“We are really excited (about buying the hotel),” Tammy Ensey said. “We are getting far enough into the process to make the announcement.”
Almost seven years ago, the Coultiers bought the Elgin Hotel and restored it.
“In talking with Jim, the goal was to redo the entire building, and in the midst of that, the bed and breakfast idea came about (with eight rooms available for guests),” she said.
The Ensey family intends to use all the space as a bed and breakfast where guests can have something unique to experience.
Tammy Ensey said the business plan is in place. She recently returned from a National Innkeepers’ Conference with lots of ideas.
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “I want to learn from people already running a successful (bed and breakfast).”
Currently, the Coultiers live on the third floor, which is more than 5,000 square feet, but are refinishing a house in Marion and will move into it when the building closes.
“There is a lot of space to capture, but we don’t plan on living there,” Ensey said. “We are going to use the whole building as commercial property.”
The plan includes some construction.
“We will have 11 suites with each equipped with what you would find in a nice hotel,” she said.
That would include a flat screen television, mini fridge, a fitness center for guests, plans for a game room and other amenities.
“I feel confident we will build this business,” she said.
The Elgin Hotel, which opened Sept. 15, 1886, has a fascinating history, according to Ensey.
“There used to be a Short Line Railroad that went from the Santa Fe Depot to the Elgin, then out to Chingawassa Springs and also to a quarry on the northwest side of town,” she said.
According to an article she read, it was the first excursion railroad in Kansas, but it lasted only about four years.
“It not only took freight from and to the quarries, but also had passengers cars that took individuals out to the Chingawassa Springs’ spa located about four miles northeast of Marion,” she said. “There was actually a Chingawassa Hotel up there.
“Here I was on the Chingawassa Committee and I had no idea what the relevance was to Marion or to the Elgin.”
Some articles stated the Elgin Hotel was actually established as a monument to show off the prosperity of Marion, and the Elgin was established as a monument to the city’s prosperity, she said.
The Elgin was operated as a hotel until the 1950s, then closed. The building was deteriorating, but Ensey said it’s difficult to say why it closed.
The Elgin reopened in the 1970s, but it was almost torn down. In fact, Ensey said, it was days from being razed.
“There was a church out of Emporia that was going to buy it for the rock, and then use the rock to build their church.”
Ensey said someone stepped up and turned the hotel into apartments.
“Jeremy’s grandparents used to live there,” she said. “Jeremy’s grandfather, T.C. Ensey, was a (medical) doctor who worked for 32 years at St. Luke Hospital.”
She said Jeremy remembers going to the Elgin to see them.
Ensey said she plans to keep the current Victorian theme.
“We are going to theme the rooms, and we are going to use people or places in our region,” she said.
The selling proposition is to give people a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a historical ambience.
“I would like to make each of the rooms sort of like their own little museum, but not clutter it up,” she said.
For example, Ensey said if they were to have an Eisenhower room, the space would contain information about Eisenhower.
“I think one thing the Elgin offers that some other places don’t is that there’s a lot of room for a family reunions, elopement packages and more,” she said.
“We want to offer not just the basic bed and breakfast here, but offer extra services if people want them, but we recognize not everyone will.”
Sherry Soyez, currently involved with the Elgin, told the Enseys that last year eight or nine weddings were held there.
Part of the construction is to add two bathrooms to the third floor, which is the only major renovation needed, Ensey said.
“The master bedroom (where the Coultiers live) is gorgeous and will remain similar to how it is now,” she added.
Right now, one room has a Jacuzzi, and the other rooms have a bath/shower combination.
“We are planning to put a Jacuzzi in another room and one (room) will even have a fireplace in the bathroom,” she said. “It will be really fancy, and I am really excited.”
Ensey said she will be working at the Elgin, but her hope is to focus on sales, marketing and customer service.
“I also envision a couple to live there to do customer service, the cleaning, cooking, have a high hospitality quotient and natural warmth and friendlinesss about them,” she said.
“(The Coultiers) really did such a nice job finishing the building, that there’s just not a lot of deep work to be done.
“They restored a beautiful piece of Marion’s history,” Ensey said.
Dream come true
The Enseys have been looking at purchasing the Elgin for a long time, Ensey said.
“Marion and the county might be small, but we have a lot to offer, and it was just so encouraging to go to the innkeepers’ conference because there are really some successful inns in remote locations—kind of like us,” she said.
Ensey said the keys are marketing and hospitality.
“People will keep coming back if they love the food, the place and how they feel while they are there,” she said. “It’s all about the experience.”
The business will be good for the county, not only for the sales tax revenue and transient tax revenue, but for bringing in people from the outside.
“If they see it, they will say, ‘Oh, we have to come,’ because that’s how people find out about places, whether it’s word-of-mouth or the website,” she said.
Ensey said the Elgin is a genuine opportunity.
“We have a lot of entrepreneurs around here and we have a lot of people who really understand this area,” she said.
“I would like, at some point, to partner with people to do tours or excursions, maybe a horseback riding trip, a cattle-driving experience, a fishing trip or hunting trip.”
The Enseys would also like to establish an application/educational process where we can assist those in the community who are interested in being in the tourism industry.
“There’s a lot to learn and do if you plan to host guests on some type of adventure,” she said.
The Enseys have three children, and they are deciding what jobs they want at the hotel.
“Our 7-year-old, Abree, said instead of making beds, can she show people to their rooms.”
The other two children are Paige, 9, and Peyton, 14.
“I think all of our communities go hand-in-hand,” Ensey said. “Putting up signage on U.S. highways 50 and 56 that looks the same or are similar, showing what’s in each community, would be neat.
“Let’s look at marketing our entire region.”