MILTON — Becky Smith always had two dreams — running a gift shop and a bed and breakfast. Now, both of those dreams have come true in the heart of downtown.
Smith worked for years in corporate America and traveled across the U.S., visiting different hotels and antique shops along the way. After retiring early, she decided she was going to give it a try. In 2011 she bought the the 100-year-old home on Canal Street and opened Simply Southern Gift Shop, which she operated until last summer.
"It had served as a home but also served as a kid's therapy," Smith said. "It's been a variety (of things)."
Smith said she enjoyed having the gift shop and meeting people and decorating for different seasons — Christmas, her favorite. Ultimately she decided to close the store for more free time to tend to personal matters. She said she realized she needed to "simplify life."
"It's very time consuming running a shop," she said. "I spend a lot of time after hours. I did most of the things myself."
But she came to miss the house. That's when one of her friends suggested she open a bed and breakfast and advertise online at Airbnb.
"One of my friends said, oh that would be a great air (bed and breakfast)," she said. "I didn't know what that was."
Smith said after doing research she decided she liked the idea because it would allow her to still have some free time but still be involved with the house.
"It wouldn't be like I was just giving it up." she said.
In August, Smith officially launched Simply Southern Bed and Breakfast. After she set up the house for the new venture, she said she immediately received three bookings. She said people will book for different reasons, including family members getting awards at NAS Whiting Field, weddings and funerals, and graduations and events in Milton.
Smith spends her free time volunteering for local groups such as the Master Gardener program, the Panhandle Butterfly House and the Milton Garden Club.
Smith is also an avid gardener.
"I play outside as much as I can," Smith said.
Smith said even though she was glad she took the opportunity to open the gift shop, she has no regrets about closing it.
"I'm more relaxed now," she said.