New restaurant, new owner at the Grove Park Inn

A rendering of Edison’s interior Grove Park Inn
A rendering of Edison’s interior Grove Park Inn

Grove Park Inn has a new owner — again.

On June 12, Omni Hotels & Resorts announced it was buying the property, along with four other resorts in other states.

“We want to make this as smooth of a transition as possible, so we're mostly excited to keep everything status quo,” says Anne Tramer, vice president of corporate communications for Omni, adding that several renovation and expansion projects already in progress will continue. “As of right now, we're planning to stick with what's already underway, and then we'll make some decisions.”

Omni brought the property from KSL Resorts, for which GPI was a recent acquisition. In May 2012, KSL bought the Inn from Sammons Enterprises, which had owned it for about 60 years.

The change in ownership should be smooth for everyone involved, including employees, Tramer says. “We're actually not intending to make any associate changes,” she says.

In turn, Tramer hopes the Inn will benefit from Omni's stewardship. Omni is far larger than KSL; after this deal, KSL will manage just four properties, while Omni will own about 60. “We have a corporate office and a larger portfolio,” Tramer says. “In that sense, we're hoping to really support the resort and drive more business and traffic not just to Grove Park Inn, but to Asheville as a community in general.”

Omni is headquartered in Dallas and owns hotels in Charlotte and Atlanta, in addition to dozens of other cities throughout the U.S. Its resort locations include Florida and South Carolina.

As part of the deal with KSL, Omni will acquire resorts in Texas, Virginia and California. The Wall Street Journal valued the five-resort sale at “roughly $900 million,” according to a June 12 article.

New restaurant, historic guests

Despite the ownership change, the Inn plans to launch a new restaurant, Edison, in July.

The restaurant is named for one of the Inn’s notable guests.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph and video camera, frequented the inn while “glamping.”

“Glamorous camping,” explains Tracey Johnston-Crum, director of marketing and communications at the Grove Park Inn, where Edison often took more luxurious accommodation for a couple of days during his glamping trips.

“Thomas Edison visited the Grove Park Inn with three very good friends, and they tended to make this an annual stop,” Johnston-Crum says. “In fact, those friends were Henry Ford and [Harvey] Firestone. They called themselves the vagabonds.”

The three traveled in big caravans and, when they weren't at the Inn, arranged for full dinner services beneath a tent. (To see a video of the to-do, search for “vagabonds” on pbs.com.) Ford built specially outfitted cars that included refrigerators and other upgrades for their expeditions.

As a nod to its iconic guests, the Grove Park Inn will name its new restaurant Edison. The bar-kitchen, as the resort is branding the venture, will have casual elements — think televisions and pub-style seating — and it will also include more refined touches, such as local art from Akira Satake, Nancy Joyce and Gabriel Shaffer, and terrace dining.

The fare focuses on gastro-pub plates — they're accessible and a little off the wall, but the ingredients promise to be on par with Grove Park's more upscale offerings at its other eateries. “It's going to be a lot of fun, interesting things that are different than what we're used to but will compliment the numerous North Carolina craft beers on draft,” Johnston-Crum says.

Dishes will include ricotta with sweet peas, chicken cracklin's with salt and vinegar dust, Carolina scotch eggs, fried whole okra, chicken and waffles with local honey, grilled head-on prawns and veal meatballs with toasted pine nuts, gorgonzola and porcini mushrooms.

Edison is tentatively scheduled to open in July, Johnston-Crum says.

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