In 2014, Wendy Lynam, a mother of three with little experience in hospitality management, opened the delightful six-bedroom lodging that is Swamp Rabbit Inn. Located in the West End of downtown Greenville, just two blocks from the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the inn has become a hub for tourists, business travelers, wedding parties, cycling groups, and families. She’s recently expanded to include the Swamp Rabbit Inn TR on Main Street in Travelers Rest, but this morning, we sit on the back porch of her first property, Swamp Rabbit Inn. Snacking on homemade Kringle original to Lynam’s Wisconsin hometown, we discuss how she went from stay-at-home-mom to real estate investor and innkeeper in just a few short years.
Room to Grow// Swamp Rabbit Inn Properties founder and proprietor Wendy Lynam embarked on her current path after breast cancer and a divorce. She now owns two boutique hotels in Greenville and Travelers Rest, and has penned a book called Cycling Greenville.
So, tell me what started this. Have you always had an interest in real estate? >> Not really. I had no background in real estate. No background in owning inns. It’s something I really just stumbled on. In 2012, I got divorced after a 23-year marriage. Then my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was at the lowest of lows. I didn’t know what to do with myself. All I knew was that it was time for a change.
But purchasing an inn? >> Well, I noticed this property when it went on the market, and I circled it for about nine months before I pulled the trigger. It’s only a couple of blocks from the Swamp Rabbit Trail and right in downtown, so I knew the location was suited for an inn. Something about it spoke to me. I just felt it . . . like this is what I should be doing.
The interior design of the inn is very fun, whimsical, airy—not your traditional bed and breakfast décor. How did you decide upon that approach? >> It was in February on a Sunday, and we were snowed in. I was stuck in the house, so I started going through an IKEA catalog and cutting out pictures of things I liked—linens, furniture, rugs. I spread the photos on a table and put them into groups for each room, and then I realized that each room sort of evolved into an animal theme, so I went with it. When I was done, I looked up at the clock and thought, “Well, I might as well go ahead and buy everything.” It was a one-day process from start to finish.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave for your kids? >> I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 26 years old, right after I had my first child. I thought that was the worst thing that could happen to me. But then I got divorced and helped my mother through her five-year illness. I want my kids to know that life challenges you, expect it, but you don’t have to be a victim. It’s how you choose to deal with the challenges that makes you who you are.
How does cycling play a part in all of this? >> For me, personally, riding a bike is therapy. I’ve always loved to ride, and I want to share that with others. That’s why we have the Bike Shed at the inn with 13, seven-speed city bikes that people can rent for four hours for $15 or an entire day for $25. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is one of our greatest amenities, and I want to make it accessible for visitors to experience.
Tell me about some of your favorite visitors to your properties. >> There are so many. Owning this inn has restored my faith in humanity! Our first guests were a group called Velo Girl Rides who did a cycle-to-farm tour. And then there’s the Betty Designs tribe that stayed here last year for the Hincapie Gran Fondo. And then New York Times travel writer Daniel Scheffler, who listed Greenville among the 52 things to do in 2017, chose to stay here after visiting Greenville. What’s most rewarding for me—no matter the guest—is watching them enjoy our city and take advantage of all that it has to offer.
Anything else you have going on besides the properties? >> So much. I wrote a book called Cycling Greenville that details cycling routes in the area with contributors like the Greenville Spinners and George Hincapie. I hope to turn that into an app. We also have Truck Inn Tuesdays at Swamp Rabbit Inn on the second Tuesday of each month from May to October. We have a band on the deck, and the Automatic Taco food truck comes. Everyone is welcome. There’s also the Swamp Rabbit Music Festival on September 9 from noon until 10pm. This year it will be at the Swamp Rabbit Inn TR. There are bands all day long, and proceeds benefit the Feed & Seed.
Wow. It’s been a busy few years. >> Yes, it has, and I am nowhere near finished. I’ve been blessed with this inner direction, and now that I can hear it, I’m following it. I learned that if you ask for help, you have to be willing to receive what comes your way. It’s my hope that I can help others find their direction as I have, and that we all can continue to support this wonderful community in which we live.
Swamp Rabbit Inn & Properties, (864) 517-4617, swamprabbitinn.com