Group will purchase historic hotel, restaurant and make top-to-bottom changes
Stagecoach Inn has closed its operations for an extensive top-to-bottom renovation that may take more than two years to finish.
The renovation, which will ultimately add 38 rooms to the hotel operation, will begin with the historic restaurant building, according to Clark Lyda.
Lyda is the principal investor and developer leading the Stagecoach 1943, LP group that was slated to purchase the Stagecoach Inn from Terry Potts on July 15.
Work will begin soon on the 1861 building that opened as the Shady Villa Hotel. The second story balcony of the old hotel is storied to have been the location of an anti-secession speech by Sam Houston. According to the Texana book “Texas Siftings,” Houston reportedly had an exchange with a fiery secessionist from the crowd who shouted at him, “General Sam, we can whip them Yankees with cornstalks!”
“That may be true, but they have not agreed to fight with cornstalks,” Houston retorted.
This is just one of the many stories that has kept travelers from around the state enrapt about the Stagecoach Inn.
That historic charm is part of what led Lyda to purchase the property and will continue to be a focus in the branding of the Stagecoach Inn as a destination for travelers.
Dion and Ruth Van Bibber opened the restaurant in 1943 and it quickly became a renowned bighway restaurant featured in Life magazine, Ford Times and on the prestigious Duncan Hines list. It was named by Texas Highways Readers as a Readers Favorite restaurant in Texas.
The distinctive menu, recited from memory by waitresses who had worked decades at the restaurant, included the famous hush puppies, tomato aspic, banana fritter and, of course, the Strawberry Kiss.
When the restaurant reopens in about nine months, you can expect many of those favorites to stay the same.
But there will be some exciting changes to the restaurant, which will be under the operation of La Corsha Hospitality.
The team, according to Lyda, has “a clear understanding of the Stagecoach’s history, the strength of the brand and people’s affection for it, and the potential of the place to once again draw locals and visitors from across Texas.”
Jeff Trigger and David Bull are the principals of La Corsha. They “have a lifetime of remarkable experience in the hospitality industry from operating the iconic Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas to the restoration of the Driskill Hotel in Austin.
Bull graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1994. He joined The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas and became the youngest-ever sous chef employed by the hotel. Moving to Austin, he served as the executive chef of the Driskill Grill, earning the Austin American-Statesman’s Number One Restaurant Award for three consecutive years. The Driskill Grill was recognized by USA Today as one of the country’s Top 50 Hotel Restaurants. Food and Wine Magazine honored Chef Bull as one of “The Best New Chefs 2003.” Bull has been nominated three times for the prestigious James Beard award for “Best New Chef Southwest.”
La Corsha operates Congress Austin, a tri-leveled dining and drinking establishment that includes the popular Second Bar + Kitchen, Bar Congress and Restaurant Congress.
The group is scheduled to open Boiler 9 Grill at the Seaholm development in Southwest Austin this summer.
Trigger began his career in the hotel industry at Amfac Resorts in California and Hawaii. He was the managing director of The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and was recruited in 1999 to restore and reposition The Driskill Hotel in Austin.
With that success, Trigger launched La Corsha Hospitality Group.
Texas Monthly named Congress as the best new restaurant in 2010, while Esquire Magazine named it to its Top 10 list of new restaurants in the country. Bon Appetite magazine named Second Bar + Kitchen as a Top 10 choice nationwide as well.
Trigger was listed as a General Manager of the Year by Business Traveler Magazine and was named by Leaders Magazine as one of the Best Hotel Managers in the World.
Other developments for La Corsha include opening a Second Bar + Kitchen in the Domain, the development and construction of an East Austin boutique hotel, the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, and the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells.
The first phase for the redevelopment program is the complete renovation of the existing restaurant. This will include demolishing and re-building the kitchen and service area. Current retail space on the west side of Main Street will be redeveloped to its earlier use as a conference center. Old-timers in Salado will well-remember when the Longhorn Room was on Main Street and hosted gatherings large and small.
According to Lyda, the 5,000 square feet on Main Street will be refocused as a conference center in close proximity to the kitchen facility of the restaurant.
“An emphasis on meetings and special events in the adjacent Longhorn Room will enhance sales and begin to rebuild demand for lodging,” Lyda stated. “Over the course of a year we intend to re-establish the brand and build a solid book of business for the restaurant and meeting facilities.”
The second phase is to completely renovate, expand and re-open the hotel. Plans call for adding 38 rooms and an additional 5,000 sq. ft. in meeting space. The property will have two swimming pools and a mineral spa.
The primary hotel entrance and reception will be moved to Main Street. The I-35 frontage of the property will be heavily landscaped, according to Lyda with a buffer against the highway noise.
The central portion of the site will be landscaped courtyard and include an outdoor event and activity spaces, new family areas around the main pool.
“We will also visually open the Stagecoach’s connection to Salado Creek and connect to the village’s trail system,” Lyda stated.
“Our goal is to re-establish the Stagecoach Inn as a destination venue in Texas for small conferences, special events and weekend tourism travel,” Lyda said, adding that the group will capitalize on “the strong brand of the Stagecoach Inn as an authentic place offering gracious hospitality.”
The renovation and expansion of the hotel is expected to take two years, Lyda said.
The group has applied to the Village of Salado for an economic development package that will include sales tax rebates, property tax abatements and sharing of hotel occupancy taxes for marketing of the property’s meeting space. The board of aldermen will consider the package during its July 16 meeting.
Lyda is a lifelong central Texan. He fondly recalls weekend visits from Austin to the Stagecoach Inn with his family. A commercial developer, he was labeled by the Austin Chronicle as the “anti-developer developer” because of his inclinations toward preserving the historical and cultural integrity of the developments in which he has invested.
During a career that has spanned more than two decades, he has chosen unique projects, including most recently the Perry Mansion in Austin for renovation and redevelopment.
Lyda is the co-owner of Monument Cafe and El Monumento in Georgetown.
“It’s not going to be Monument or Mexican,” he told the Salado Chamber of Commerce, “It will be definitively Stagecoach Inn. We are hoping to make Salado proud.”