BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — When Berkeley Springs-area businessman Larry Omps and his two sons emerged this week with the winning bid for the historic 65-room Country Inn, Jeanne Mozier said she knew it was going to be a good fit.
Mozier — vice president of Travel Berkeley Springs, the local convention and visitors bureau — said the fact that the sons were involved in the purchase tells her that the family has made a commitment for the future of the inn, which has faced financial woes over the years.
Mozier said that Omps’ sons involvement in the sale reminds her of a group of young people in Shepherdstown, W.Va., that is making things happen in that Jefferson County college town.
“There’s about 20 of them over there that are changing the face of Shepherdstown,” Mozier said Thursday.
Dozens of people crowded into the Country Inn at noon Wednesday for a foreclosure auction of the property next to Berkeley Springs State Park. There were four bids for the inn, with Omps and his sons, Matt and Andy, entering the winning bid of $800,000, according to Mozier.
The Omps could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Omps are a “self-made family” that has a long record of business development in the Berkeley Springs area, said Susan Webster, the mayor of Bath.
Berkeley Springs refers to the postal area for the town, whose actual name is Bath.
The Omps own a hardware store and a Best Western motel along U.S. 522, and are involved in construction, according to Mozier and Webster.
The fact that the family is involved in building will be key for the upkeep of the inn, which dates to 1932, Webster said.
“I think they have the skill, the ability and certainly the love for the community to make this work,” Webster said.
Webster, who attended the sale, said the inn was packed with spectators, which she said was refreshing since hardly anyone had been in the building since May.
“It looked good and it felt like home. I just hope it will be open soon,” said Webster, noting that the inn is the “heartbeat” of the town.
Besides its 65 rooms, the inn at 110 S. Washington St. also has a full-service restaurant, commercial kitchen, banquet space, bar and lounges.
In 1998, the inn and its officers were almost $1 million in debt to Morgan County, state and federal governments because of unpaid taxes.
At that time, West Virginia tax authorities had placed $492,452 in tax liens against the Country Inn of Berkeley Springs, Inc., its late owner, Jack P. Barker, his widow, Alice M. Barker, and the inn’s secretary/treasurer for unpaid consumer sales tax in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 plus interest, according to lien records filed with the Morgan County clerk.
In February 2011, unpaid hotel/motel taxes of about $25,000 from the Country Inn dating back to July 2009 were also due to the town of Bath.
Barker died early in 1998, and his family ran it for a while, Mozier said previously.
The inn was eventually sold and has been operated by three different entities since Barker died, Mozier said.