitting his job as a video producer in “corporate America” to buy the 1890s inn. This career arc also appears in other corners of inn-tok. “It started with a Pinterest board and a daydream while sitting at my corporate job,” @innkeeper_kate says in a video in which she describes her post-COVID decision to buy a 185-year-old house in Ohio to renovate and open as a bed-and-breakfast. As people are forced to return to their offices or work from home at depressing kitchen-table setups, there is something obviously alluring about what the innkeeper influencer offers. What if our jobs soothed us? What if you got paid to hygge?

And because rediscovering the pleasures of small-town living after years as an executive at a company that is mean is the premise of virtually every Hallmark Christmas movie released in the last century, this is a big season for inn-tok. Trees must be trimmed, and there are cups to be filled with cocoa. There are local holiday markets to visit and fires to be lit. The response in the comments is something bordering on rapture: “If you don’t fall in love with and marry the grandson of the local Christmas tree farmer you used to hate by NYE,” one writes, “I’m deleting this app!”

But these are still jobs. “Some days, it’s long hours and lots of physical work, and I’m cleaning toilets and making beds like left and right,” Cardamone, who, unlike Lavin and Innkeeper Kate, doesn’t own the inn where she works, told Business Insider last spring. “But it’s so worth it.” (She makes $58,000 per year.) It also involves hard labor. “I threw out my back moving a fridge yesterday by myself,” Lavin tells me. And the hospitality market can be fickle, though the posts help a bit: Lavin guesses that about 10 percent of his bookings come through TikTok. But the attraction isn’t really about the job, or not exactly. “I want to do this!” one commenter wrote on a video of Lavin giving yet another tour of his inn. “I hate my life lol.”

The Innkeeper Influencers Are Busy