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Check Out Pontheolla Mack Abernathy’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pontheolla Mack Abernathy.

Hi Pontheolla, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
Since my collegiate days at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, I’ve wanted to own a bed and breakfast. Perhaps the hankering was due to the revolving door of Northern guests visiting our home in Bishopville or the experiences of staying in boutique hotels and homes while traveling with the singing group Carolina Alive.

I carried that dream throughout my thirty-five-year journey from Columbia to Charleston to Washington DC. Finally in 2012 when my husband, Paul, an Episcopal priest announced his retirement, I got my chance. I knew I wanted to own a historic property as my professional years as a news reporter demanded historical context – the who, what, when, why, and how of a story.

Fast forward to an online search of properties that lead to Clevedale, a historic homestead dating back to 1798 owned by a local family named Cleveland. Although the property had been empty for five years, there was no denying the potential. As soon as I walked onto the portico, I knew “It was my house.” Following the purchase and renovations, the name Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens was given and the business began in August of 2013.

The business began strictly as a bed and breakfast with three rooms in that first year. It didn’t take long as we began hosting weddings and receptions in the second year. And now in our ninth year, we have been fortunate enough to become a venue for professional photographers, film crews as well as entertainers.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Have you ever heard the saying, “Cum’ya ain’t lik ben’ya?” Although born in South Carolina, I was not a Spartan (from Spartanburg), and having moved from DC the perception was of a Northerner. Thus there was no smooth sailing.

The loan process was excruciatingly long; changes in County regulatory personnel resulted in varied interpretations of the codes making the renovations difficult with each inspection, and the question of the intentions of this Black business owner in my view played a role in some of the challenges.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I gave Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens its name for three reasons: 1st the Cleveland family that owned this 440-acre plantation named it Clevedale. This prominent family hails from North Riding of Yorkshire, England, and is the family from which we get Grover Cleveland, twice President, and Moses Cleaveland (although the surname is spelled differently), the founder of Cleveland Ohio; 2nd these four remaining acres, now a bed and breakfast, boasts of lush gardens, age-old trees, and Roman Baths that are unique; 3rd my name is Pontheolla, a Cherokee name that means, “She who wears a flower,” very apropos for owning this property.

When it comes to creativity, it can be seen in my style of decorating incorporating modern conveniences with period furniture for a bit of casual elegance, not stuffy. Taking that creativity further, I pretend the property is an arboretum by forming new garden plots in addition to planting new varieties of trees and flowers. I took a 1947 Southern Railway Caboose and turned it into one of our rooms in the height of COVID which turned out to be a business game-changer.

And growing up in a Southern farm family, good homecooked food was at the heart of every gathering. Thus, my creative juices are exercised in the guest’s breakfasts whether it’s a new take on traditional shrimp and grits or double chocolate waffles, or crab cakes benedict. The whole experience is what sets us apart. We’re not just a bed and breakfast. We are a unique adventure on your travel journey!

How do you define success?
Success for us is rooted in repeats and referrals. I learned at the feet of my parents and mentors to “Dream big! Take those dreams and fuel them with the hard work of your own hands. Surround yourself with positivity. Let faith be the food for your soul. Love, respect, and be of service to all especially when it’s not reciprocated.” In doing these things in earnest, we have repeat guests and guests who have become what we call frienalies – friends who become family.

Pricing:

  • $175-$340

Contact Info:

Image Credits
JW Boom Photography and Carri Bass Photography

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