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Cotton House hotel opens in Cleveland

By JACK WEATHERLY

The Cotton House will hum and speak the language of the South on this, the first, weekend for the luxury hotel in downtown Cleveland.

The Mississippi Writers Guild will hold a conference at the Grammy Museum Mississippi, one of several groups that will draw people to Cleveland with its 95-guestroom hotel.

That will give the hotel a good launch with 90 percent occupancy, said General Manager James McAfee.

Official occupancy began Tuesday with a special celebration atop the five-story Marriott Tribute hotel at the Bar Fontaine.

The Mississippi Writers Guild will give it a proper baptism with it conference at the Grammy Museum Mississippi called “Language, Lyrics and Legacies: The Rhythm of Writing,” featuring acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith and others.

The humble name of hotel belies its quality.

“It’s a luxury boutique hotel,” said McAfee on Wednesday, the first day of full operation.

The $17.6 million hotel will also welcome participants this weekend in the Cleveland Country Club annual Six-Man Scramble, and, on a serious side, from the Mississippi Coalition for Domestic Violence.

The golf tourney players from the local club may not stay overnight in the hotel, but its two restaurants – the Delta Meat Market, serving Southern fare with locally sourced ingredients, and the rooftop Bar Fontaine proffering European-inspired small plates and cocktails. Both are run by James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Cole Ellis of Cleveland.

The hotel will help Cleveland, home of Delta State University, to better host out-of-towners, but at a higher price. marriott.com lists rooms starting at $199 for weekend nights. Rooms also may be booked by calling 662-843-7733.

Previously, people drawn to the town overnight have had to find lodging elsewhere, meaning lost income for the city.

“It’s making us more of a destination,” said Judson Thigpen, executive director of the Cleveland/Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce.

“With the two restaurants and the rooftop bar . .I think it’s going to be a hit with local folks as well,” Thigpen said.

On hand since March during the lead-up to the opening, McAfee said he is “absolutely thrilled” to be in charge of what he calls a “luxury boutique hotel.”

McAfee has been with Marriott for 15 years, most recently as services director for the 345-guestroom Renaissance Hotel and Spa in Montgomery, Ala.

A bonus that the Marriott property offers is training and experience opportunity that is “tremendous” for those who might be interested in a hospitality career, McAfee said.

The hotel is currently close to filled with employees, numbering about 100, though it is still taking applications, he said.

The hotel has a curated art collection, paintings and photographs, that is basically composed of Delta and Mississippi artists and lends authentic ambiance.

Cleveland is in the center of the region known for its history of huge plantations and the birthplace of the blues, which places it on the Blues Trail, which runs through Mississippi and other states in the South.

And the Cotton House at 215 Cotton Row is in the hub of the region that spins around it.

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About Jack Weatherly