Aiken Standard, October 31, 2011
By Haley Hughes, Staff Writer
Aiken’s own The Willcox has been named among the Top 50 Best Small Hotels in the United States in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards.
The Willcox is one of only 10 South Carolina properties on the list and the only hotel not located along the coast.
More than 8 million votes were cast in the Readers’ Choice Awards survey, according to the magazine, and the awards reflect the combined opinions of 28,876 Condé Nast Traveler readers rating the cities, islands and hotels they visited in the past year, and the airlines and cruise ships they traveled with. The voters evaluated more than 11,000 cities, islands, hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise ships in the survey.
Owners Geoff and Shannon Ellis had no idea that The Willcox made the list until a customer called to offer congratulations.
“We had no idea what they were talking about,” Geoff said. “I think it’s brilliant. This recognition is huge for us. It’s very gratifying.”
The Ellises first opened The Restaurant at The Willcox in November 2009 then bought the 113-year-old hotel on New Year’s Eve 2009 after learning the historic downtown property would likely close its doors.
“This success story belongs to our great staff and to so many wonderful people here in Aiken. Our staff has worked so hard to serve our guests, and the people of Aiken have rallied around their beloved hotel. People tell us every day how much they love The Willcox and how happy they are that it is alive and thriving again. The Willcox belongs to Aiken; we’re just another in the line of its caretakers over its more than a century of service,” Geoff said.
Willcox’s, as it was originally named, was a mainstay of Aiken’s Winter Colony. It was operated from 1898 to 1957 by members of the Willcox family.
“In turn, we hope that Aiken is proud of the number of votes that came in from around the world, in essence choosing Aiken as a top destination. The city has won numerous recent awards for its quality of life and as a destination in itself. This recognition is certainly an award for Aiken, as well as for our team. The Willcox is a big part of Aiken’s history, and we will keep working to make sure it’s a big part of Aiken’s future,” Geoff said.
The Willcox is listed 47 out of the 50 small U.S. hotels on the list.