Molly Smith, a public school teacher, runs the Germantown Homestay out of her house, which was built in 1888. She started her small business in 1985 and rents out one of her rooms to guests from all over the world. In the past five years, approximately 100 to 150 days out of the year have been occupied by guests.
Ever since Laura Smith, the daughter of Molly, can remember, their house has welcomed guests who have stayed anywhere from one night to an entire week.
“It was fun. There are lots of baby pictures of me in the arms of strangers,” Laura said with a chuckle.
Off the top of her head, the Smiths said they know of three other homes but are sure there are at least 10 other businesses like theirs.
Molly has used her spare bedroom as a means for supplemental income. She uses little advertising for her business, but since the room she rents out is in high demand she turns people away often. However, she makes sure to refer them to others she knows in the business.
Although Molly sees guests from all over, typically she rents out to people interviewing for Drexel’s medical school, for example, or tourists who are in town to see Philadelphia and opt to stay in a more historical area. The Germantown Homestay offers a unique opportunity for many of the guests.
“We have some guests that come here and probably have never been in a neighborhood with a black person in it, and sometimes they are like, ‘Oh, we didn’t expect this,’ but we have never had a problem. And the people usually leave with a good image of Germantown,” Laura said.
Laura said she does not keep in touch with past guests, however, her mother sometimes does. Laura said she once remembered seeing an invitation for her mother to a wedding in Chile.
Laura has grown accustomed to having guests at her house growing up and might consider running a homestay in her home as well once she starts her own family and finishes law school. She said she knows that Germantown is where she will end up and her brother feels the same.
“We are a big Germantown family and [my brother] has talked about doing it, whether it be in his house or here,” Laura Smith said.