Two sisters follow their childhood dream and open a bed-and-breakfast boasting small-town luxury and hospitality at its best.
It would be easy to mistake the charming light green bungalow on Pierce Avenue in Oxford, Mississippi, as one of the many private homes nearby the city’s quaint downtown and picturesque university campus. But step inside, and it becomes clear this is neither a college student’s residence nor a typical bed-and-breakfast.
Annie Zeleskey, who opened The Z last fall with older sister Brittany, recalls, “Growing up, we would always stay at B&B’s, and I loved how cozy and how personal they were.” So as she finished her last semester in the hospitality management program at the University of Mississippi, she hatched a plan with Brittany, who was completing her master’s in accounting that same May: Rather than return to their home state of Texas and the potential corporate careers awaiting them there, the pair would stay in Oxford to pursue their retirement dream, a bed-and-breakfast, several decades early.
From the inviting porch swings out front to the sweet tea with fresh mint served at check-in, Annie and Brittany have turned their college-town cottage into a gracious Southern getaway. Their interior designer mother, Kelley Zeleskey, helped shape The Z’s identity with French country–chic décor and lavish appointments in the three guest rooms, named Live, Love, and Laugh. Then Mary Ann Mewbourn, their grandmother and an expert seamstress, contributed her talents to make the bedspreads, pillows, hand towels, and most of the curtains. “It’s nice to be able to say my grandmother made those,” says Annie, beaming. I feel that it adds a special charm.”
In addition to the restorative, intimate setting, guests enjoy freshly baked treats in the afternoon, a wine-and-cheese cocktail hour in the evenings, mimosas and Bloody Marys on Ole Miss home football game days, and, of course, a divine breakfast each morning. Says Annie, “My mom cooked great meals growing up, but Brittany and I are really self taught. We just try things and see what works and see what our guests respond to.” On their days off, the sisters often try new recipes, from eggs Benedict to Parisian-style crepes, as they slowly build a cache of reliable menus. Still, the hands-down autumn favorite remains their made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls served with maple frosting, Vermont white Cheddar grits, and peppered bacon.
“The Z has turned out exactly how we envisioned it to be, if not better,” says Brittany. And though the behind-the-scenes work is tremendous, so is the payoff, Annie adds. “I love being able to meet so many people and see that they are really enjoying their time here. I like that they can come to The Z and feel relaxed and let us serve them, even if it’s just for a few days.”
For information, contact The Z at 713-927-1295, or visit thez-oxford.com.