July 6, 2010

Doctor's inn has history and mystery

Credit: Gail Lunn

Life is slower and sweeter on salt-kissed Pawleys Island, S.C., one of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast. Corinne Taylor recalls family vacations there and later romantic getaways with her now-husband at the historic Pelican Inn. “Twenty years ago we joked that one day we wanted to own the Pelican Inn,” recalls Taylor, an assistant professor at Emory School of Medicine.

Seizing an opportunity in the tanking economy, the Taylors became the Pelican Inn’s new owners in March. “We’re not risk-takers. But I told my husband, what are we saving for if not our dream?” The Taylors welcomed their first guests in June.

Taylor, who’s spent 10 years as medical director at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, discovered that running an inn was much like running a hospital. Both require tremendous customer service and hospitality, she says.

“It’s a different kind of energy and creativity,” says the pediatric hospitalist, who describes herself as “the kind of person who never sits still and thrives on chaos.”

To prepare for her new role as innkeeper, Taylor bounced ideas off her colleagues at Egleston and tested recipes on her family. “I’ve been baking pies like crazy,” she laughs.

The Taylors plan to continue the Pelican Inn’s charming, casual tradition of Southern hospitality that so many families, including their own, have cherished through the years.

Relaxing in a rocking chair looking out over the dunes and the tunnel of oaks, it’s easy to imagine the inn’s 19th-century beginnings. Guests keep an eye out for the legendary Grey Man, the ghost thought to be the inn’s original owner, who roams the beaches.

No Grey Man sightings yet, reports Taylor. Their hound Virgil keeps watch.

The inn serves breakfast and midday dinner daily. The menu is regional low-country cuisine, simple and old-fashioned.

“Old Man Taylor’s Crab Cakes are a favorite,” says Taylor of her husband’s signature dish.

She was delighted to discover, in the back of the pantry, a dusty meal planner belonging to a long-ago cook.  “The scariest thing to learn,” says Taylor, was how to work a 60-year-old cast iron cookstove nicknamed “The Beast.” “It works like a dream once you know how to use it,” she reports.

Running the bed and breakfast is a family affair. “My 16-year-old and 11-year-old daughters have been invaluable,” says Taylor. “It’s been very good for their work ethic and training.”

The Taylors have found support from the community, too. Taylor will find notes pinned to screen door (the inn doesn’t have a phone) from former cooks, housekeepers and others connected to the Pelican, whose history is woven into the fabric of this small coastal community.

The inn has direct beach access and a marsh dock perfectly positioned for viewing sunsets. On any given evening, says Taylor, friends from the community will stop by to watch the sun set from one of the inn’s 15 rocking chairs.  The wide front porch, adorned with arches and columns and an inviting hammock, just made the cover of the Pawleys Island Calendar.

Taylor will spend only a few more weeks at the Pelican this summer — the inn has its next availability in August — and will rent it to private groups for the winter.

Taylor credits the support of her supervisor for making it all possible. “I am extremely grateful to my department chair at Emory for recognizing the importance of work-life balance,” she says, “and for being flexible in letting me schedule to chase my dream.”

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