A confident beginning

Mercersburg Inn under new ownership

Mercersburg Inn under new ownership

July 18, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, PA. - Fifteen bedrooms and as many baths, three dining rooms, a great room, a large tile-floored study, a game room, double oak-paneled stairways leading up from the generous foyer, basement living quarters and a full attic all fit nicely inside the 20,000-square-foot, four-story, brick building known as the Mercersburg Inn.

The nearly century old inn and restaurant at 405 S. Main St. was bought in May by Jim and Lisa McCoy, a New York couple with no experience in the hospitality business. Walter and Sandy Filkowski owned the inn for eight years before selling it to the McCoys.

The inn is surrounded by nearly six acres of lawns and formal gardens. There are 11-foot ceilings on all three floors.


"Just changing a light bulb involves height," Jim McCoy said. "It's a full-time job. I don't know how many light bulbs there are in here."

The McCoys lived in an apartment in Manhattan before Jim took early retirement after 18 years at JPMorgan Chase bank. He was vice president in charge of technology.

The couple, working through a broker, looked at more than 40 bed-and-breakfast inns and nearly bought one in Vermont, but that deal fell through.

They found Mercersburg and didn't need to look any further.

"Look at this building," Jim McCoy said to Lisa when he first laid eyes on it. "The inside was even more spectacular than the outside."

They read books on innkeeping and took a hands-on class at an inn in Vermont. They also credit their patient and experienced staff in learning the business.

All but the chef stayed on when the McCoys took over. Kelly Shay was brought in as the new chef.

The McCoys bought the inn furnished, equipped, decorated and ready for business. They added a few prized pieces from their Manhattan apartment. They also brought their telephone from the apartment.

"Its ring makes us feel at home," Jim McCoy said.

McCoy, who said he's a good cook, helps in the kitchen, especially with his own breakfast specialties and baked bread. He also is a finish carpenter who designed and renovated their New York apartment, his wife said.

Lisa McCoy was born in Moscow and came to the United States as a political refugee in 1981. She earned a degree in engineering in Russia and worked as a consultant for a software company in New York.

They have been married for 18 years.

The restaurant is open to the public Thursday through Sunday. Its entrees average between $20 and $30. It offers a fixed-price dinner at $55 and a prime rib special on Thursdays for $18.95.

Room rates run from $139 to $289.

The inn is available for meetings, events and weddings.

The McCoys are the building's fifth owners and its fourth innkeepers.

It's hard to pin down the exact year it was built.

According to a brochure, it was built by Ione and Harry Byron as a private home they called Prospect. Construction is believed to have started in 1909 and completed in 1911.

The Byrons raised their three sons in the mansion. Family photographs remain on the wall in one of the inn's smaller dining rooms.

Harry Byron lived in the mansion until 1949, Jim McCoy said.

The mansion features a slate roof, Indiana limestone sills, copper spouting, decorative tile, white oak and inlaid flooring, double curving wrought iron balustrades on the double staircase, and mahogany and chestnut interior paneling.

"We want to grow, but we need to see how the business works before we do," Jim McCoy said. "We're confident in each other that we can do this."

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