It has been said that Jacksonville chooses its residents. That also may be true of the town’s businesses. Or so it seems for the Magnolia Inn bed and breakfast, which this year marks its tenth anniversary under the stewardship of owners Robert and Susan Roos.
It’s an anniversary the couple never would have predicted when they first laid eyes on the building on the corner of 5th Street and D Street.
“Were we looking to move from Orange County and open a B&B?” Susan asks wryly. “Oh gosh, no!”
“We were about to take our first vacation away from our kids,” Robert says, “and a friend of Susan’s put Jacksonville on the itinerary. We’d never heard of it, but she insisted we stop here and stay at the Magnolia Inn. So we did, and Susan kind of bonded with the owner of the place.”
The Rooses each had careers in the hospitality business, so they felt comfortable “just chatting” in general terms about what it was like to be on the owner side of the equation. “We stayed one night and had a great time,” Susan says. “Then we continued our trip.”
Not long after, they were surprised by a phone call “out of the blue” from the Inn’s owners. Recalls Susan: “They told us they were selling and suggested a price. It was a little crazy. I told them, ‘Gee, we don’t have any plans to move or buy a B&B.’ Then a couple more months passed and we got another call, a more reasonable one. I called Robert and said, ‘We wouldn’t buy a B&B, right? We’re not moving, right?’ The thing is, we were both going through transitions in our corporate careers, and our youngest son was finishing high school. It’s as though everything was aligned. All of a sudden our conversation stopped being about ‘We’re not doing this,’ and started being about—”
“—What if,” Robert says, finishing her sentence. “What if we could get something and put our own stamp on it. That was a scary thing to discuss, because we liked our corporate jobs, our regular paychecks, and the security of that life.”
But this time they were hooked. “It was like a package deal, because it included living in Jacksonville, which is so charming and friendly and accommodating,” Susan says.
“All of the stars were in the right place,” continues Robert. “We thought, if we don’t do this now, we never will.” And so, in 2007 they listed their home for sale, and Robert moved to Jacksonville to take over from the previous owners, while Susan wrapped up things down south.
The Jacksonville building, which has nine guest rooms, was in relatively good shape, having long ago been converted and restored from the sanitarium and birthing center it had been in 1928. When Susan joined Robert several months later, she put her own stamp on the Inn, which at the time, Robert says fondly, was “a bit grandmotherly, with doilies and sepia photographs.”
Today their Magnolia Inn offers a more eclectic vibe, beautifully decorated to Susan’s artistic tastes. “If it reflects a style, it’s between the southern United States with a hint of France,” she says. “And I named all the rooms after the women in our families—Robert’s and mine.”
One thing that has never changed, however, is the Inn’s namesake, the magnolia tree that still stands out front, proud and beautiful, directly across from Jacksonville’s City Hall.
As a quiet nod to their anniversary, the Rooses will share champagne and birthday cake with their registered guests in September.