Best Western White Columns Inn has the bait that hooks the loyalty of their customers and the approval of their association. For the 22nd year, the inn was awarded the Best Western Director's Award for cleanliness and maintenance.
"I come here a lot," said Margaret Barrett, who lives in Covington, Ga. "My mother lives in Norwood, and I have other family in Warrenton and Augusta. It's not convenient to stay with them, so I stay here. ... This is where I want to stay consistently. ... I always find clean, well-stocked rooms."
The award is given only to hotels that score 950 points or more out of a possible 1000 on bi-annual inspections, and meets requirements for design and high customer service scores.
"I'm happy about (the award). I'm glad. I know I bend over backwards to do my job. I believe in cleanliness," said Betty Moss, a housekeeper at the inn.
According to executive assistant Nancy Pentecost, White Columns has approximately 75 employees. She said the owner, Epp Wilson, "likes things to be just right. He's very unhappy if we lose points on inspections. We take care of what the inspector says immediately."
Mrs. Pentecost said each Best Western is inspected twice annually, once with a one-week notice prior to inspection, and once with only a 24-hour notice. This year, White Columns Inn received an inspection score of 954.
"Earning high scores ... is no easy accomplishment. To maintain consistently high standards, however, is an even greater challenge. You and your staff have placed your property among the quality elite in our association," said Lowell Cruse, district director of Best Western International, in a letter to Mr. Wilson.
In addition to 133 clean rooms, White Columns offers banquet rooms, meeting rooms, fitness room, swimming pool, continental breakfast in a special room set aside for that purpose, Jacuzzi suites, kitchenette, walking track, a newly redecorated lounge, restaurant, LodgeNet movies, Nintendo 64 game systems, tractor-trailer truck parking, and power outlets to charge more than 100 boats and RVs at once.
"We have so many fishermen and hunters stay here," Mrs. Pentecost said. "When they spend $40,000 on a boat, they want it taken care of. No other hotel, not even in Augusta, has as many outlets as we do."
White Columns Inn was built in 1981, with additions in '84, '85, and '90. She said they have many repeat customers.
"This is our second time to stay here when we're traveling through," said Guion Dudley, who was traveling with his wife from Florida to North Carolina. "We were so impressed the first time that we planned on staying here when we returned. We'll definitely stay here every time."
Ms. Barrett said that she can't count how many times she has stayed there. She said "the girls at the desk are wonderful, they even supply things I forget to pack."
"Coming here is like family. ... You pay for a room, but it's like coming home. ... It's a good, safe, calm feeling. ... Hey, I'm hooked," Ms. Barrett said.