Inn Love

WORDS Liesel Schmidt
IMAGES courtesy Lacey Hendrix

There’s something incredible about the prospect of sleeping in a place where history whispers from every crevice, where the corners of every room have a story to tell, and the past seems to collide with the present. And while one can only imagine who has slept in the eleven themed bedrooms located in the historic Beard and Lady inn in Chester, Arkansas, the connection to days gone by is undeniable—almost palpable.

Originally built as The Chester Inn in 1887 by prominent local business owner Jacob Yoes, the Beard and Lady Inn has an origin story that begins with life as a hotel and a dry goods store. Over the next seventy years, the inn survived multiple disasters. First, flames from the massive fires in 1908 and 1936—unquenchable blazes that nearly destroyed the entire town of Chester. Then, the town-wide floods of 1934 and 1957 once again challenged its strength. Incredibly, the inn was the only structure in Chester to withstand those disasters.

During the 1960s, The Chester Inn abandoned hotel life and found a new identity solely as a store. It wasn’t until 2003 that it was converted to a bed and breakfast and antique store—and it was then that Lacey Hendrix fell in love.

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It was a love that had planted seeds years before, during Lacey’s childhood, when she spent years in and around the inn. So enchanted was she by those memories that she eventually returned to the town of Chester to purchase the inn in 2019. Rather than simply taking over from the new owners, however, the next eighteen months were spent on a massive restoration project to the historic building that meticulously preserved its historic details and charm. Finally completed in 2021, it reopened as the newly named Beard and Lady, a place for those who want to get away from the bustle of modern life and take a journey back to a simpler time.

Of course there’s a much deeper story here—one that begins with a mountain girl named Lacey who fell in love and married a southern Louisiana boy named Lance. During the first few years of their marriage, the couple explored the Eastern Hemisphere, living in Egypt and traveling to Western Asia before settling in England. They’d had their first child, and their exploration of so many unique places had borne in Lacey a fascination with the herbs, spices, and oils typical of these countries. Coupled with her love for apothecary and natural remedies that had been ingrained in her as a child watching her mother, the fascination became the impetus for creating her very own line of personal care and grooming products which she launched in 2015.

Naturally, the company needed a name, but not just any name. It needed an inspired one. “My husband and I were brainstorming name ideas, and he reminded me of a picture I once drew of a bearded lady that we both loved,” Lacey recalls. “We liked the vintage circus-style feel of the picture, but when we tried to get the domain Beardedlady.com, it was taken. As we searched and pondered, we realized that ‘Bearded Lady’ sounds like ‘Beard-and-Lady.’ We thought this was even better and represented a personal care line that didn’t focus solely on men with beards.”

Having created a successful company that was growing, Lacey was ready for her next passion project. What she found was the inn that had so captivated her during her childhood—and all it needed was her touch and vision. Returning to Arkansas after decades away, Lacey came home with her husband and three children, ready to take on a project that would revitalize a piece of history, eventually adding an event space, a stage, and a mercantile shop offering Beard and Lady products, as well as nature-inspired workshops and immersive guest experiences in the inn’s themed rooms.

With the renovation and reopening of the inn came the need for a new name. It stood to reason they would rebrand as the Beard and Lady Inn, maintaining continuity with their apothecary line that would be a prominent part of the inn’s operations at the mercantile store. “We thought that continuing to use our name and apothecary-inspired brand would fit well in the 135-year-old building,” says Lacey.

After opening in October 2021, the Beard and Lady began taking reservations as a bed and breakfast as well as an event space with a large dining hall and kitchen. A restaurant on the first floor opened the first week of February 2022, serving inn guests and the public by reservation only. “We are excited to be working with Home Grown Native Foods to provide local-sourced foods on the menu,” Lacey says. “We will also be opening the Beard and Lady mercantile store and convention hall in March. The mercantile store will sell our branded beard oil, lip balm, soaps, hair pomade, and other wares from local small businesses. What makes the mercantile so unique is its location in the original mercantile part of the building, which includes the original shelves from 1887 that were shipped from Missouri on the Frisco Railroad. The conventional hall has seating for events plus a stage, sound system, and projector with screen.”

Respectfully maintaining the historic integrity of the building, the renovation completely restored the inn to a level of beauty and charm not found in modern hotels. The appeal is in that uniqueness, and Lacey and Lance are committed to offer an experience that is unforgettable. “It feels like you are traveling back in time to a small Ozark town near a beautiful creek surrounded by the Boston Mountains, and near an active train line,” Lacey says. “With so much screen time in our lives, we also decided to not have TVs or screens of any kind, though we do have Wi-Fi and a projector for events. The rooms are perfect for creativity, contemplation, romance, and adventure. As part of their stay, we encourage each of our guests to write a postcard and mail it at the post office next door, and we even provide postcards and stamps! We hope guests will want to stay around to eat in our restaurant, which serves high-quality, local foods sourced from the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas. For those looking to relax, we also have a licensed massage therapist and offer spa therapy. Additionally, we plan to have live bands out to play and will be hosting classes on wild foraging and perfume creation.”

Clearly, this project is one that Lacey and Lance Hendrix have fallen in love with, giving their all to bring it back to life and make it a vital part of the Ozark experience. With so much invested in its success, this stalwart landmark will live on for years to come.

Beard and Lady Inn
411 East Front Ave, Chester, Arkansas
919.971.0059
beardandladyinn.com

 

 

 

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