New Way to Stay
article by VANELIS RIVERA / photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
Ted Condrey and his wife
Roxy are pushing
THE BOUNDARIES OF TRAVEL
and leisure one property at a time.
AS I FLITTED ALONG LOVERS LANE ON A GOLF CART DRIVEN BY PROPERTY OWNER TED CONDREY, IT BECAME SIGNIFICANTLY CLEAR THAT OCEAN SPRINGS,MISSISSIPPI IS A MÉLANGE OF THE STRANGE, NOVEL AND FRESH.
Our trek down the heavily shaded street allowed me to observe the wide array of Carroll Ishee homes known for their harmonious form and function, often resembling large tree houses that seamlessly blend with the outdoor environment. Ted’s enthusiasm was unrestrained and revealed that his drawing force to the hospitality industry was not about playing Monopoly with his properties. “If you design something for money, you’ve kind of missed the point,” he asserted. A few minutes before the golf cart tour, we were in the perfect spot for an interview—a speakeasy-style room hidden behind a bookshelf at the craft cocktail and wine bar adjacent to one of his accommodations, The Roost Boutique Hotel. There, Ted exposed a rare and genuine interest in seeking out off-the-beaten-path architecture and lodging, which he has readily adapted and applied to his current business enterprises. A Renaissance man of sorts, Ted, alongside his wife Roxy, is pushing the boundaries of travel and leisure one property at a time.
Both husband and wife are Louisiana born and raised. Ted is from Lake Providence while Roxy is from Tallulah. This power couple met during high school and reconnected during their years at Louisiana State University. After graduating, he went into real estate development at a company located in the Florida Panhandle. Cultivating a keen sense for property oversight, he shifted his attention into real estate. In 2006, Roxy happened upon Ocean Springs, and it didn’t take much for the duo to take the leap of faith into the beach-side move. At the time, there were no vacation residences in the downtown area so they established their first leisure project, The Inn, which now consists of a collection of boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts all located in the downtown area. Though these small hotels only boast a few suites, they are packed with personality, each having their own story. Even better, they are a short walk from Bright Eyed Brew Co., a quaint specialty coffee spot that quickly won me over with its sea-green, neon sign reminding customers to “Be Bright,” multicolored mural that made for the perfect selfie background, and pristinely mixed iced latte (with an extra shot of espresso).
Even after this venture, the couple kept bust at their real estate business, Rain Residential. Their intent was to offer clients a place to rest as they underwent the difficult task of house hunting in the area. It didn’t take long for The Inn to become increasingly more popular than Rain, and eventually they began adding to their leisure-stay properties, which now include The Beatnik and a recently acquired hotel across the water called Gulf Hills, a historical gem dating back to 1927 frequented by major players like Elvis. Though initially they weren’t setting out to expand into the hospitality industry, their keen understanding and appreciation of the area has allowed them to swiftly become a part of what makes Ocean Springs unique.
In 2006, Ted and his business partner began renovations on The Roost Boutique Hotel, originally a small homesite dating back to 1894. With utmost care, the team restored the building in a way that celebrates the space’s cultural heritage. This has included carefully maintaining the two majestic oak trees towering over the two-story building, laden with wiry Spanish moss lazing over giant, sturdy branches. Additionally, the wood from the original structure was saved, twenty layers of paint sanded down, and used as an accent wall or ceiling in every room, a tribute to the rich history of the property. “Then, from a design standpoint, my wife and my partner’s wife really took the lead in that,” said Ted. Wanting to keep the colors and architecture as “rustic and woodsy” as possible, they kept earth tones like light greens and browns, a natural vibe that veered off the path of the typical beach-town, pink, orange, and blue pastels. Each of their eleven suites are luxuriously designed and furnished with relaxation in mind. Described as “chic beach-shack decor” by Architectural Digest, each room is distinct in its accents but emotively similar. Guests, who are usually traveling from anywhere between Texas and Georgia, appreciate the quick getaway, describing it as romantic, charming, and even a “welcome respite.” Between the sweeping oaks, sun-kissed porches, and dreamy suites, it’s easy to feel transported to another place and time.
The Beatnik boasts four Sandinavian style floating cabins, each complete with a wet bar, private outdoor shower, and lush, spacious king-sized bed.
