If you are wondering how the still-new Southern Hotel is faring at its downtown Covington spot you only need to talk to General Manager Milo Lago.
Since the hotel was renovated for over $8 million by Lisa Condrey Ward and reopened in 2014, it certainly has appeared from the outside looking in that there is a steady hustle-bustle to the place.
The Ox Lot 9 restaurant, with highly-touted chef Jeffrey Hansel, has become a popular place to eat as one of our fine-dining establishments in western St. Tammany. Along the same lines, the cool lounge inside the hotel lobby has become a popular place to have drinks and light offerings of food. And I don’t think anyone will disagree that the bar top is the coolest one you have ever seen.
I was at the hotel last week for the annual Covington Business Association Christmas party—always a fun event—and chatted it up with Milo as we watched the ballroom packed with people having a great evening.
He told me that now over two years into its operation the hotel is starting to hit its stride. In December alone of this year he said the hotel is hosting about 50 events!
Part of the success is thanks to some key people brought in by Lisa. Milo said that Susan Nuss is now the hotel sales manager and handles corporate groups and special events.
Leah Bartlette handles weddings—of which the hotel did about 30 in the past year!
Then there is a group he calls “the Three Amigos” who are apparently at the forefront of the staff that pulls off all these special events. They are Cameron Kiem, Andrew Barre and Landon Smith, along with banquet captain Danielle Foldon.
I am always supportive of true local businesses and the Southern Hotel is undoubtedly the greatest venture by a local business person when you consider the huge investment to bring back the historic hotel originally built in 1907.
In considering that investment it is great to see things going so well, and while Lisa has now shared her balance sheet with me yet (and don’t worry, I am not expecting that Lisa!), the steady traffic and reports from the hotel sound encouraging.
Another reason we should all be happy to see the hotel doing well is because there is unquestionably a run-over that is bringing people to downtown Covington from all over the country, and even from around the world.
The surrounding gift shops, art galleries and restaurants have certainly gotten the residual effects of the Southern Hotel success and that’s so great to see.
Additionally, Lisa began the Covington Public Art organization that is gaining steam in raising money to pay for outstanding art in the public sector. The group already raised over $60,000 for the Walker Percy Memorial in downtown Covington and is continuing its efforts to raise monies for other public art projects.
As we head into the holiday season wrap-up I want to continue urging you to truly shop local first, in all of our western parish cities. As I keep saying, the time you spend in the local shops will convince you there are true bargains there, great items that are unique to our area, and most of all, allows you to keep our dollars in this community.
That, more than anything, is one reason I do hope you will “Shop Local—Seriously” when you do your shopping now or into 2017.
Have you ever tried going to one of the casinos for your holiday meal with the family?
I think it was about three years ago when my wife said she kept hearing Silver Slipper G.M. John Ferrucci advertise their buffet for Thanksgiving, so finally we tried it. Since then we have enjoyed the buffet for the holiday and it certainly can be enticing for many since you don’t have to cook a thing, no cleanup, and you have a fabulous selection.
The Silver Slipper buffet was recently named the “Best Buffet in Mississippi” by Yahoo Travel, quite an honor when you consider all the bigger casinos in Biloxi and Gulfport. But if you have ever eaten there you know it is an outstanding buffet, regardless how big the place is.
I was talking to Ferrucci at a recent evening event and wondered about the numbers they fed for Thanksgiving this year. His Director of Operations Leslie Clark immediately whipped out the phone and pulled up the numbers: 1,307 people came through the buffet, plus they fed over 700 others at the Blue Bayou restaurant and grill.
I’ve always been a numbers guy and got a kick out of seeing that. Not only did they feed over 2,300 people that day, but it truly was as smooth an operation as you could imagine.
You just might want to try it sometime—I know that we will be back.
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.