Entrepreneurs Bo Henry, left, and Stewart Campbell recently finished renovating Merry Acres Inn and Events Center on Dawson Road.
ALBANY -- New owners Bo Henry and Stewart Campbell made certain the newly renovated Merry Acres Inn and Events Center complex had every modern accommodation available to guests and patrons.
But it's the past of the historic complex that inspired the pair to purchase it and spend more than $1 million in restoring it to its former grandeur.
"It was the family-style service and attention to detail by the Doziers and the Stanfills that made Merry Acres unique," Campbell said as he enjoyed a cool breeze provided by overhead fans on the porch of the Merry Acres complex's Manor House during a recent unseasonably warm late-winter afternoon. "That's what attracted us in the first place.
"We wanted to carry on the tradition of those families."
G.G. "Spec" Dozier made Merry Acres Albany's first motel in 1952, building 22 units around the family Manor House. Additional units were added in 1968, 1975 and 1989, when management of the establishment was passed down to Spec Dozier's children, Gerry Dozier and Gail Stanfill.
Henry and Campbell purchased the complex in early 2011 and spent the better part of that year overseeing a facelift befitting the property. Each of the Merry Acres Inn's 110 rooms was completely renovated and filled with new appliances and furniture.
"We made every room unique; everything in each room is new, from the flooring to the beds to the TVs to the vanities and mirrors and lighting ... the linens and towels, everything," Henry said as he showed off several of the renovated rooms, including the two-bedroom, two-bath "Rock House" suite.
"With the help of our wives (Kate Henry and Fran Campbell) and (interior designer) Kay Fuller, we made Merry Acres into a southern boutique inn. It's more in the style of the old farmhouse, complete with Southern hospitality."
Added Campbell: "It's now more like a bed and breakfast hotel."
Even with the constant renovations, the Merry Acres Inn did not close for even a day.
"I've never been so stressed because there was renovation work going on all the time," Merry Acres Inn General Manager Cathy Odell, who has been a part of the staff for the past 15 years, said. "What's made this transition easier, though, is that (Henry and Campbell) have the same philosophy about guest services that we've always had. And they kept on our entire staff.
"They've made changes, but they were all positive changes. The rooms are so beautiful, and we've upgraded everything from the linens to the towels to even the soap and shampoo. Those are little things, but we think such details are important."
In addition to upgrades of the 110 guest rooms, Henry and Campbell also renovated the Merry Acres Events Center, which has already hosted a number of business and social gatherings, and they turned the Manor House into a pub that will be the hub of "City Club" activities.
For yearly or monthly fees, a limited number of individual, family or corporate memberships may be purchased that will allow access to the pub and its upstairs gathering rooms and balcony areas, food and beverages prepared at the pub, access to the hotel pool, two yearly club member parties and discounts on hotel stays or event center rentals.
"What we have planned, I think, is going to blow people's minds," Campbell said. "There are so many caveats that people will not get anywhere else. We offer a free drink with check-in, we provide shuttle service, pool and towel service, airport pickup, and we deliver food from all three of our restaurants (Harvest Moon, The Catch and Henry Campbell's).
"We guarantee people will have an incredible experience when they stay here. We look at it like we're hosting a party every night."
Kitchen and serving staff will make a breakfast "dry run" during this week and will open the Merry Acres Restaurant to the public for daily breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting in June.
"Merry Acres is a part of Albany's history," Henry said. "We started looking at this complex because of the events center, but everything we do here fits in with what we're doing with the restaurants. And the Dozier and Stanfill families made (Merry Acres) into an institution.
"We moved 30 people who were on staff onto our payroll and added anywhere from 18 to 25 new or part-time jobs. We were able to pull this off because there was already an awesome staff in place. And we used local people to do the work, from Mack Wakeford's architectural design to Kay Fuller's interior design to the construction work as well. We wanted this to stay about Albany."
With the restaurant now set to become fully operational, the Merry Acres complex is on the verge of completion and ready to retake its place as a central part of the Albany experience.
"We've seen a lot of businesses fail over the last few years, but we feel good about what we've done here," Campbell said. "One thing both of our families have learned over the years is that if you give the people of Albany good service, they will support you."