/Clarksdale’s new 20-room artist-run hotel hopes to spark a downtown economic boom

Clarksdale’s new 20-room artist-run hotel hopes to spark a downtown economic boom

Aallyah Wright (@aallyahpatrice), February 20, 2019,
CLARKSDALE — Downtown Clarksdale’s latest attraction has opened its doors for its unique lodging option. After a year of construction, the Travelers Hotel is a 20-room cooperative hotel run by artists. It opened its doors in late 2017. It is “chic and unpretentious and authentic,” says Ann Williams, co-owner of the hotel and executive Director for Coahoma Collective. Coahoma Collective is a nonprofit organization that promotes arts and community development. The Collective Seed and Supply Co. is a general store on Delta Avenue. The hoteliers created the hotel to be a space for artists, both local and far-flung, to exhibit their work and acquire ownership in the nonprofit. They also wanted to create a “community hub” that could be easily accessible by all who entered the building. “Those people will stroll the streets of downtown and stop by other businesses. “It’s a great economic engine, that we’ve needed all the time,” stated Ken Murphy, Ward 2 Commissioner. He also said that the hotel could benefit all local businesses. Charles Coleman, coop member and artist, is the community engagement director at Coahoma Collective. He envisions the space being used for art shows, community gatherings, and entertainment nights. “Most of our lobby area is used – and will be used–for community events so it’s another way for guests also to experience Clarksdale culture and vibes, seeing what’s happening, talking to people, and hanging out at bars.” Coleman is joined by three co-op members, two employees, and the general store that manages the hotel. It is hoped to have six to seven members of the co-op. They work between two and three days per week. Members typically work 24 hours per week. Artists are provided with a stipend, free accommodation and board. Artists can work during flexible hours to allow them to pursue their creative interests. Deandre Metcalf is a co-op member and owns and runs Third Street Bistro next to the hotel. The owners have a plan in place that allows artists who are visiting town to exchange their art for a hotel room. Chuck Rutledge, Clarksdale native and economic developer, said that they can use their medium to exchange currency. Although the hotel appeals to artists, it is the unique atmosphere that draws people in. The hand-built furniture (headboards and desks, as well as vanities and vanities) is what draws people in. Rutledge said that the hotel is a modern version of the old Travelers Inn. It has full bathroom facilities in the bedrooms. The building now housing the hotel was once known as the Websters Building in the 1920s. There were 13 rooms upstairs, with a lavatory located at the end. This was built for railroad workers. The lower floor housed a retail store and a printing firm. The interior of the Travelers today is a mirror image of what it was like in 1920s. Williams stated that there was an obligation to the building’s original owners and that they wanted to renovate it in a manner that was authentic. “I think that when you enter those upstairs rooms, you feel like you’re in a cool, nice place. But, you also know that you’re surrounded with a historic building that probably has a lot to tell you.” Kinchen “Bubba”, O’Keefe, the new director of Coahoma County Tourism Commission, and a former owner of a hotel, stated that it was important to preserve the original character of the building. People who come to Travelers experience a bit of the old hotel from the 1920s. O’Keefe said that they get all the modern amenities such as WiFi, heating and air, bathrooms and showers, and that’s what Clarksdale’s travelers want. It raises the bar.” The opportunity for hotel owners to create more entrepreneurs and give them ownership of the hotel is crucial to the sustainability of the project. “Ultimately, we want to move on. Rutledge stated that “We’re the most experienced people, so we were the sponsors of this entire thing. We’d like to see people take over and move on.” “We’d love to make that capacity available to someone else.” The team received $2.4 million in donations and grants, and applied for historical tax credits. The Walton Family Foundation is Mississippi Today’s main funder. These leaders have a vision for the future of downtown. Murphy, Ward 2 commissioner has seen the project from “the dirt up.” Murphy stated that he has been there every step along the way to help whenever he is needed. Even serving as a guest bartender at the soft opening in February 14. Murphy said, “I have been so engaged because it brings benefits and breeds more life into the things we have going on.” “I’ll be there for them whenever they need me.” Other leaders in the city agreed that this was a great opportunity to keep downtown thriving economically. Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy stated that the hotel will be of boutique-ish design so taxpayer dollars can boost the economy. It’s an ideal amenity that combines all downtown activities, including blues and tourism. With the Third Street Bistro, all these are fantastic add-ons for downtown. It’s working well for 2019,” Jon Levingston, the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said: “They have contributed towards the redevelopment of downtown. The hotel has a cool, hip and creative vibe. It is also well-decorated. They are a welcome addition to our community. I appreciate their contribution to the local economy.” Williams said. Now that there is an inventory of rooms – seven downstairs and thirteen upstairs – it’s time for “heads to bed.” Williams stated that while I think the concept is great, it’s worthless if we don’t bring in the revenue. Clarksdale will continue to thrive if we continue to support our local businesses and hotels in Clarksdale.” Coahoma Collective’s arts-driven programming is supported by the revenue generated from the hotel. Rutledge says, “The money here stays there.” It doesn’t go towards Hilton headquarters. It’s all local stuff.”