By Cathy Ingalls, Albany Regional Museum board member
When life handed a young Albany mom lemons, it wasn’t practical to open a lemonade stand that wouldn’t pay the bills so a better financial option was to create an Airbnb downtown.
And that’s just what Ashlee Graybeal, 33, is doing at 206½ Second Ave. S.W., which is above Margin Coffee, the site of the former Stetter’s Cash Store that opened in 1909.
Graybeal’s husband, Daniel, died unexpectedly of an undiagnosed heart ailment in January 2018 and by August 2018 she had taken over the building’s upstairs that had served as apartments, a hotel and housing for wives of soldiers serving at Camp Adair during World War II.
Graybeal already knew something about running Airbnbs because two years ago she opened one in her Sixth Avenue house built in 1900. That business pays the mortgage on her house and supplies a little money to cover expenses for her family that includes children Trevor, 12, Connor, 9, and Piper, 3.
In between operating two Airbnbs, Graybeal home schools her children.
After Graybeal signed the lease on the property downtown, the owner added a second bathroom to serve the seven small rooms, a public seating area and a full-service kitchen and dining room at either end of a long hallway.
During bathroom construction, workers found a signature on a previously hidden wall written by contractor A.C. Wilson with the date Aug. 10, 1909, and another signature by a Stetter. The writings were covered over with a new wall.
Guests and visitors climb 25 steps to the Airbnb from the alley behind the building. Graybeal said because the structure is so old she isn’t required to install an elevator, sprinklers or an additional fire escape.
Other than adding a new bathroom, Graybeal basically has made cosmetic changes to the interior, mostly painting.
To save money on furnishings she said, except for the air conditioners, she buys secondhand at St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, Teen Challenge, Restore and Sparrow in Salem, a business that teaches refugees how to make and repair furniture.
Graybeal likes to purchase an item for a room and then work the décor around that. On the wall in one bedroom, flattened and opened paperback books are affixed in rows. Another room’s theme was selected after Graybeal found a piece of artwork.
To keep the flavor of the old building, she has retained exposed brick, what appear to be original floors and wainscoting, and the transoms over the doors to the rooms.
She doesn’t rent out all of her rooms to guests. An employee of Natural Sprinkles Co. next door is a permanent resident, and a woman uses one of the rooms for an office, and Graybeal has a work area on the floor as well.
She plans to make one room available for traveling nurses going between Lebanon, Corvallis and Albany.
The rooms rent for between $60 and $70 a night, and no children are allowed as lead paint remains, and kids tend to disturb guests while running up and down the narrow hallway.
Accommodations are mostly booked each weekend with guests in town for weddings, or they are on vacation, visiting friends and family or are taking part in events at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
According to a 2009 story appearing in Albany Old Times, the Albany Regional Museum’s newsletter, the building was built for William and Margaret Stetter as a grocery store with living quarters upstairs.
Years later, Jeff Senders operated Custom Stained Glass, where Margin is now.
Graham Stetter, who really ran the store, was born in 1864 in Scotland, immigrating to the United States at age 13. She married William Stetter in Nebraska in 1892. He was born in Richmond, Va., in 1864. The couple moved to Albany two years after their marriage. She died in 1933, and her husband lived until 1936.
To contact Graybeal concerning her Airbnb, go to email@example.com or call her at 503-881-6568.
Some of the information for this story was found at the museum, 136 Lyon St. S. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
For more information call 541-967-7122 or visit the museum’s website: www.armuseum.com.