Trace Inn to be torn down

TUPELO – Once the jewel of the local motel industry, the iconic Trace Inn is slated for demolition after years of neglect.
The city condemned structures on the sprawling campus earlier this year after the owners, Tupelo-based JSK Hospitality, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Aberdeen.
Tupelo Building Inspector Debra Byrd said the aging motel off of Main Street near Ballard Park had numerous deficiencies that would require extensive work to bring it up to code. When the owners left, the city condemned it.
No date has been set for the demolition.
JSK’s phone number is disconnected, and the person listed as its president, Dinesh Choksi, could not be reached for comment.
The Trace Inn started as a dairy bar and restaurant in 1961 and grew over the years into the city’s premier location for travelers, diners and conventions.
“It was once a booming thing,” said Vernel Hancock, who started the venture with her husband, the late Junior Hancock.
It has a restaurant, swimming pool, convention hall, three-story motel and several one-story motels – all built by the Hancocks. The restaurant, which most recently housed IVs, is not slated for demolition.
The family owned the properties for 12 years before selling them to a Minnesota-based company, which in turn sold them to then-Mayor Clyde Whitaker.
“It was a vital part of the economy for a long time,” Whitaker said. “At one time all your civic clubs ate there. It was an integral part of the community.”
Whitaker sold the property to the Kinsey family in the early 1980s, and the Kinseys sold it to JSK in 2001. That group turned the motel into a Country Inn & Suites, which is a national chain.
Hancock said the property’s demise saddens her.
“I’d rather see them torn down than in the shape they’re in now,” she said. “Oh, it’s terrible. My husband passed away in 2005, and I said, oh, he would just be devastated if he had of seen this before he died, because we worked so hard and built it all and kept it going and had good crowds and everything. But I guess that’s how life goes.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal