ENGLEWOOD — Murray and Jennifer Mason wanted to pursue a life of building homes in Englewood, but found a gem purchasing the Veranda Inn.
“This is our first crack (in the lodging business),” Jennifer said. “We just saw it as a really good potential for business, a diamond in the rough.”
The inn is located on the bank of Ainger Creek at 2073 S. McCall Road, Englewood. It’s one of the few hotels on the mainland in Englewood.
The Masons moved from Canada in February. Jennifer was a hairdresser for 20 years and owned a salon for five years. Murray worked in multiple industries from construction to trucking for more than 25 years as a jack-of-all-trades.
“We have been coming to Florida twice a year for 10 years vacationing,” Jennifer said. “We used to come here in our mobile home.”
Jennifer said their real estate development aspirations were put on hold after they moved in the first home they built.
“I was on the computer browsing the different kinds of businesses,” she said. “We discovered that the Veranda Inn was for sale.”
Murray’s prior experience shaped his decision on the inn.
“We fell in love with this area in Florida,” he said. “When we use to come down, it’s hard to find a nice motel.”
Murray said since acquiring the inn from Tom Dignam, renovating has been a lot of work.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” he said. “When we get this place renovated, then it’ll be a nice, easy job. We’re doing three-to-four rooms at a time. We have contractors coming in — all local. I figure we’ll go through five-to-six rooms a week.”
Jennifer said the inn will remain open during renovations and hopes for completion within the next six months.
“Once we finish remodeling, we’re renaming it to the Gem Coast Inn,” she said.
Since they took over the motel, it has become smoke-free. The inn will start offering continental breakfasts after renovations and will remain pet-friendly.
“The breakfast will include tea, coffee, fruit, cereal and pastries,” she said. Jennifer has been learning from the retained staff about operations.
“I’ve been learning front desk, ordering the supplies and getting dirty with painting,” she said.
Murray handles the maintenance and finances while working closely with 17-year inn manager Jerry Templeton on renovations.
“Murray and Jen are good energetic people,” Templeton said. “The transition has been easy. It’s about as normal as it is.”
Templeton has been around since the last renovation eight years ago.
“I’m looking forward to the change to the Gem Coast Inn,” he said. “I think so will our visitors and the local community. We’ll have more amenities this time which we’re still working on details. My capacity will be same. I’ll probably be more hands-on. I like the accessibility ownership has.”
For more information, go to verandainnenglewood.com or call 941-475-6533.