OXFORD, MS—It all began when N. David Porter, owner of Four P Investments, couldn’t find a nice place to stay when visiting his son at the University of Mississippi. There was a lack of upscale hotels in this small college town, and much more, there were no available guestrooms to be found on game days at Ole Miss, unless you were willing to drive about 40 miles outside of town.
Porter took what was a point of frustration and turned it into first an idea and then a viable business opportunity with the launch of the Chancellor’s House, a new boutique hotel slated to open here in January 2017.
“There aren’t many upscale hotels in small college towns. On game day, it can [be]two to three hours [away]. He decided he wanted to build a hotel, one that is upscale and has all of the amenities, everything you could imagine,” said Fred Alias, president of the Chancellor’s House Management Group. “We want to provide as much service as we can possibly throw at anybody. If it’s legal, we’re going to provide it. We’ve got contract vendors on private planes, if anyone wants to watch a play that day or go duck hunting or fishing. There are all kinds of literary tours—John Grisham lives here—and there are many cultural opportunities here.”
The hotel, which will offer 31 rooms and suites, will be outfitted with all the comforts of a fine Southern residence, including Narumi fine bone china, 100% Egyptian cotton Rivolta Carmignani Italian bed linen, bath amenities by James Heeley of Paris and the lobby’s centerpiece—a high-tech Steinway & Sons Spirio.
“During the planning stages, I saw a rendering of a piano in front of a fireplace and I said, ‘It’s got to be a Steinway.’ That was a year and nine months ago. I saw it a few weeks ago and it’s magnificent,” said Alias. “Our intent is to have certain weekends for a special musical guest to come in and we’ll have a whole weekend dedicated to it. The Steinway & Sons Spirio was one of the best things we’ve done.”
Jim Hoover, Steinway & Son’s director of sales training & promotions, understands the devotion and status that follows a Steinway piano. Having worked for the piano manufacturer for 21 years, he’s a bit of an amateur historian and proudly talks about the brand’s legacy.
“Look around the world, 98% of all concert halls have Steinway grand pianos. They’re handmade in America and it takes one year to build a Steinway grand piano. It’s the king of instruments,” said Hoover. “They chose our product because anyone that comes to perform on it will want what Steinway offers. You can hear every nuance, every tone and everything you want it to do—no other piano can do that.”
What makes this particular Steinway piano stand out is its engineering. It’s a high-resolution player piano system, which is only available on select Steinway grand pianos. According to Hoover, a listener’s experience with the music played by a Spirio piano will provide the most accurate reproduction of a live performance.
“We’d been working on a player piano before I started working for the company. We are purists, but we knew there was a consumer need. We wouldn’t give up our quality for that need. We had to find a way to maintain the quality and fulfill the need,” said Hoover. “We can have you sit down and play, and it plays it back 99.9% of the way you played it. The players up until now were noisy and you could hear the mechanisms. I’d say it’s 100% accurate and the musicians who’ve heard it are speechless.”
As hotels seek to distinguish themselves in the era of Airbnb, there’s a certain allure to a Steinway grand piano that is enduring and, at the soon-to-open Chancellor’s House, the team is eager to capitalize on this and other luxury amenities as they prepare to welcome guests and locals alike to this new boutique hotel.
“My hope is when they get in their car or plane they look at each other—assuming there’s two people—and go ‘Wow, what an experience that was.’ The only thing we want them to want is to stay another day,” said Alias. “Our goal is for you to not just come back but to not want to leave.”