Just a few blocks from campus, the Acorn Inn can boast that it is the only hotel in the town of Elon, but its connection to the community goes deeper than that. The owner, Mike Brown, is not only a life-long resident of Alamance County, but also an Elon graduate.
Fourteen years ago, Brown was just starting out in the hospitality business, when he starting looking into building a hotel with a more "homey" atmosphere in another part of Alamance County. He said the idea for the Acorn Inn came to him after passing by the area one day.
"[I] jogged by saw the lot, light came on in my head and we started doing the research to see what we can do here and it all came together from there," he said.
Brown then purchased the lot and got to work building both the inn and the business.
"It was exciting and scary at the same time, " he said. "When you're jump starting a new property you're so relieved to finally have the property online it's a 12-18 month process to go from thought to fruition so a lot of trials and tribulations before you get those doors open."
After his work, the Acorn Inn opened in 2001, but it still had a lot of growing to do.
"You hear people say, new business doesn't make money for a certain number of years but the part you take away from that is when you're living that out in real life and feeling that pressure on a daily basis so to finally make that turn and get in the black it really just relaxes you," Brown said.
Brown and his family lived at the inn their first two years of business in what is now the luxury top floor suite often rented out to some of the university's most prominent guests. Now, commencement speakers, CEOs and talent scouts sleep in the same room that was Brown's home while getting his business off the ground.
Now that the Acorn Inn has survived financially, Brown said that security has helped him be a better innkeeper.
"You can help the guest have a better experience if you're not so worried about if you're going to be able to make a living around it," he said.
According to Brown, the real character of the Acorn Inn is its relationship with both the town of Elon and the university. That's why Brown said he believes the President's Office or other departments will book rooms at the inn for their guests.
"I think the real attribute of the Acorn Inn is not only the product and the staff but also the fact that it's in the community," he said. "So if you want to give a job candidate or a potential student the real flavor of what the university is, what Elon is, come stay within."
Like other hotels in the area, traffic at the Acorn Inn ebbs and flows with the university's schedule, meaning move-in weekend, graduation and parents' weekend are the busiest times for the inn. Brown said that's not a problem for him because the university is the reason why he built the inn in the first place.
"There's really no reason for the Acorn Inn to be here without Elon University," he said.