Life in our Foothills March 2023 – Hospitality, History and Hollywood – Tryon’s GreenLife Inn at the Mimosa
Published 3:15 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023
The GreenLife Inn at the Mimosa certainly catches your eye if you’re heading into Tryon on Highway 108, with its stately white columns and majestic magnolia and mimosa trees.
“It has quite a presence, that’s for sure,” says Kevin Parker, who owns and operates the inn with his wife Mary.
The inn wasn’t the Parkers’ first foray into owning and maintaining a historic building. They purchased an 1819 farm near their home in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, in 2007 and made it their home.
“Our restoration of the old farmhouse, barn and grounds hooked us on the process of saving and fixing historically important buildings,” says Kevin.
Mary’s love of old buildings has roots that can be traced back to her hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, which has dozens of centuries-old buildings that are still in use today. She’s also dreamed of one day running a bed and breakfast inn. The Parkers discovered this area after their daughter moved to Tryon in 2012. They leased a farm in Gowensville and moved there in the fall of 2014. Kevin commuted to Ohio for his work with a water remediation company while Mary started searching for a possible location for an inn. A realtor showed her what had been the old Mimosa Inn just east of Tryon. At first glance, Mary thought the structure was too big for what she had in mind. Then the realtor took her inside.
“We walked in the door and I was like okay, somebody’s got to do something and it might as well be us,” says Mary. “This had been sitting vacant for about five years. The ceilings were falling in but the actual structure was sound.”
The structure was built in 1903 as a gaming parlor for the old Mimosa Hotel. When the hotel burned down in 1916 it became the Mimosa Inn and operated as such for more than 90 years. The Parkers purchased it in foreclosure in 2015 with plans to reopen it as a bed and breakfast inn.
“I wanted to have the entire place ready before I opened the doors,” says Mary. “I mean I had the rose-colored glasses on and I said you know we’re going to debut this thing, it’s going to be beautiful.”
The Parkers knew that wasn’t realistic and instead decided to take a slower more incremental approach. They renovated two guest rooms and put them on Airbnb. As those rooms were renting, the Parkers proceeded to renovate the rest of the inn.
“It’s always a sense of accomplishment for me to bring a building back to life that has meant so much to the community over the past 100 years,” says Kevin.
Since the inn was empty when they purchased it the Parker’s next task was finding furniture. Mary searched used furniture shops and thrift stores looking for pieces reminiscent of the Melrose Inn’s heyday
“We found the guest records and it was a very strong business in the ’30s and ’40s, so we kind of went to pulling a little bit of the ’40s type feel into things,” she says.
The inn’s second floor has apartments on either end and nine guest rooms in between. There are king-sized rooms, queen-sized rooms and rooms with two full-size beds. All rooms have their own private bath. Downstairs there’s a large but cozy living area that’s a blend of elegance and plop-down-and-put-your-feet-up comfort.
“We try to have what people are looking for in the shell of a historic structure,” says Mary.
The Parkers decided to rename the inn to reflect their own personal commitment to environmental sustainability and the inn’s history.
“So we wanted to have it be a fresh start but still honor the name and the history of the Mimosa Inn so we went with GreenLife Inn at the Mimosa,” Mary explains.
Mary does the baking for breakfast which she calls continental plus. It includes muffins, hot and cold cereals and fresh fruit. The plus adds things like hot breakfast sandwiches and quiches on the weekends. It’s all self-serve.
“We’re trying to be really cognizant of what our guests are asking for and it’s generally not a sit-down breakfast that’s quite elaborate,” says Mary, who adds that most of the inn’s guests are very active and don’t want to spend a lot of time seated at a breakfast table.
The breakfast coffee comes from Tryon Coffeehouse, which the Parkers also own and operate.
“The Tryon Coffeehouse has never been closed a single day, for any reason for the entire existence of that business,” says Kevin, who adds that Mary does the baking for the coffeehouse too.
The Parkers say their guests enjoy Tryon’s eclectic mix of restaurants and shops, its movie theater and live performances at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. They say their guests also enjoy exploring the Tying International Equestrian Center, going on waterfall hikes and visiting the area’s breweries and wineries.
“That’s why we had to change the code on the front door to enter because you’re doing a couple of wine tours today and you sometimes forget what the code to get in the door is,” jokes Kevin, who says he made the code easy to remember.
The GreenLife Inn at Mimosa hosts weddings, reunions and other events. It also hosts Hollywood movie productions. Just last month a Los Angeles production company spent several weeks at the inn filming a psychological thriller called “Are You There?” It was the second movie filmed at the inn which has also been the set for a soap commercial, a rock music video and last November was featured on the PBS NC show “North Carolina Weekend.”
“It validates that Mary’s vision has come to life and there is a space and a need for a retreat for people to unplug physically and mentally in this beautiful valley and town,” says Kevin.
“I have really enjoyed resurrecting this grand old place while continuing to curate wonderful experiences for our guests,” says Mary. “I want them to come in and just kind of shed everything at the door and be cared for.”
Photography by Clay Johnson and Erik Olsen