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|Monday, October 12, 2009|
When I toured the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg this past spring I wore a hard hat, a safety vest and boots to get through the muddy grounds and unfinished construction. In five short months, the project has been completed, a dream has come true, dozens have found jobs and a nervous bride has been made very happy.
The Allison officially opened Sept. 25 and on that weekend hosted its first wedding. General manager Pierre Zreik took me on that spring tour and told me then that they absolutely had to make their deadline because they had a wedding booked for opening weekend and you never make a bride mad. Just a few days ago, the happy bride proudly sent Zreik wedding pictures.
The dream completed is Joan Austin’s. Austin founded dental equipment maker A-Dec with her husband Ken in 1964. Over the decades, she acquired 450 nearby acres, all within the urban growth boundary. The inn sits on 35 of those acres about two miles of Highway 99W and construction began in November 2007. When I interviewed Austin in April, she would not say (and has not said) what the Allison cost. It only mattered to her that she was creating a gift to the community she had lived in for 60 years, one where she built a business and a home and raised a family. Her dream was to leave behind a place that would provide jobs, a community gathering spot, and a point of pride.
The recession has put on hold a master plan that calls for a shopping village and homes, but the Allison is open for business and humming.
The inn brought to town about 165 fulltime positions, an extraordinary job bump for tiny Newberg. Since it opened, Zreik says that the 85 guestrooms and suites, which are priced from $295 to $1,100, have been fully booked on the weekends. Short-term room bookings are strong and business for the 12,000 square feet of corporate meeting space is brisk. Sunday brunch has been a huge hit and the success of the 6,000-square-foot restaurant that seats 85 “is beyond my imagination,” says Zreik. The menu is full of locally sourced ingredients and Oregon wines, and the inn has its own garden. The prices are steep ($24-$36 for dinner entrees; $14 for pancakes), but it’s an interesting menu and you can get an affordable appetizer and glass of wine and still enjoy the same beautiful views of the valley that a high-priced meal affords you.
This time the tour I took on a heart-breaking cool and sunny fall day this past weekend was self-guided. The Allison is a real beauty. Full of local art and custom fabrics and furnishings, it is luxurious without being stuffy or off-putting. It is much like its creator: friendly and intimate, yet elegant. As Austin promised, there are many verandas and patios full of comfortable chairs facing the warm sun where anyone can sit and enjoy the surroundings.
The Allison is an expensive place to eat or stay (and the spa prices are also steep), but it costs nothing to come sit on one of the porches and enjoy the view. If you hang around long enough, you’ll no doubt see Joan herself. If you do, make sure you thank her for the gift.
Robin Doussard is Editor of Oregon Business.
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