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Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Husband-and-Wife Team in Hampton, Virginia are Black Innkeepers

National Black Business Month is celebrated each August across the nation. According to Black Enterprise, Frederick E. Jordan and John William Templeton created it in 2004 to draw attention to Black-owned businesses to encourage individuals to do business with them while helping them to grow.

The Magnolia House Inn, located in Hampton, Virginia is one of many examples of Black-owned businesses that are nestled in the cracks of small and large towns across America. Word of mouth is often extremely important. These small establishments greatly benefit from customers providing online reviews and sharing information about them with friends and family. Some of them aim to remain top-of-mind in a world where big businesses can drown out their presence and voices.

Guests who come to stay at the Magnolia House Inn can simply relax or get married in The Wedding Chapel.
Photo credit: Luke & Ashley Photography

 The Magnolia House Inn, founded by Lankford and Joyce Blair, is a small business with big appeal. The Blairs have been married for 20 years. The couple opened the business in 2004 after a lack of representation inspired their entrepreneurial leap.

“We enjoyed staying in bed and breakfast inns when we traveled and noticed we never saw Black innkeepers. After becoming certified lodging managers through a program at Norfolk State University, and joining the Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association, we searched for a property for our inn,” Joyce said.

The Blairs now manage the charming establishment where historic magnolia trees stand on the front lawn. A blend of antiques and modern conveniences such as a private spa tub room, cable television, luxury linens, and a full gourmet breakfast accommodating dietary requests are a part of the Magnolia House Inn’s experience.

Retiring from healthcare careers led the Blairs to explore a new venture that attracts travelers from near and far. Joyce spent a 34-year career as a registered nurse. Lankford worked as a program administrator in the Department of Behavioral Health for the state of Virginia. Guests typically find the Magnolia House Inn online through Google listings, Expedia.com or Booking.com. Reservations are made online. The Blair’s guests come from all 50 states, in addition to other countries such as the United Kingdom; China; Switzerland; Austria; Italy; and Canada.

Amid Airbnb options that offer everything from lake house rentals to entire homes for a wide range of vacation rentals, the Magnolia House Inn offers a personal touch beyond a home sharing website.

“Our guests prefer a smaller, more personable lodging experience with concierge services and a full gourmet breakfast,” Joyce said.

One special feature of the Magnolia House Inn is that the property is listed as the Scott House/Magnolia House on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. Additionally, themed rooms provide something extra special for anyone who may want to take a weekend road trip, someone who is celebrating special occasion, or a couple seeking a romantic getaway.

“The Ellington Suite is a homage to the late Duke Ellington.  It is a premier suite with a king bedroom, full, private bathroom, sitting room, and spa tub room,” Joyce said.

A minimum stay is required for holidays and special event periods such as graduations, jazz festivals, conferences. Otherwise, single-night stays are permitted.  

Joyce mentioned that the best part of owning and managing their business is the constant flow of new friends and associates, daily learning opportunities, and flexible scheduling. However, any business owner can encounter bumps in the road.

“We have all the challenges that any small business would have including marketing, staffing, and staying up with trends for our industry to remain competitive,” Joyce said.

Another twist in the innkeeper’s journey is that The Wedding Chapel is a second year-round business that accommodates marriage ceremonies.  While 20 guests can be invited to the Magnolia House Inn, up to 100 guests are appropriate for The Wedding Chapel at The LaCrosse Sanctuary. Joyce explained that it is a church site where an indoor sanctuary wedding or a garden wedding is planned.

“Our wedding services are quite popular, as we service all branches of the military that are within 15 miles of the Inn and attract statewide and out of state couples, as our rates are affordable and the packages offered are complete with amenities,” Joyce said.

The Magnolia House Inn and The Wedding Chapel are located at 232 S. Armistead Ave. in Hampton, Va. Military and AAA discounts are offered on guest room stays. Visit www.MagHouseHampton.com to learn more about the Magnolia House Inn. Direct booking can be made through the website, or by calling 757-722-2888. Learn more about the wedding chapel via www.VirginiaWeddingChapel.com.

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