Two doors down from the university’s main entrance is the Morning Glory Inn. A velum banner hangs from the porch, “Grand Re-opening.”
It’s a special bed and breakfast because new owners, Bruce and Valerie Mercer, have a third-generation connection to the university.
When the previous owners had to sell, the Mercers jumped at the chance to run a bed and breakfast, with help from their daughters Erika and Andrea, both UMHB students.
A cheery entryway welcomes guests. Old-fashioned transoms top the doors of this Victorian home and the original stained glass window is still in the parlor. Upstairs are three country-style guest rooms and bathrooms.
In the 1920s, the house on the corner of Main and 11th streets was a school.
“In the ‘20s, and maybe the ‘30s … UMHB actually had a kindergarten here,” Valerie said.
From birthday parties for 12-year-olds to bridal showers, Morning Glory Inn is a busy place.
Junior music education major, Andrea, enjoys this new venture.
“One thing that took a bit of an adjustment was that now we don’t all live in the same house. Erika, Kristin, and I all live in the little cottage beside the big house …. It was strange at first … but now I love having our own place.” she said.
Senior education major Erika Mercer balances her busy schedule at home and at school.
“My day is filled with music. My family tries to eat dinner together every night, and we try to spend at least one night together to talk and enjoy each other,” she said.
Cattle rancher Silas Bagget built the big house in 1886. The house across the street belonged to his son, Eli Bagget.
The fireplace facade in the home built by Silas spurs a lot of questions.
“That’s a mystery we’ve been trying to figure out because that home … is supposed to be a mirror image of this home. And you can see a fireplace over there. But there is no apparent evidence of (there) ever being a fireplace here,” Valerie said.
Bruce’s father started teaching sociology at the university when Bruce was only 2 years old.
Valerie and Bruce met as students. “I came for Welcome Week, and so I met him (at) my very first meal,” Valerie said.
Breakfast at the Inn now features homemade granola, fruit compote and fresh baked bread.
“I do have a bread maker. It’s a good servant,” Valerie said.
She is always ready to cater the morning menu to the individual clientele.
“I kind of try to listen and see or figure out what I think people like.”
The Mercer children had the dream of starting a bed and breakfast first.
“When we girls were younger, we had a lot of business ideas. We … thought it would be fun to have a little B&B in the country where people could escape from the busyness of city life,” Andrea said.
Valerie said her daughters have been encouraging throughout the process.
“We had to have their support because your whole way of life changes, basically— having other people in your home,” she said.
They moved in Dec. 22, 2008, and had two weeks to prepare the house before guests arrived.
“Our first people came for the Writers’ Conference. Dr. Shelburne was nice enough to let us use his people for guinea pigs. Just to listen to them talk … as I would come in, and just to get to meet them … was such a blessing,” Valerie said.
Ministry was one reason they bought the house.
“We’d been praying for six months … ‘God, we don’t know what ministry you want us to have next.’ And we thought, ‘Oh, what a great opportunity.’ And so we have had some people that we really feel like God sent our way.”
For Erika, the best thing about owning the B&B is living close to school.
“I really love living here.
The cottage is wonderful because it is so close to home and school, but I still have my own space.”
The hardest thing for Erika is that she can’t sing too loudly when guests are there.
One place where the Mercers continue to serve is the Sterling House.
“Twice a month my family and another lady goes to lead a worship service for the senior assisted living (center). My dad gives a devotion, and we lead … hymns,” Erika said.
For Andrea, attending college is more special now that her parents live next door.
“I love that we get a great variety of hot breakfast food, and we always have lots of wonderful fresh fruit. Plus, I love to watch my parents be such great hosts. It’s been exciting to see that they have gotten to minister to several of our guests.”