PROSSER -- Debbie Augustavo has transformed a 1907 farmhouse in Prosser into a bed and breakfast providing a restful place for wine tourists exploring the region.
That bed and breakfast, Seven Gables Pensione, is the cornerstone and the type of business the Port of Benton officials hope will become a thriving extension of Vintners Village, a new business park, said Diahann Howard, the port's economic development and governmental affairs director. They want to see businesses that support the wine industry.
Walking paths connect the area to the first phase of Vintners Village, with its 14 wineries and Yellow Rose Nursery.
But while $1.5 million in roads and utility work for the second phase has been finished for almost a year, other businesses have been slow to follow Augustavo's lead.
Augustavo, who owned Seattle's Broadway Grill, said she saw potential in Prosser, which has few accommodations for wine tourists, yet is near about 35 wineries. The idea of Vintner's Village and restoring a historic home also appealed to her.
The two-story, European-style bed and breakfast opened in May 2011. Pensione is what bed and breakfasts are called in Europe, she said.
As part of the remodel, Augustavo added a soothing French Country decor with soft lighting and European fixtures.
The bones of the house remain the same, although Augustavo transformed some closets into additional bathrooms, so the 3,700-square-foot home has 6 1/2 bathrooms instead of 21/2.
The kitchen was completely remodeled, replacing all of the appliances. And Augustavo said she redid the gardens, creating spaces where outdoor events can be held.
The three acres around the bed and breakfast include a remodeled cottage that also can be rented, a chicken house that really does have chickens and a carriage house.
And Gables, the friendly tomcat, has adopted the home as his own.
Augustavo said her first year since opening has gone well, with reservations coming in for events such as class reunions, weddings and receptions. She rents rooms or the entire house, primarily to visitors coming to the area to tour wineries.
"I had a lot more business than I ever would have expected in an initial year of opening," she said.
But Augustavo said she is proceeding cautiously with any expansion plans because none of the other 19 lots around her have sold despite the infrastructure work already paid for by a Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund grant.
The small and mid-size businesses likely to build on those lots are the ones who aren't ready to take the financial risk with some of the economic uncertainty, Howard said.
She expects the second phase will take longer than the five years it took the first portion of Vintners Village to develop. That growth happened faster than usual, she said.
Among Augustavo's plans to grow her business is converting the carriage house into Seven Gables Antica and Farm, a shop that will feature local fruit, heirloom seeds, antiques, garden tools and furniture restored and turned into pieces of artwork by local artist Mary Hanlon.
And she plans to add a fromagerie or a crémerie to the property with the help of a local cheese maker. Visitors would be able to tour the facility.
"Cheese and wine go beautifully together," she said.
She has about six employees now, but expects to add more as her business grows.