Monte Vista's new owner promises 'boutique touches,' historic charm

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

For nearly a century, May has started a busy summer season at the Monte Vista, and this year is no exception.  

Nearly 250 people showed up to the Monte Vista Hotel on Easter when Milton's Cuisine & Cocktails, which will open there permanently this May, served brunch.

 Guests who check into the historic Black Mountain hotel, which changed ownership in February, will find that, while much remains the same, the new owners have paid attention to details.

Mike Boles plans to add "boutique touches" to the Monte Vista Hotel, which he purchased earlier this year.

The first time he walked through the doors, long-time hospitality entrepreneur Mike Boles saw “nothing but potential” in the hotel, he said. Boles, who had developed concepts for bars, restaurants and lounges in Atlanta and Miami, was immediately inspired by the Monte Vista. He approached the owners about buying the property.

“I courted Barney (Fitzpatrick) and Sue (Conlon) for a year; it took a long time to get the deal done,” Boles said of the last owners, who received a warm sendoff from the community in February. “They did a great job of renovating it and getting it where it is today. We’re hoping to take it to the next level with boutique touches.”

Boles plans to "take the Monte Vista to the next level," as a destination for tourists and locals alike. To that end, he has partnered with Southern Proper Hospitality, which owns and operates nine restaurants in the Atlanta area. One of those establishments is Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails in the historic district of Crabapple, Georgia in Fulton County.

The restaurant will bring its “new Southern cuisine,” which emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients, to the Monte Vista in mid-May, Boles said.

“Milton’s and the Monte Vista is a match made in heaven,” he said. “The quality of the food and a fine dining concept that’s already successful in a small town setting make it a perfect fit.”

The existing restaurant at the hotel was closed once the purchase was finalized, and the kitchen was retrofitted to prepare for the new restaurant. The town got its first glimpse of the Black Mountain iteration of Milton's during an Easter brunch, in which the restaurant offered an abbreviated menu at its future location.

“It was a great way to introduce what we’re doing here to the community,” Boles said. “We served around 250 people that day and hosted Easter egg hunts for about 20 kids.”

The brunch, which featured entrees like Apple Brined Airline Chicken Breasts with white wine demi-glace and Rosemary Braised Lamb Shank with whiskey peach jam, gave guests an opportunity to see some of the touches added by Boles in recent weeks.

The hotel’s bar, currently open Friday and Saturday from 5-10 p.m., will resume full-time service when Milton's opens its doors, according to Boles. 

Gone are the walls that separated the lobby area, a change that allows natural light to brighten the space, Boles pointed out. A lighter shade of paint also gives the large room a brighter feel, he added.

“The little details that go into a place really catch people’s attention,” he said. “Those kinds of touches are examples of the changes we'll be making.”

The original Monte Vista was opened in 1919 by Mrs. L.E. Phillips on the former site of the Old Black Mountain School. The current brick structure was erected in 1937 to replace the outdated wooden one. The property, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, remained in the Phillips family until 2009.

Fitzpatrick and Conlon bought the building in 2010 after it was foreclosed on. About four years ago, they updated the building’s plumbing, electrical system and heating ventilation and air conditioning system. They also replaced the roof.

Boles said he plans to add modern touches while maintaining "the historic charm” of the Monte Vista, which will celebrate its centennial next year.

“We have brand new light fixtures in the lobby, as well as new tables and chairs,” he said. “We’ve replaced the old plastic room key tags with brass ones, which is another detail that will help provide guests with that boutique hotel experience.”

Boles recently introduced a new logo for the Monte Vista, which features a silhouetted mountain landscape across the letter “M.”

As Boles makes improvements to the 49-room hotel, much of it will remain familiar to regular visitors. The property will once again host the Black Mountain Beautification Committee’s annual garden show and sale from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 19.

The fundraiser Deck the Trees, which raises money for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry’s Fuel Fund, will also return this holiday season. The Red House Studios and Gallery, which sits on the Monte Vista’s nearly three acres, will continue to be the home of the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League.

“This hotel is such a key part to this community, and that’s something we want to build on,” Boles said. “The main thing we want to focus on, though, is offering our guests a unique experience that they’ll remember long after they visit the Monte Vista.”