Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Behind the scenes at Bishops guest house
Bishops guest house on Holgate Road has just been named York’s best. MATT CLARK meets the couple behind its success.
MARCO Gabbiadini is used to being in the limelight. He made hundreds of appearances as a professional footballer, starting with York City, is now a radio pundit and a mentor using sport to motivate people back to work.
But Marco’s latest headline story has put him in a spot of bother. Last week Bishops, his guest house, was named best in York and the phone began to ring not only from guests, but journalists eager to ask how he won.
In truth Marco says he didn’t. The real star is his wife Deborah.
“I am officially Visit York’s guest house owner of the year,” he says. “I suppose it’s the nature of the beast really and the connection with York City. But I was at pains to point out it’s my wife who does most of the work.”
Marco was educated at Nunthorpe Grammar School and began his football career as a 16-year-old apprentice with the Minstermen. He made the first team a year later with an unforgettable debut.
“I scored; I got booked and was then taken off with an injury. It was quite an eventful game.”
Marco made a swift recovery and went on to play more than 750 matches, including time spent at Sunderland and Derby County. He scored 226 league goals, played for England under-21s and totalled nearly £3 million in transfer fees.
“If I got chances I scored. I think you have to have an instinct, knowing where things are without realising and you have to have the intent. I played with people who were better than me but they couldn’t score goals.”
Not to be outdone by her husband, Deborah also staked a claim to fame when she became Miss Yorkshire Evening Press.
“I did anything to promote York, there was some mad stuff, but it was a really great year,” she says.
“Then I was Miss BT and I entered Miss Yorkshire TV. Some people may say it’s sexist but it’s not, everything was tongue in cheek just to get a silly picture for the paper.”
When a knee injury forced Marco to retire in 2003, he and Deborah decided to open Bishops, a Victorian guest house in Holgate Road.
He was 35, the golden age for footballers where they can draw their pension, so the couple chose a lifestyle job; one where they could spend more time with the kids.
“Because we’re from York it was an easy decision to come back,” says Marco. “It’s a lovely city; a bit of a bubble when you experience other places.”
And Debbie says she was ready to go back to work after raising the family.
“I wanted to do something that didn’t involve leaving the house in the morning,” she says.
“The children were still young enough to need me around and I could be here when they came home from school.”
But for the past three years Marco has been a regular sports presenter for BBC Newcastle, which means Deborah is now the driving force behind the business.
“Marco sometimes cooks breakfast but he tries to keep away from changing the sheets,” she says. “Running a guest house can be massively time consuming from 6.45am to 10 at night, but hopefully we’re doing it right.”
Indeed they are and it’s not hard to see how Bishops won the award; it’s all about the little touches.
Last week a man called to arrange a special stay for his girlfriend. They’d been together nine years and he wanted to pull out all the stops.
“He asked for nine roses, one for each year they had been together,” says Deborah. “So Marco cycled into town, collected the flowers and I arranged them across the bed, with a few petals strewn across the pillow.
“We put chilled wine in the room – white and rose to match – and for me that’s the best part of running a guest house, being able to make someone’s weekend so special and memorable.”
Competition in York may be huge, but Deborah says she believes the success of Bishops is down to attention to detail and thinking of things people need before they realise it, and being welcoming while keeping a respectful distance.
Then there is Vanessa and Kim who come in to help, they’re a massive part of the team says Deborah.
“I’m really proud of the award but we did have to joke about it, we had so many phone calls from people saying, ‘Hi Debs can you pass on our congratulations to Marco’. Even the guests were picking on him and telling him to pull his weight.
“But Marco being a footballer is an angle and I’m not complaining.
“He has his uses.”