Support LGBT couple-operated travel businesses around the world! You might remember our last year’s trip during Pride Month around the United States of America? Among others, we visited the small town of Galena in the US-American state of Illinois, known to be the second most visited town in Illinois and home to one of the best Main Streets in America. It is also known for its LGBT and gay-friendliness, making it one of the weekend hideaways for the LGBT community in the Midwest. Galena is also the adopted home for gay couple Alex and Geoff Arroyo-Karnish. The handsome guys decided to move to Illinois becoming the innkeepers at the Inn at Felt Manor, a historic Bed and Breakfast in Galena, Illinois. The home, which is 172 years old and has been operating since the 1980s, also caught our attention during our city tour last June. While researching for our travel guide and travel story about Galena, we found out that the majestic Felt Manor Guest House in Galena, Illinois is operated by a gay couple. And as we know now, similar to the Felt Manor, gay couple Alex and Geoff has a lot of history together… Enjoy our story of Alex and Geoff on Couple of Men and learn more about how the gay couple from Galena is facing the challenge of the Corona crisis together.
I’ve loved him from my head to-ma-toes ever since
From the stages of the world to the stage of a 170-year-old mansion in Illinois. The story of the gay couple is a different one but undoubtedly exciting. The two actors and performers met each other already 10 years ago while performing on stage at the Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. And this was just the beginning of the gay couple’s journey.
“We have also performed together in Cleveland, Ohio in Joseph… Dreamcoat, and even performed together in the national tour of Titanic the Musical. Yes, there is a musical about the Titanic. It won the Tony in 1997. The original Broadway cast performed the opening number on the Rosie O’Donnell TV show. It’s a beautiful musical, and, be forewarned, there is no Jack and Rose. We lived in New York City for a long time. Alex moved to the Big Apple in 2005 after high school and Geoff moved there after the national tour.”
After successful careers as performers, they both gave up acting. Before they moved to Illinois, Geoff worked as a pastry chef in New York City. He also managed (fancy!) events for a hospitality group. Alex, on the other hand, worked for a real estate company for several years and helped create their events and partnership programs. And then it was time for the next step. The two guys decided to get married in Cancun (Mexico) surrounded by family and friends three years ago.
“It was a dream come true. And now we are living out another dream come true: innkeeping! And although we deeply miss our friends and careers in New York City, we are very excited to join the wonderful hospitality lifestyle while overlooking the stunningly beautiful Galena River Valley.
Operating Felt Manor in Galena together
Alex and Geoff moved from NYC to Galena in July 2019. It was a big change for both of them but also a dream come true.
“We fell in love with the historic home and the luxurious Coach House. We thought Felt Manor was unique because guests can choose to stay in the historic and grand manor or the renovated and modern Coach House. The food at Felt Manor Galena is also amazing. The home is on top of “Quality Hill” and has a picturesque view of beautifully preserved Galena. It is like taking a vacation back in time just outside Chicago. The entire experience enticed us and it felt like the ultimate immersion into the world of hospitality.”
As innkeepers, the gay couple welcomes guests during check-in and walks them through a brief history of the house. At 4 pm, Alex and Geoff serve a daily happy hour (typically with yummy treats like lemon squares, cookie boards, and mini cupcakes). Every morning guests can enjoy a 3-course gourmet breakfast.
“We also market the manor, and you can usually find us prepping meals all day. We sometimes feel like we are prepping for Thanksgiving dinner – every single day. It can be exhausting, and it’s a huge change from our corporate jobs. However, we get to work together through it all which makes life all that sweeter.”
Did you know that the small, 3,500 people community turned their picturesque town with one of America’s most beautiful main streets into one of the most gay-friendly places in Illinois, even the USA? We visited Galena in the northwest of Illinois and fell in love with this weekend-hideaway a short road trip away from Chicago.
What about the Couple’s travel plans for 2020/21?
The year 2020 and 2021 started as planned and although Galena is an always-bustling hideaway, even in winter when Midwesterners flock to Galena for ski season, the gay couple was lucky enough to sneak away for a couple of weeks in January and February to visit family in California. The gay couple planned the trip for over a year as it was Geoff’s first time in California. Consequently, the guys wanted to see as much as possible. Alex and Geoff are thankful that they could go on their trip to the South West of the USA before the virus spread within America…
“We started our trip with a few days in San Francisco. And let me tell you, the drinks in the Castro in the Castro District are strong, am I right!? From San Francisco, we made our way north to spent a few days at an adorable B&B in Sonoma. Cammile at the Bancroft Inn near Sonoma Square was a delight and acted as our concierge for tastings and restaurants. From there, we drove to Yosemite National Park and went cross-country skiing on top of a mountain. Alex was terrified but it was a spectacular experience! Off the ski slopes and on the road again – We drove down the scenery Pacific Highway along the Pacific west coast. Wow! After arriving in Los Angeles, it was already time for the Oscars. So we spent a few days watching crews set up everything for this glamorous event in Hollywood. We ended our trip with some relaxing days on Laguna Beach to be back in Illinois relaxed and ready to make breakfast in time for Valentine’s Day weekend. We hosted guests at the B&B until March 15th when Illinois received the self-isolation notice.”
