I read recently the current owners of La Font Inn in Pascagoula, MS are closing the hotel's food and beverage operations and will probably soon shutter the entire property. The region's already-depressed economy never really recovered following Hurricane Katrina, and business is difficult to find for a 50-year-old, unbranded hotel past its prime.
Of course, similar scenarios play out across the country all the time. Ailing economies, changing consumer tastes and plain-old old age often make hotels obsolete. However, this closing is nostalgic for many seasoned hoteliers because La Font Inn was owned for many years by the late Doug Fontaine and his family. Doug, a southern gentleman straight out of Central Casting, had a management style that is rare in today's corporate, bottom-line-first style of hotelkeeping. He ran the hotel as a de facto civic center; it was the place where politics, commerce, leisure and even some sordid activities all merged in a sleepy Gulf Coast town. It's even the spot where the career of now-disgraced U.S. Senator Trent Lott started and ended.
I knew Doug back in the 1970s and ‘80s, when he was very active in industry affairs and served as chairman of the AH&LA in 1982. As I said, he was a gentleman and part of a dying breed of hotel owners who view their businesses as more than just a cash cow or real estate appreciation machine.