New Owners of Magnolia Inn Take Over
Charlene McKay fell in love with the Magnolia Inn on a stroll through Pinehurst during a girls’ golf weekend in March.
“It’s such a beautiful building in an amazing location,” McKay said Monday, less than a week after buying the inn out of foreclosure with her husband, Dan. “We’re looking forward to reopening it and making it exciting again.”
First, they have to get settled in their Pinehurst rental house, enroll their 15-year-old son, Daniel, at Pinecrest High School and familiarize themselves with the Sandhills — after moving across the country from Westlake Village, Calif.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but Charlene and I are fairly decisive,” Dan said. “We were able to do a pretty decent analysis after the inn went on the market. We crunched the numbers for a couple of weeks and determined there was good potential. Generally speaking, there was nothing terribly wrong with this business.”
The 8,000-square-foot inn has a tax value of $1.675 million, was listed at $1.275 million, and sold for less than the list price.
“We made an offer while we were here in June and got an answer before we left,” Dan said. “We had 45 days to do the inspections and we closed on Aug. 4. Trust me, selling our house in California was a much bigger pain than this deal.”
The McKays had been looking for 18 months for a “project” that would complement the boutique Little Bay Hotel that Charlene owns on the south coast of Barbados.
“We would not be doing this without that experience,” said Dan, who met Charlene two decades ago while dining at the restaurant at Little Bay Hotel.
Charlene, who cut her teeth in the hospitality industry waiting tables in high school, said they had already passed on an opportunity in Florida.
“It just didn’t feel right down there,” she said. “We just fell in love with the Magnolia Inn and the thought of running a business here.”
The McKays, who are both Canadian, added that the quality of life in Moore County played a large role in their decision, especially with their son starting high school this fall.
“It felt like a great place to live,” Dan said. “We’ve been very impressed with everything. Everyone in the village has been tremendously helpful. It all mattered in making this decision.”
The inn includes a restaurant and pub on the ground floor, with five guest rooms on each of the upper floors. The guest rooms, each of which has a private bathroom, combine 19th century Victorian charm with the comfortable atmosphere of the South.
“We’re going to make the rooms a little more comfortable and upgrade the amenities, but they won’t lose their charm,” Charlene says. “We’re starting to get our ideas and concepts together. We’ll get our ducks in a row and hit the ground running.”
The McKays, who are also looking for a chef and developing their dinner menu, would like to be open for business by mid-September.
“We want to be up and running as soon as possible, but we don’t want to rush into it and do it incorrectly because you can’t recover from that,” Dan said. “We want to develop a nice local clientele. We also see ourselves as part of the community and want to get involved.”
Coincidentally, Dan’s birth name is Donald Ross McKay, but his first and middle names have nothing to do with the famous architect of Pinehurst No. 2 and many other notable golf courses around the country.
“Those names come from my grandfather and uncle,” Dan said. “In this town, my name is an interesting phenomenon. It’s just kind of a funny sideline, but it’s also kind of like it was fate.”
Opened in 1896, the Magnolia Inn was the second lodging property — the Holly Inn was the first— built by the Tufts family during their creation of Pinehurst. It cost $4,300, and initial room rates were $8 to $12 per week.
The Magnolia was originally five stories. But when James Tufts built the Carolina Hotel in 1901, he was disturbed by the fact that the Magnolia obstructed the view of the village from the new hotel.
So, a crew of workmen descended on the Magnolia to cut off the top two floors and add a new roof to the building. The architectural drawings for the renovation, which was done by a Boston firm, are housed at the Tufts Archives in Pinehurst.
The Magnolia has been a boarding house or hotel since it opened, except for a brief period in the late 1940s when two doctors located a small medical clinic there. There are no room numbers, only names such as “Ross,” “Tufts” and “Azalea.”
Today, the inn at the corner of Magnolia and Chinquapin roads is on the National Register of Historic Buildings and Sites.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at tnatt@thepilot.
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