Chicago was already for so long on our gay travel bucket list. We started our Illinois adventure with a road trip to Galena, one of TripAdvisor’s top ten “Charming Small Towns” in the US. On our way back to “the city of wind”, where we attended Chicago Pride, we put a one-day stop in Rockford and Geneva on our Illinois bucket list.
And then, Corona hit the world…
Around March 15th, Galena became hushed. Typically, Galena as a tourist destination is welcoming approximately 1.5 million visitors a year. Considering the town has only 3,500 inhabitants, this is a huge achievement. And of course, it also had a huge impact on gay couple’s lives.
“The shops closed down. All events and weddings were canceled or postponed. Many of the restaurants in town and a few retail stores have remained open for delivery and takeout or curbside pickup. For us, the main Inn is shut down in quarantine, and we will probably not see income come into Felt Manor for a while. It is a very uncertain time for many small Inns and businesses everywhere, also in Galena. We have spent the past few weeks desensitizing EVERYTHING in the Felt Manor Galena. Then, we tried to focus a bit of attention on social media marketing and fixing up our website. We don’t know when we will be able to accept guests and all that we have to sell are gift certificates and $ 12-holiday ornaments!”
COVID-19 has changed everything. In other news, Alex and Geoff are also involved in supporting the local LGBT community. For 2020, the guys are still planning Galena’s first-ever Pride Picnic that should take place on June 14th, 2020. The couple raised a little money for the pride event and as a special pride treat, Alex and Geoff were even going to have wine slushies. And as Galena can be seen as one big LGBT-friendly family, they even received a very generous amount of support from everyone in town. We will keep our fingers crossed, that this event will take place (as of now, it hasn’t been officially canceled). Alex and Geoff from the Felt Manor Galena try to stay optimistic and are looking forward to the time after the crisis.
“We cannot wait to visit our families again as soon as we kick this virus’s booty. Geoff’s family lives in Wisconsin while Alex’s parents are in Cleveland. And there is something special we are looking forward to: Alex’s sister living in Georgia is pregnant and due in mid-May. Exciting! Alex is looking forward to distracting the older kid so that mom and dad can rest a bit and other guncle chores. We hope to bring Galena Pride Picnic to the town and bring in tons of tourism for one weekend. Galena will need it!”
How to beat the Corona Crisis? Together!
#1 Try to get regular breather time
“We are always together. We cook in the kitchen starting at 6 am some days and finish chores around 6 am. Then we make ourselves dinner and go to bed. Quarantine has certainly shown us what it is like to really be stuck together, though. Before quarantine, we didn’t appreciate that the run in the park or the quick trip to the community garden was our breather time. In quarantine, we are learning to distance ourselves at least once a day to remain sane.”
#2 Try to stay active and sportive
We are trying to run in the park every other day, and take time to meditate. Virtual happy hours with friends and family are bringing us ALL together. We share puzzles and corny card games (like UNO) to entertain ourselves… and of course, we binge-watched Tiger King!
#3 Try to find small projects at home
Journal. Sure, it is a historic time. More important, it is a very isolated time. Working on future goals, funny lists, and organizing ourselves has grounded us a bit more.
#4 Try to support small business
If anyone wants a $12 Felt Manor holiday ornament, we will handle the shipping costs. 🙂 Otherwise, we are selling gift certificates on our website. If you know anyone who needs a getaway in the Midwest, we are sure they’ll love Felt Manor. Another great way to support any of your favorite businesses in the hospitality industry right now is to leave a 5-star review on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, Facebook, or any other platform. Plus it’s free, and you can do it without leaving the house!
Gay Couple operated Felt Manor in Galena – Illinois
Final thoughts of the gay couple: “We can’t wait to welcome travelers again. We love Galena, so much that we moved across the country to enjoy the landscape and the ‘town that froze in time’. We will soon bring our gourmet breakfasts back to the tables and will fill our guest’s wine glasses again. It has been a rough quarantine for everyone. The Inn is struggling with funding landscaping, paying utilities, and wondering when guests will start traveling again. When that does happen, we will be ready!”
125 S Prospect St
61036 Galena, Illinois – USA
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