Mimslyn Inn garners state recognition during May’s Business Appreciation Month

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― Anyone rolling into the downtown district knows about the mansion on the hill. Towering on a high knoll on West Main Street, the 1931 Southern-style inn can't be missed.

When the Mimslyn Inn was built in the midst of the Great Depression, many questioned the optimism of the endeavor. It emerged as a destination for well-to-do Washingtonians (including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936) and spectators who would catch a train headed for the Shenandoah Valley and luxury in Luray.

Fast forward 74 years when the Asam Family purchased the fraying inn to restore it to its former grandeur, many may have also questioned the endeavor. At the time of the purchase in 2005, the 45-room Mimslyn Inn generated $268,000 in annual sales, according to the hotel's general manager Jim Sims.

Last year, the property generated $3 million.

For that and other efforts to bolster business in the downtown district, the Mimslyn Inn on April 25 was highlighted during a gathering at the Executive Mansion in Richmond. Hosted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the event included representatives from about 50 businesses throughout the state and kicked off May's designation as Business Appreciation Month in Virginia.

Throughout the month, McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden and other state agencies are working to “recognize the accomplishments of our existing businesses; entrepreneurs; small, minority and women-owned businesses; and the major employers that contribute greatly to Virginia’s economic vitality and the well-being of our citizens,” according to the state's website.

“We're very vested in the community,” said Sims. “I don't want to advertise just for the Mimslyn ― I want to advertise for the town. What's good for Luray is good for the hotel, and vice versa.”

Since reopening the Mimslyn after a multi-million dollar transformation in 2008, the Asams ― who own West Virginia's Bavarian Inn ― have continued to make economic strides, said Sims, through several expansion projects as well as a “buy local” mentality.

“We hire local, we buy local and we do anything local that we possibly can,” Sims said.

In 2015, the Mimslyn purchased what is now known as the Manor House on South Court Street and worked the next year to renovate four existing cottages on the property as well as to construct five new cottages. The $1.7 million project increased the Mimslyn's rooms by 33 percent ― from 45 rooms to 60. Guests are also staying longer at the hotel's newest lodging, averaging between two and three nights per visit at the cottages, compared to about one night at the hotel.

As the project neared completion before its official debut last June, Sims projected cottage and Manor House guests would generate $300,000 for the hotel in 2016. Instead, said Sims, numbers are projected to exceed $600,000 by June 14.

Bigger numbers for the hotel translate to more dollars for the community, Sims continued. In the past year the hotel generated $96,000 in lodging tax revenue for the town, said Sims, and is projected to reach $128,000 in the coming fiscal year.

Further expansion projects are in the works for a 3,500-square-foot house on the corner of Page and Lee streets, just down the driveway from the historic inn. With plans to begin renovations this summer and an opening slated for spring 2018, the Asams are working to breath new life into the former five-unit apartment house built in 1943. Additional meeting and board room space is planned for the lower level, while lodging accommodations for culinary interns is in the works for upstairs. With most culinary students traveling out of state to complete required internships, the Mimslyn hopes to host aspiring chefs, said Sims, who will work alongside the hotel's executive chef Chris Harris.

“For this little property to have had such an economic impact on the community ― that's just amazing to me,” said Sims, who this month will celebrate his 10th anniversary as the Mimslyn's general manager. “Ten years ago when the Asams [were working to renovate the Mimslyn], no one was making investments, and they've continued investing in the community ever since.”

For the future, Sims said the Mimslyn will likely continue its expansion trend by developing additional properties nearby and in the downtown district.

“We're hoping to inspire others to do the same,” said Sims, noting the county's 2014 designation as an Enterprise Zone and its grant-based incentives for qualified investors and job creators. “What's good for the community is good for us all.”

Next month, Sims is slated to speak to the Luray Town Council about the possibility of establishing Luray as a Tourism Zone. Similar to the traditional business enterprise zone, a tourism zone designation would allow businesses to take advantage of state and local tax credits and deductions.

Both Virginia and Page County continue to capture a bigger piece of the tourism industry. Last Monday, McAuliffe announced that the state's tourism revenue reached $24 billion in 2016 ― up 3.3 percent from 2015 ― outpacing the national growth rate of 2.7 percent.

In 2015 visitors to Page County generated $63.7 million, up a tenth of a percentage point from the year before, according to the most recent numbers reported by the Virginia Tourism Corp. Over the past five years, tourist spending in Page has risen by more than 6 percent.

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