PENN YAN — Ask Burney and Susan Baron why they moved from California to start a bed-and-breakfast in Yates County, and this may be the answer you get.
“Our daughter got accepted to Cornell, so we did the responsible thing — quit our jobs, moved across the country and started a business we had no experience in,” Susan said with a laugh.
While that sounds like a recipe for disaster, nearly 20 years later the Barons have turned Los Gatos Bed & Breakfast into a local success story.
Visitors from New York, the United States and all over the world have enjoyed staying at the country home on Route 14A in Benton, just north of Penn Yan. Many have returned to renew acquaintances with the couple.
“A large portion of our business is now repeat business,” Susan said. “Our guests have been very kind and loyal to us. Most of our stays are two nights or more.”
Wondering how the Barons came up with the name Los Gatos? Well, it’s a twofold answer.
They came to Yates County from the San Jose area of California, which includes the community of Los Gatos — Los Gatos is Spanish for “The Cats.” And, when the Barons arrived at the house that was later to become their B&B, they noticed something that was perhaps more than coincidence.
“Los Gatos (California) was founded around an inn with a couple of stone cats in the driveway,” Burney explained. “When we came here, the former owner had stone lions in the front. I kind of joked with Susan, ‘We’ve arrived at Los Gatos.’ “
“The name, for recognition purposes, worked out pretty well, so we put the sign out,” Susan added. “Somebody on their way to Massachusetts saw it, remembered Los Gatos and called us to make a reservation later. She was our first customer.”
Los Gatos includes three rooms in the main house and two cabins built a year apart, in 2007 and ’08. The B&B is surrounded by about 3 acres of land, including a large field with a small vineyard and plenty of wooded areas for guests to enjoy.
While Susan grew up in California, her parents are from upstate New York. She visited the area every five years for family reunions.
“I grew up with a lot of happy memories of the Finger Lakes region,” she confirmed. “When Burney joined the family, he fell in love with the beauty of the area too.
“For a city girl, the thought of owning 3 acres of my own woods and being able to walk on a little trail was awesome. We couldn’t have picked a better location.”
When Susan first thought of opening a B&B to be closer to their daughter Kate, who was attending Cornell, she was looking in the Watkins Glen area. It was the fall of 2002, and she was poring through real estate booklets when she saw the home near Penn Yan. It was a private residence at the time.
“I was working with a real estate agent out of Montour Falls, but nothing I was seeing in that area was standing out,” she said.
“I saw a picture (of the current Los Gatos) and said, ‘Do you think we could see that?’ She said, ‘It’s clear around Penn Yan.’ I said, ‘Where is Penn Yan?’ “ Susan continued with a laugh. “I wanted to see it because Burney wanted a little bit of land, so we came on over.”
Burney, who was in California at the time, asked Susan to email him some photos.
“I sent him pictures and he said, ‘Well, if you like it, make an offer on it,’ “ Susan said, “so we bought it before he got to see it in person. That’s love.”
The Barons take advantage of their property’s expanse. Susan said guests enjoy talking to each other on a huge back deck that includes a glass firepit, and they offer several packages, including hot-air balloon rides from their field.
“The guests get to help get the balloon and basket ready to go,” Susan said. “Once they clear the trees they can see Keuka and Seneca lakes, and from just a little bit of distance can see Lake Ontario.”
Burney, an avid astronomy enthusiast, brings his telescope out for guests to use on clear nights. He also prepares breakfasts featuring homemade baked items, jams and jellies, and eggs from the eight chickens on the property.
Nearly 20 years after taking a leap of faith, the Barons are heavily involved in the community.
“We moved to Penn Yan without knowing a soul, but it’s worked out perfectly,” Susan said. “Penn Yan is the perfect location for us.”