By JACK WEATHERLY
You might say Oxford has joined another league. No, Ole Miss hasn’t left the Southeastern Conference. But a hotel in a chain situated in college towns around the country has opened there.
Graduate Oxford, a 136-room, four-story hostelry with what could be called a studied local theme, recently opened.
“Every square inch of Graduate Oxford has been thoughtfully curated to tell the story of Oxford and pay homage to the people that make Mississippi so special,” Ben Weprin, chief executive of Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners, said in a release.
It joins hotels in Athens, Ga.; Charlottesville, Va.; Tempe, Ariz., and Madison, Wisc. – each of whose styles reflects its college town.
AJ Capital Partners next year plans to add Durham, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb., and Berkeley, Calif., to its roster.
Graduate Oxford, located at 400 North Lamar Blvd., near the courthouse square, has indeed given its best college try to weave itself into the local fabric.
From Cabin 82, a cafe and coffee shop with a nod to the Neshoba County Fair and its legendary cabins, to The Coop, a rooftop bar and restaurant, the hotel makes its case.
There’s a Willie Morris suite for those with a literary bent – and how could you not be a little impressed with the town’s legendary heritage? – and a room named for Doc Knight, athletic trainer at the university from 1947 to 1974.
But its goes further.
Williams Brothers store in Philadelphia, which is owned by Olivia (Mrs. Archie) Manning’s family, provides the kitchen with food stuffs, including bacon, cheeses, sausages.
John Currence — James Beard award-winning Mississippi chef and restaurateur (Big Bad Breakfast, Snackbar, Boure’ and City Grocery, all in Oxford) — is in charge of catering and special events.
Fitting in includes the hotel’s architecture, which is designed to “look like it’s always been here,” said general manager Mike Hoover.
Year-round, the hotel is aiming to become Oxford’s living room, Hoover said.
The lobby will do its part in that regard, with plenty of volumes to read while lounging in the feminine pink oak floored and gentlemanly seersucker-draperied room.
The location was the site of the Downtowner hotel and later a Holiday Inn, according to Richard Howorth, former mayor of Oxford and owner of Square Books and two related bookstores.
Sunday through Thursday at the Graduate Oxford, rooms go for $150, weekends $200 and up, said Hoover, a Memphis native and graduate of Rhodes College. Not surprisingly, the hotel is sold out for the remainder of the Ole Miss home games, Hoover said.
Hoover was working in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and said he had a tough time explaining to friends why he felt like he had won the lottery when he landed a job in Mississippi.
But he knew and was on the ground last spring doing his homework on the town and region.