While William and Laura Nichols paid for the new fountain that adorns the front of their downtown bed and breakfast, they say it really belongs to the entire community.
Since 2005, the couple have owned the Riverview Mansion Bed and Breakfast at 205 Metropolis St.
The previous fountain was vandalized last New Year’s Eve. And, while they always planned to replace it, along the way COVID-19 contributed to several delays in the replacement process.
Installation was completed Monday on the new fountain, topping off an approximately eight-month process. The coronavirus not only impacted delivery and installation of the fountain, it has also wreaked havoc on almost every aspect of life. For that reason, William Nichols see the fountain as a sort of symbol the community can rally around.
“Because this is 2020 we decided to put it up now basically as a memorial or memoriam,” he said. “I mean we want the community to be able to come by and enjoy it because we’re dedicating that splash of water the Year of the COVID.
“It’s for those people who have struggled and been able to maintain ... that’s what the fountain’s for.”
The eight-foot-high fountain cost approximately $6,000, and the project as a whole about $14,000 when all the site preparation work, plumbing, etc. is figured in.
According to Laura Nichols, the installation could not have happened in one day without the help of several volunteers, and the use of a forklift.
“We had a couple from Joppa, one from Lone Oak, and a couple from the Superman Museum,” she said.
“We literally muscled every piece on there. It was fun to know that you could call somebody (for help) and people would come. It’s one of the reasons we wanted to be in a small town.”
William and Laura are both “retired” from the education field, she as a former elementary school principal and he, among other things, a history professor. He is originally from Texas and she is originally from Minnesota.
The couple looked into buying the business around the end of 2014.
“Of course, we didn’t have a clue what we were getting into with the Superman thing,” said William.
“We moved in three days before Superman Celebration in 2015,” Laura said. “It was quite interesting when we had our first guests and they asked us how long we had been doing this ... and we said ‘about three hours.’ ”
While COVID has had a dramatic impact on their business, being part of the hospitality industry, Riverview was never completely shut down.
“We’ve managed to stay afloat. People have to have a place to go when traveling,” said William, while conceding there have been challenges along the way.
“You add in all the (different state) restrictions, this state won’t let you go outside the state, this state says you have to quarantine for 14 days. Most guests don’t want to come into Illinois and stay put for 14 days before they go on their two-day vacation.”
They do see signs business is picking up.
“We’re a specialty market. We’re high-end. We’ve got antiques, jacuzzis,” Laura said. “People want to go someplace that’s safe, clean, not too far. It’s been a challenge but we’ve kind of gotten the word out.
“You can come in to a place that feels like home, but you don’t have to do the dishes, you don’t have to cook.”
Most recently, the couple have noticed they are getting a lot of traffic from people coming from states like Wisconsin or Michigan who are traveling down to Florida “because we’re the midway point,” she said.
They estimate about 80% of their business is internet-driven, although they do receive local and regional business for weddings and “staycations.”
The Nichols are active in the community, and participate in community events.
The bed and breakfast is a regular stop for those who enjoy Pokémon, and features an electric Cinderella carriage that is very popular around homecoming and high school prom.
In addition, they host things like AA meetings, according to Laura.
“They were meeting at the library and the library closed down. We’ve got room for them to social distance. We don’t charge them, it’s just a community service that we offer.
“Because to us, it was important to be supportive and not just bottom-line.”