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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Switzerland Inn near Blue Ridge Parkway changes hands for $15.6 million

A Mississippi-based family business with a long history in the lodging industry has acquired the Switzerland Inn, a 70-room resort near the Blue Ridge Parkway in unincorporated Little Switzerland.

Jackson, Mississippi-based MMI Hospitality bought the inn and two adjacent homes from Gary Jensen, whose family has owned the Mitchell County resort for about 40 years. The sales price was $15.6 million, according to Marcus & Millichap, which marketed the property for Jensen.

“We’re a long-term hold kind of group and the culture that the Jensen family has built matches what we believe our culture is,” says MMI President Micajah Sturdivant IV. “We believe we’re a legitimate suitor for what Gary has cared for during his whole career and we’re excited to be responsible for his team.”

While a lodge was first established at Little Switzerland in about 1910, the current property dates to the 1950s. Gary Jensen’s father, who was from Jacksonville, Florida, bought the business from Bob Schwebke in 1983 after vacationing in an adjacent home.

Because of winter weather, the inn typically closes in late October, then reopens in early April. Little Switzerland has an altitude of about 3,468 feet, with views of Mount Mitchell and other peaks. The inn is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. MMI doesn’t plan to change the schedule, though the rest of its businesses operate year-round.

Harvard Business School classmates Mike Sturdivant and Earle Jones started their lodging business in 1956 as an early partner of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, says Micajah Sturdivant, who is a third-generation family member to work in the business.

It now operates more than a dozen hotels and restaurants, ranging from a Cambria Hotel in Fort Mill, South Carolina, to The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort in St. Simons Island, Georgia. It is working on lodging deals in Asheville and Wilmington, Sturdivant says. It also manages the Fontana Village Resort & Marina in western North Carolina, under a lease with the government.

He says legacy resorts such as the Switzerland Inn represent a different challenge than traditional franchised hotels.

“We’ve been in the business a long time and worked with independent properties for a long time,” he says. “We’re blessed to have a long-term view.”

Like many resorts, The Switzerland Inn has benefited from surging demand, he adds. “They were having a humdinger of a year.” MMI doesn’t expect to make major changes at the resort, which employs about 80 staffers.

Still, he says the property has lots of potential growth, noting it’s not as well known as some North Carolina peers, while the mountainous region east of Asheville hasn’t received as much attention as the state’s more western areas.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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