On a sunny and abnormally warm fall afternoon, I pull our new Director of Hotel Operations, Andrea Morton, out of the office and onto a bench outside of our building. The summer flew by, and as we move into fall it seems like there’s a critical decision that has to be made everyday in order to get the hotel up and running. As you can imagine, it was nice to take a break, sit outside, and reflect on how far we’ve come.
It’s long -and I mean LONG- overdue that we formally introduce Andrea. We welcomed her to our team in late September, although it feels like she’s been with us since day one. Read on to learn about the unique perspective she brings to the project, how she fell in love with the high country, and how she envisions the hotel serving the greater Boone community.
From left to right: Hunter Hallmark, Director of Food & Beverage. Andrea Morton, Director of Hotel Operations. Denise & Fulton Lovin, owner/operators of The Horton Hotel & Rooftop Lounge. PC: Natural Craft Photography.
From the low country…
Andrea: “I’m originally from Atlanta, but I spent over eight years managing my aunt’s bed and breakfast in Savannah, Georgia.” The Forsyth Park Inn is a historic, twelve room B&B located right downtown. “My aunt owned the bed and breakfast for about 17 years, and I was her right hand woman.”
Andrea even stayed on for two different ownerships after her aunt sold the inn. Andrea laughs: “I had to learn how to do it all. I was an innkeeper, a manager, a wedding coordinator, and even a breakfast chef. I grew their wedding business through creating packages that no other hotels & inns were offering at the time.”
“Hospitality just feels right,” she says. She reflects fondly on her childhood, remembering how much she used to love playing hostess at her family’s parties. “I’ve always felt inclined to serve others,” she smiles. Sitting outside with her and soaking up the last bit of late afternoon sun, that was something I could pick up on instantly. She’s genuinely warm and empathetic, the type of person you feel like you’ve known forever.
…to the high country!
“In 2015 I married my high school sweetheart. We met in eighth grade health class when I wrapped his arm in an ace bandage,” she laughs. “His family owns a home in Valle Crucis, so naturally we decided to get married there in October.” Despite the fact that there was a hurricane on their wedding weekend, the two still fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains. They just knew that this was where they wanted to be.
Andrea & Sandy Morton on their wedding day.
It can be hard to make a living in the mountains of western North Carolina. But as fate would have it, Andrea’s husband found the perfect opportunity for his love of historic preservation and woodworking when a friend of a friend offered to sell the newlyweds his collection of rustic farm tables, benches, and pews. So, shortly after being married Andrea and her husband, Sandy, started their own wedding business: Mountain Craft Event Rentals. On weekends, Sandy and Andrea can often be found on wedding deliveries with their chocolate lab pup, Mila, in tow.
Sandy moved to the high country first, and after about a year or two of commuting from Savannah to Boone, Andrea made a permanent move to Boone to focus on building their business. Andrea: “As a couple, we grew in amazing ways when we started this business together, but it still felt like something was missing for me. There were many times that I thought about going back to Savannah to work at the bed and breakfast. I really missed it.”
In addition to managing Mountain Craft Event Rentals, Sandy found work at the Horton Hotel. He’s helped create and build so many of the custom woodworking elements that you’ll see in our rooms. He found out that we were looking for a Director of Hotel Operations, and the rest is history.
Finding her “home” at the Horton
The sun sinks lower in the sky, and the temperature drops. A subtle reminder that winter is on it’s way after all. Andrea sits up a little straighter, tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and her face lights up when I ask about her vision for the hotel.
“I’m so grateful about being able to come in at this juncture. I love seeing the space come together and watching the old blend with the new. Every single detail in the space helps tell our story.” She pauses, “I’m also really excited about partnering with small businesses in the high country. So far we’ve established partnerships with local artists, the Valle Crucis Lavender House, Bald Guy Brew, and more. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with local vendors.”
Detailed photograph of custom ironwork on our mezzanine floor. PC: Light by Dawn.
Andrea is also excited about team building and envisions a staff passionate about top notch customer service. “That’s something Boone really needs,” she says, “we need to set the bar higher for customer service.” She sees the Horton functioning as a catalyst for positive change in Boone. “I really want to see new, younger small business owners feeling a pull to set up shop in downtown Boone. I hope that through the Horton we’re able to redefine what’s possible in Boone.”
All of that being said, Andrea is really adamant about Boone remaining Boone. “Of course we don’t want Boone to lose its charm…it has its own special vibe, and that’s something we want to preserve. In building the hotel, we’ve tried to be really mindful of that.” As the sun sinks lower and we wrap up the interview, Andrea reflects on how Boone has become her home. “I’ve always felt a draw to to the mountains. I feel so lucky to be a part of this project. Things just feel right.”
Book your stay at the Horton Hotel
We can’t wait to have you stay with us in downtown Boone’s historic Horton Hotel. We’re now accepting reservations for January of 2019, so book now! Don’t forget to sign up for our email list here so you’re first to receive exclusive offers, updates, and news.
Author: Megan Biddix