Faced with becoming an empty nester in a South Philadelphia rowhouse much too big for just her, Janet Anastasi considered her options.
The conventional ones were obvious. She could sell the place and move to something smaller. Or she could rent it.
Anastasi, who owns the iconic Anastasi Seafood market/bar/restaurant in the Italian Market, decided on another option: She would convert the house to an Airbnb, gut the two-car garage behind the property, and put in its place a smaller house where she could live.
Or, as her son Andrew Stechman put it, “taking the old money pit and turning it into a money maker so she can live comfortably in another space.”
A self-described “fourth-generation fishmonger,” Anastasi said the idea had its roots in her work and her travels.
She had stayed at Airbnbs in Vermont and Central America and thought, "That’s something I could do.”
And she liked the idea of helping tourists and guests learn more about the city.
She moved into the house with her three children in 1996, she said, and the idea of eventually converting the garage had long been on her mind, “even when the kids were little … [saving] all that housework. I knew it was such a find, even years ago.”
The entire project took “a hectic year” ending last September, and the place recently opened for guests, although the coronavirus outbreak has interrupted business.
No significant renovations were needed to convert the almost 100-year-old family home to a short-term rental.
“The furniture in all the bedrooms has been changed,” she said. “I updated the bathrooms, had the house freshly painted, put in new fixtures to give it a fresh look.”
She converted the den into a laundry room — “that’s not cheap” — but “the biggest amount of work was cleaning out and emptying. I did most of the cleaning and organizing."
“I didn’t knock down any walls," she said. "The shape of the house is so beautiful. All the walls are plaster, not sheet rock.”
For example, she said, the chandelier plate in the living room is plaster, not plastic. ”When I first came to the house, I thought, ‘These original touches are so beautiful.'”
Anastasi did very little with the living room and dining room, both furnished in Italian Provincial style, and with the kitchen because they will be common areas for guests.
The garden patio in back is also a common area, and there is a dedicated parking space in a lot a few blocks away. Some original touches remain, such as a painting in the living room, which a local artist gave her in exchange for fish — “a lot of fish.”
“One family gets the whole house,” she said, or at least a family-ish grouping. She thinks in terms of the sort of place she would seek out while vacationing with her children and grandchildren. All told, the guest capacity is 10.
Of the four bedrooms, two are for couples, and another is equipped for children, with bunk beds and a TV. There are 2½ baths.
About the only “hotel-type” touches visible are a small refrigerator in one bedroom and a basket in the living room with bottled water and light snacks.
“I can’t believe all the people I’ll meet,” said Anastasi, who has established another Airbnb in a house she bought in the neighborhood. “I’m so excited about it.”
“Guests really enjoy the Italian Market area and the European feeling in the neighborhood," she said. "I’ll show them the market.”
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