Since it first opened in the fall of 1996, the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson has prided itself as Jackson’s only designer boutique hotel.
From weddings to legislative breakfasts to Gov. Phil Bryant’s election night victory party in 2011, the 24-room Old Capitol Inn stands ready for any intimate occasion.
The charming facility has five honeymoon suites ($165/night) and 19 regular suites ($99-139/night). Every room carries a Mississippi resident or location theme: Beauvoir, Itta Bena, Elvis Sleeps, Walter Anderson.
“When we just started out we were just catering to corporate clients who had come to town,” owner and general manager Mende Malouf Alford says. “As Jackson has evolved, we do get a lot of tourist travelers and European guests coming to tour the South.”
With its richly designed walls and lighting, plush furniture, bubbling fountains and artwork, the lobby of the Inn retains a sumptuous New South flair complete with friendly staff to check you in. The bright, white cloth cafe and patio offers sunroom lunches of shrimp & grits, grilled tilapia or chicken fried steak ($10-15) and on a weekday can be full of state legislators, attorneys and businessmen.
Over the years several celebrities have spent the night at the Old Capitol including Newt Gingrich, The Temptations and Joan Jett. Most nights however the business traveler makes up 90 percent of their lodgers.
“When we first opened our doors we did nothing but hotel rooms and then rented out meeting space,” Alford said. “We started to see a need for opening up our own catering facility.”
The Inn’s 5,000-square-foot Gala Ballroom has a permanent stage and built-in dance floor that opens to the courtyard and blooming gardens outside and can hold between 250-700 people. There is also a rooftop garden perfect for receptions or photo shoots. In addition to the lunch menu, the kitchen staff can cater hors d’oeuvres, display stations, and dinners and has an assortment of house wines.
Alford has a bubbly, light-up-the-room personality and has come a long way from having no upbringing or professional experience in the hospitality management industry. This year her business reported $10 million in revenue and she was named the 2013 Business Woman of the Year by the Mississippi Business Journal.
Raised in a lawyer’s family, Alford chose a social work degree from the University of Mississippi and moved to Boston while her brother and sister pursued law school and practice today with her father Mike Malouf.
While examining downtown Jackson’s housing situation in the days before the high-rise residential lofts of the Standard Life and King Edward buildings, Alford says it was her father that came upon the idea of opening a high-class bed and breakfast for the Capital City.
Alford moved home to help Malouf and it took more than a year for the two of them to convert the city’s 1950s-era YWCA on the corner of State Street and Yazoo Street into the Old Capitol Inn. Malouf has an eye for historic preservation and Alford says structurally they kept what was originally on site including the building’s old stairwell, the breakfast room and the original lobby. They invited Mississippi interior designers and decorators from Itta Bena, Jackson, Ridgeland, Tupelo and Vicksburg to prepare the suites.
With its aged brick, wrought iron window trimmings and Magazine Street-style architecture the building looks almost as old as the nearby Old Capitol Museum.
Alford says the building was so well-built that she finally took down the nuclear fallout shelter sign that was hanging on the side of it because it was concerning the guests. “Old buildings are just made so much better,” Alford says.
Alford says her manager Mary Current is her mentor and customer service comes easy thanks to a well-trained staff of 50 and a small enough facility that you become more of a family with your regular guests.
“We know them and they know us,” Alford says. “That’s one thing that’s unique about us is our personal charm.” The Inn’s decision in recent years to rebrand itself to a “boutique hotel” helps it stand out from other more traditional bed and breakfast destinations in the state.
Since opening, the Inn has won Hotel of the Year by the Mississippi Hospitality Restaurant Association and been recognized twice by the Jackson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. It has also been highlighted four times by Southern Living magazine.
Today, Malouf serves on the board of Downtown Jackson Partners and Alford is an active officer with Executive Women International and the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time she volunteers at St. Richard’s Catholic School and spends time with her husband Jesse and three girls, Truus, Hala and Riena.
No matter who her current or future competitors are, Alford and her staff at the Old Capitol Inn look forward to continuing to offer an affordable, attractive venue that will produce all the best of the New South and be a special experience for your next special event.
“We have managed to do well and stay busy every year and in my opinion my team and staff have built a nice reputation for ourselves,” Alford says. “Even during the tough times we’ve kept our doors open and haven’t had to let anyone go.”
“You have to be very competitive, there are a lot more caterers out there, more facilities and more hotels. The more things we have going on the better it is for everyone. It brings more and more downtown. I feel very strong in our area.”