The Sugar Mill
- November 30th, 2009
- in Yachting
Few places in the world stand the test of all things, and as I have lunch with Jeff and Jinx Morgan, the owners, builders and energy behind the Sugar Mill, it is as if I am sitting with old friends and mentors. Both respond with touching statements about their life, the BVI and the Sugar Mill. Jinx, a talented artist and writer looks at her husband Jeff and smiles, “This business is the true test of the greatest renaissance of our time.” Jeff adds, “I have seen us, the island and our business move into the 20th century over twenty years. A century in twenty years. I kid you not!”
When Jeff and Jinx took over the Mill in the early 80s, they were both involved in writing up to 50 articles for several periodicals including Travel and Leisure as well as radio shows and art commissions. They were invited by the Caribbean Hotel Commerce Association to judge a contest based on their expertise.
The owner of the Sugar Mill at the time was looking for a couple to manage the property with first refusal to take over the property when the time came. “What I could tell you about the 70s Caribbean…” laughs Jeff as we tuck in to our Old English cheddar burgers with homemade scotch bonnet sauce. “Our biggest investment was for computers, the first on the islands and at $13,000 for a 64k computer. That’s a lot of money now and one whole lot of money then. At least we could send our articles off by doing them only once, giving us more time for the hotel and phone calls to the overseas world. We booked with St Thomas exchange through Cable and Wireless, which took 45 patient minutes to get the call out.” My cell phone hasn’t rung once since our meeting. Bliss, I think. To put it delicately and to add humor, Jeff and Jinx recall how the former owner was very frugal about renting space. “An old workshop was converted into the honeymoon suite with yellow automobile paint. We referred to it as the termite suite and knew it had to change. We had our fingers crossed for any honeymooners spending their nights there! That room is now the Plantation House which we built over in the fashion we would want our guests to enjoy a honeymoon on the island.”
It has taken twenty years to completely renovate, rebuild and refurbish every inch of the five-acre historical site. These days, honeymoons and small weddings are treasured at the Sugar Mill. “They are always very intimate,” smiles Jinx, “and guests turn into friends that return to visit with other friends they have met here.” I can see why. The historical mill is still in place; it was the 1989 hurricane Hugo that prompted the revamp, leaving only the mill, kitchen and a few rooms intact. General Manager then and now, Patrick put a patiently waited call to the Morgans, then overseas, to get ready in six weeks for their opening that year. The returning guests chipped in as well. Some of those guests come back every year.
Photo by yachtshotsbvi.com
Everything came together when local father and son architectural team Roger and Thor Downing were commissioned to design the expansion of the hotel. A practical approach that changed the face and interior of the property began on the Morgans’ behalf. Stronger, modern and aesthetically appropriate renovations maintained harmony with the island and the foundations of the Sugar Mill.
These days, the Mill runs its season at 87 percent occupancy and its restaurant, beach restaurant and pool bar are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The Sugar Mill evokes and delivers sophisticated dining and elegance with a Caribbean flavour, installed by 30 years of adoration and respect by its owners.
As we tour the rooms with the staff, I am charmed by the detailing of each room. As I stand back to get out of the way of our photographer, I am approached by one of the housekeepers who greets me with the warmest welcome and is inquisitive to know where I am from and how I came to visit the shores. I tell her it’s a story nearly ten tears old as I live and work on the island. She beams and welcomes me anyway, telling me that as I live amongst the people, I have been blessed to stay longer than a week or two. I agree cordially and begin examining the rooms again, each with a uniformed etiquette of West Indian pastels and rattan furniture. View is important and every room can not only hear the sea, but see it and listen to the chatter of the palms and grapefruit trees in the trade winds.
Photo by yachtshotsbvi.com
Rooms are distinctive by their names and in simplicity separated into the pool studios, deluxe studios and apartments of the Villa, Cottage and Plantation. It is standard to have wifi, microwave, mini fridge and ironing facilities as well as coffee, for that extra cup. Quiet elegance is also standard in each room. Rooms are adorned by prints from Jinx, and you can see the accurate detailing that has gone into space planning and comfort. I am reminded of Jeff and Jinx telling me as guests became friends and they want their friends to be comfortable, I can see that clearly. This is a hotel of memories and return.
The stone walls and the cauldron, boiler room and steps mark the original state of the Sugar Mill. The property has 23 rooms and an onsite restaurant, terrace, pool bar and boutique. Across the small road allowing access to the North Shore is Islands, the beachfront restaurant and beach for guests. In addition to a large concierge facility of every activity available, the Mill also caters for weddings, functions and has a small charming staff that accommodates every guest walking through the door, for any occasion.
Currently the Sugar Mill is looking forward to a buoyant season with new and familiar guests and patrons of the restaurants. The property is also under offer, and sincere enquiries should be directed to the owners, whose home has become the island, the Mill and its history with a story that no doubt will continue on the charming foundations it started.