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Business Spotlight: History in the Making

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Restoring history and creating an enjoyable place for tourists are two ideals driving Branson Investment Holdings LLC’s recent investments in downtown Branson.

BIH and owner Bozana Varisco are restoring nine buildings on a historical block downtown near Main Street and Business Highway 65. The block includes The Branson Hotel, 214 W. Main St., two adjacent units and six houses behind the hotel on Pacific Street.

“The historical aspect of the hotel is what drew our interest at first,” Varisco says.

While appealing, the early 1900s-built hotel also presented some obstacles, which led to the acquisition of the surrounding buildings.

“One of the challenges the hotel brought was parking,” she says. “We needed to acquire more space.”

In June, BIH started renovating the nine-room hotel, the first part of its redevelopment plan dubbed Heritage Row, and Branson Hotel reopened Oct. 1, Varisco says. The hotel was operating as Branson Hotel B&B when BIH purchased it in November 2007.

Varisco says BIH spent more than $750,000 to purchase and renovate the hotel, which currently serves as the real estate investment firm’s headquarters. She declined to disclose the budget for Heritage Row.

TaSha Lott, BIH’s executive operations director, says the hotel was among five buildings that survived a 1912 fire that burned down much of the downtown area. The hotel housed Branson’s first library and recorded visitors such as Harold Bell Wright while he was writing his novel, “Shepherd of the Hills.”

Varisco, who has worked on investment projects in Maine, Florida and Europe, says BIH has applied for the property’s registration on the National Register of Historic Places.

Each of the hotel’s rooms has an electronic lock pad with a code chosen by guests.

“We wanted people to feel safe, and they know they can check into their room at any time,” Varisco says.

She says the hotel aims to provide a personal touch similar to a bed and breakfast, with each room in a different theme such as the Fisherman’s Cove and the Buck Bungalow. November and December room rates range between $119 and $149 per night.

Ray and Shelby Ward, of Baytown, Texas, stayed in the Heritage room on the hotel’s opening weekend. The hospitality stood out, Ray Ward says.

“We couldn’t have stayed anywhere better,” he says. “The staff was very attentive and made sure we were comfortable.”  

BIH’s plans for Heritage Row include a café by summer 2012, followed by a salon and spa in the units next to the hotel in the fall. The development is a few blocks west of Branson Landing and is BIH’s first investment project, says Varisco, who has dabbled in acting and appeared in commercials for Silver Dollar City and Branson Hills.

Four of six properties on Pacific Street already are leased, and Tiffany Kelley Photography is among them.

“I do a lot of photography with clients around downtown, so the location will be great for business,” owner Tiffany Kelley says. “I can’t wait for the whole area to be renovated.”

Varisco’s vision for Heritage Row is that it would help benefit the greater downtown Branson area.

“It has always been one of the most overlooked and underdeveloped areas in downtown Branson,” Varisco says. “The acquisition of Pacific Street is going to provide success to the two buildings next to the hotel. It is going to help everything flourish. We basically acquired it for future development to bring it back to what it once was.”[[In-content Ad]]

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