BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
It is said that the bed and breakfast inn was born of sharing food with friends. At Johnson Manor Bed and Breakfast, that’s just what guests are considered to be…friends. A warm smile and open doors await visitors from all over the world.
Larry and Carol Johnson, innkeepers of the charming bed and breakfast located at 600 11th Street, are actually originally from Texas. Their path to Mena is unlike many others who have found themselves here nestled in the scenic Ouachita Mountains. Larry and Carol are ‘retired’, but not in the typical sense. As owners and operators of the bed and breakfast there is always something to be doing to prepare the home for the next guests. In addition, to the bed and breakfast, Larry works as an EMT for Southwest Ambulance service. Mena is certainly a stark contrast from where the couple moved from just outside of Dallas, an opportunity that almost didn’t happen. Johnson Manor B&B almost never came to be.
After the tornado of 2009 left Mena in devastation, Larry, along with other fire fighters and service men, came to help rebuild Mena. He was a part of a relief and rebuild team called ‘New York Says Thank You’ (NYSTY), a group he was introduced to by a good friend from the National Fire Academy. “I first helped them rebuild a house in Texas and I was hooked. After the tornado in Mena, we came here to help rebuild a home for a family.” Because NYSTY is an all volunteer group, they are limited to 3-4 days for projects, but many of their volunteers remain in contact with communities and return to complete many of the initiated projects. “My friend Eric called and said he thought about going back up to Mena to finish working on the house and asked if I wanted to come. We had really connected with the family and so I said ‘sure’,” recalls Larry. This time, instead of coming alone, Carol came to see the beautiful area Larry had talked so much about.
While staying in Mena, the Johnsons stayed at Janssen Park B&B and learned a little more about the surrounding area. One afternoon while they were out driving around, they ran across an old Victorian house on Maple Street that caught Larry’s eye, it was the old Cox Mansion, and it was for sale. “Larry said, ‘Oh we should stop and look at the house’ and I said ‘no way’. I didn’t have any interest,” Carols recalls with a smile. They were driving out of town towards Texas when Larry felt compelled to go back and look at the house. “Just like that, we turned around and called and got a key to look at the inside of the house. As soon as we unlocked the door, we saw the wood work and fell in love.” Although they knew they wanted to make an offer on the house, it wasn’t necessarily with a bed and breakfast in mind. Larry and Carol had no real intentions at first to move to Mena, “We just thought this would be a weekend home for us, a place that we could get away for the weekend. It has obviously turned into much more than that.”
A walk through the doors of the large Victorian home showcases intricately detailed wood combined with Southern decorating, a unique blend that will make the most weary souls feel right at home. Natural pine floors flow throughout the home, making the already large home seem even bigger. As Carol says, “It’s Southern Hospitality in it’s finest fashion.” When they bought the 100 year plus home, there was extensive restoration work that needed to be completed to preserve and remodel the aging house. After two years of hard work, the home is once again ready to welcome guests and rings with charm. “We are very thankful for how it has turned out. We wanted to leave the integrity and charm of the home while still making necessary updates.
The Johnson’s are true examples of humble hospitality. While in their home, Larry and Carol do everything possible to bring rest and relaxation for their guests. “We know that when people want to get away or rest, they really want to do that. We have tried to arrange things to make their stay as convenient as possible.” Part of their hospitality and great guest service are the meals prepared in the home. For each meal, unless otherwise notified, the Johnsons prepare a hot, fresh cooked meal. Taking this service a step further, they provide the meals when the guests ask for them. “We have had guests that wanted to eat at 6:00a.m. and guests that don’t want breakfast until 10:00a.m.; either way, we serve them fresh meals. This is one of the biggest compliments we get from guests, they feel like we have went the extra mile to serve them.” Along with freshly prepared, home-cooked meals, there are four bedrooms that are all furnished with a bath, refrigerator, WiFi, and Direct TV. Each of these amenities make the stay all the more enjoyable and restful. In addition to guests staying with the Johnsons, they have also hosted luncheons, brunches, meetings, and birthday parties as well. “Our dining room provides a good place to come meet and eat. We have had birthday parties, wedding parties, and then just families coming to share a meal.”
Larry and Carol could have never dreamed of being where they are now with the bed and breakfast. “We are truly blessed to have had the people stay here with us. They have been so wonderful and kind. We have enjoyed the people the most. Traveling will take you all over the world, and places you have never been, and this is what the Johnsons love the most. “We like the world coming to us. When we open our doors, we open them to the world.” For more information about Johnson Manor or to book a room, go to their website johnsonmanorbb.com or call them at 214-673-7764.