Updated: Sep 12
The purchase of an Oxford house draws a couple into the thick of the hospitality business with a new bed-and-breakfast.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Taylor Square Photography
Brandi and Scott Lewis, along with their four kids, visited family in Oxford during Christmas 2020. While there, they began kicking around an idea that would ultimately be life-changing. They began a search for a house they could turn into a bed-and-breakfast.
Neither had dipped even a toe into the hospitality business, but it didn’t stop them.
“Sometimes we don’t think things through,” Brandi said, laughing. “When we decided to do it, we jumped in feet first.”
The business of a B&B aside, a move to Oxford seemed daunting to Brandi, a lifelong Texan. Her husband had grown up in Denmark, Mississippi, an unincorporated community just over 10 miles east of Oxford. For Scott Lewis, it would be coming home; for his wife, it took a while to commit to relocating to a smaller location.
“I said no for a long time,” she said. “I mean, there is no Target in Oxford. There’s not even a Target in Tupelo. How could that be?”
Still, the day came when Brandi said yes to downsizing the state in which she lived — and the Lewis family watched Texas grow smaller in the rearview mirror as Mississippi became a larger part of their future.
The initial house the couple considered purchasing didn’t work out, but, soon after, Scott saw a “for sale” sign in the yard at 1003 S. Lamar St.
The house had most recently been the home of Dr. Thomas Windham and his wife Linda, who had lived there for years, released the house to the University of Mississippi for several years, and then moved back into the house in 1995. During that time, an addition was made to the original Victorian structure, which was built in the 1870s.
“The house had been on the market for several years when we bought it,” Brandi said. “It was in need of some repair work, and there were things we wanted to renovate to make it an accommodating B&B.”
The front porch needed a new roof, and all the upstairs bathrooms were gutted to make them more modern for convenience’s sake, but care was also given to keep them as traditional as possible.
Even by Texas standards, the house is huge. The total number of square feet, including the addition and a cottage out back, is 13,000. The original house, which serves as the B&B, has a total of five suites. Each is decorated differently, in a veritable rainbow of blues, Brandi’s favorite color. And with the exception of one suite, which is named after Scott Lewis’ stepfather Buddy East, each bears the surname of a former owner of the home. The B&B can sleep a dozen people.
Downstairs, there’s a sitting room, a formal dining room and a smaller, more informal area where guests have breakfast. There are two full kitchens — one that is used for the B&B.
Guests are treated to a gourmet, home-cooked breakfast.
“My husband normally fixes breakfast, unless we have a big crowd,” Brandi said. “If we have lots of people, we have a chef who comes in.”
Each room is complete with a small refrigerator; bottled water and snacks are also provided. On football weekends, the Lewises host a complimentary happy hour.
The South Lamar B&B officially opened in August 2022, and all rooms were quickly booked for Ole Miss home football games. The B&B is full for this football season and is almost sold out for all 2024 home games.
“We are close to being completely booked for Ole Miss graduations for the next five years,” Brandi said.
When not interacting with their guests, the Lewises, 17-year-old twins Shelby and Brandon, 17-year-old La’Nyjiah, and 13-year-old Bridget, along with the family’s three pups, are content in the family quarters. That area contains the second full kitchen, a huge laundry room, four bedrooms, multiple baths, a family room and more. The cottage out back houses an office for Scott, who works as an investment banker in Memphis during the week. Brandon’s bedroom and bath are also located in the cottage.
“What we have here is basically like two houses put together,” Scott said.
The house that is now the South Lamar B&B has a small claim to fame: It is featured in the 1949 film, “Intruder in the Dust,” based on the novel by William Faulkner.
Though Brandi and Scott Lewis quickly admit they still have things to learn about running a B&B, they are having fun along the way. It’s important to them to provide guests with everything needed to make their stay comfortable. After all, the guests are why the Lewises decided on this foray into the hospitality business.
“We actually spend time with our guests,” Brandi said. “We love getting to know them and making them feel at home. And often, when they leave, they leave as family.
“We’re still learning, but we’re having fun. And we haven’t messed up yet.”
Saying “I Do” at the South Lamar
Brandi Lewis had no idea when she received an online certificate of ordination recently to perform her sister’s wedding ceremony, that it would come in handy at the South Lamar B&B she owns and operates with her husband Scott Lewis.
For reasons beyond her control, Brandi was unable to make it to her sister’s wedding, but in July, two guests at the B&B became engaged. After less than a 24-hour engagement, the two decided they wanted to elope while in Oxford. They asked Brandi for help.
This was a return visit to the South Lamar B&B for Basil Ballard and Priscilla Perry, both of Los Angeles. The two had stayed there in April when Ballard’s father, Glen Ballard, a songwriter, record producer and Ole Miss alum, was honored with the UM Medal for the Arts.
While in Oxford, the young couple were awed by the Southern hospitality shown them by the Lewis family.
“I have stayed in the finest places all over the world,” Ballard said. “I’ve stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Ritz in Paris and so many more. This is the nicest place I’ve stayed in my whole life.”
Ballard’s wife of less than a few hours agreed. “Brandi planned a wedding for us in just over 24 hours,” she said. “And I mean everything from flowers to a place in this beautiful home. And she is the one who married us.”
“We love Brandi and her family so much,” Ballard added. “We’ll definitely be back here.”