A few years later, the Condreys had another project underway of the likes unseen in the area. Located only minutes away from The Roost and inspired by the Beatnik culture and adventure seekers of the 1950s and 60s, the Condreys aimed to create a “new way to stay.” They hired New Orleans architect Charles Neyrey, whom Ted had met in college. Ray came up with two designs, one was more modern and incorporated large sections of glass walls, but the Condreys felt it was missing the cottage element that speaks to the southern coast. So Ray came up with the rain screens. The result, four Sandinavian style floating cabins, each complete with a wet bar, private outdoor shower, and lush, spacious king-sized bed. “He did an excellent job with it. It’s unreal.” The Beatnik demands and inspires freedom of expression, most impressively so in its interior, designed by Roxy. Drawing from natural elements, it incorporates timeless mid-century accents, such as wood slat walls made from wood native to the area, a tile backsplash adding a pop of color, and jute woven rugs. The boho chic vibe is minimalist and creates a comfortable and elevated atmosphere. A plunge pool, fire pit, and garden add to the artsy, zen-like amenities. When I saw the outdoor shower, I was instantly transported to the island I grew up in. For some, it may be out of their element to shower outdoors, but even if you leave your bathing suit on, showering outdoors is one of the most freeing experiences you can gift yourself. “I can’t figure out a time when you wouldn’t use it on vacation,” commented Ted. “If it’s raining, that’s good. It’s lightning, better. It’s cold? Turn it on hot. It’s hot? Turn it on cold.” Ultimately, he wanted to push the concept of doing on vacation what you wouldn’t do at home, such as living like a beatnik nomad for a few days (or a few weeks).
“So, I get bored extremely easily,” confessed Condrey. “And, I’m a big believer of like, wouldn’t it be cool if and why not this and what if.” From The Beatnik and beyond, he wants his stamp at Ocean Springs to say “this is different.” Here, Ted speaks to the current state of the industry and the quickly rising trends that may just become staples. “We’re just scratching the
surface of where tourism is going to go,” and technology is a main driver of that, he said. For instance, guests that check-in at The Inn and The Beatnik can take advantage of their “selfless check-in” system. Nevertheless, Ted seeks to keep looking out for the next best thing, not afraid of pushing the envelope or taking a risk. He predicts it won’t be long before checking it at the restaurant bar becomes a thing. “I’ve been wanting to do it for like ten years.” It may seem odd, but he likes the idea of a guest checking-in and immediately getting a complimentary drink.
Ted appreciates architecture that integrates nature and builds with nature in mind. “I think it’s very difficult and almost disrespectful to assume you can do something on one piece of property that you don’t another. So, I see property very specific. This idea of hitting repeat is disrespecting the dirt,” said Ted, adding, “Your natural elements are the key to what you should be building around. We shouldn’t be cutting down a tree if you can build right within the tree.” From a business standpoint, the Condreys are different because they are very site specific, and believe that “site drives the design.” His next endeavor speaks to this. Currently, the Condreys are thinking about hobbit houses as their next alternative lodging project. “There is this guy in Mexico, that is making these prefab hobbit shells.” Once the shells arrive, the set-up would consist of placing earth and grass over them, so they’d end up looking like hobbit holes, consequently adding to the already flourishing ecosystem of Porter Avenue.
“A lot of times people just assume that you’re going to keep doing the same thing” said Ted, maintaining that he’s not interested in creating a franchise. His products are different because he understands the intricacies of the land he intends to build on. “We’re just scratching the surface on where we would like to get.” The Condreys are creating spaces where tourists of all kinds can be in close proximity to everything local. It was only a nine minute stroll to the downtown area (my mission: to browse the specialty shops on Washington Street). On the way, I passed quaint homes with flourishing verdure, a “free books” stand (compliments of the town’s Episcopal church), and lively birds celebrating the day, a whimsical reflection of my own enjoyment. Upon leaving Ocean Springs, and the enveloping calm provided by The Roost Boutique Hotel, I couldn’t help but consider my experience as multilayered. So, whether you choose to cozily roost or take a much needed, peaceful beat, rest assured that visiting a Condrey property will inspire you to find new ways to stay.
The Roost Boutique Hotel is located at 604 Porter Avenue Ocean Springs MS 39564 and The Beatnik is located at 402 Porter Ave, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. Follow both lodgings on Instagram and Facebook for some travel inspiration and access to their check-in links.