CHILLICOTHE – He’s dot the “i” in Ohio script more than once. I learned the resort business in the West. Now a B&B on the National Register of Historic Places.
Drew Musser recalled, “As a child, my parents always taught me the history of the area. He always addressed me. My brothers and I often searched the surrounding plowed fields for arrowheads and other artifacts of days gone by. We collected these treasures and I still have most of them.”
Even bigger, today Musser co-owns and hosts The Willis-James Bed & Breakfast, a hotel on the National Register of Historic Places with his wife, Steph Moore.
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“It’s not quite a coincidence that we’re connected to the house,” he said. “In the fall of 2019, Steph and I were touring around Chillicothe with my mom and stepdad. We stopped in front of 58 W. 5th Street and talked about the Historical Society across the street, saw the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard and were interested in looking at the old house. Sure, the house was neglected, but it showed promise. We bought it, intend to make some minor adjustments and convert it. After learning more about the history of the house and its builders, we vowed that this piece of Chillicothe history should be properly preserved. We embarked on a 3-year restoration project full of surprises, tears, treasures and fulfillment.”
“As she said,” noted her husband, Stephen Moore, “it wasn’t our lifelong plan. It wasn’t a dream we’d been dreaming about for decades. It just happened. The journey was exciting, scary, fascinating, challenging, and usually that shows itself. it just felt right!”
The house, incidentally, was named after Nathaniel Willis and Thomas James. Originally from Boston and a member of the Boston Tea Party, Willis came to Chillicothe and built the house in 1805. James, president of the Bank of Chillicothe, bought the house in 1812. Hence the name The Willis-James.
“Since the house used to be a bed and breakfast, we thought it would make sense to make it a home again,” Musser said. “It was important to us that if we were to open our own B&B, we’d create something that Chillicothe would be proud of as the best bed and breakfast in Ohio, offering more than just a hotel room.”
Born in Chillicothe, Musser graduated from CHS in 1988 and then attended Ohio State as an English and history major.
“Two of my childhood dreams were to be a meteorologist and to dot the ‘i’ in Ohio,” he said. “Unfortunately, my lack of love for math prevented me from studying meteorology, but I still consider myself somewhat of an amateur meteorologist. I joined the marching band at Ohio State and achieved my childhood dream by hitting the “i” a few times during my 4th and 5th years in the band. I am and always will be a Buckeye at heart!”
After graduation, Musser worked at Petland, Inc. Then, at the age of 29, he moved to Vail, Colorado, where he worked as a sales manager at a luxury resort. There he met Steph and they both moved with the company to Santa Barbara, CA and then to Beaver Creek, CO.
They opened The Willis-James Bed & Breakfast in October 2022.
“I come from a big family,” Musser said. “As a result, I like to be surrounded by people. We enjoy hosting our friends at home and feel that our life experiences have trained us to provide exceptional “resort-style” customer service. It is most important to us that when someone stays at The Willis-James, they are treated like our friends, and we will make every effort to provide them with the best amenities, as well as a wonderful breakfast meal.”
The Willis-James Bed & Breakfast is located at 58 West 5th Street in Chillicothe. For more information, call 740-229-9019 or visit www.thewillisjames.com.
About the series
Aces of Trades is a weekly series focused on people and their work – whether it’s unusual work, fun work, or people who take ordinary things and make them extraordinary. If you have a suggestion for a future profile, let us know at [email protected].