Aurora -- When it comes to wrestling, everyone knows Dick Bliss, Aurora High School's wrestling head coach for more than 40 years and a member of the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Now, another Bliss -- Dick's son Dan, a 1988 graduate of Aurora High School -- is making a major investment here.
He and partners Stephen Mansfield and Matt Lopatin have purchased the Aurora Inn from Cerruti LLC of Quakertown, Pa., which reopened the hotel last May.
Bliss and his partners make up Aurora Hotel Partners LLC, and they hope to bring new life to the hotel through renovation of its rooms, restaurant, bar, ballroom and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
Bliss, a 20-plus-year businessman, believes the Aurora Inn can serve the region's unmet demand for quality food, atmosphere and event space.
"For many years, the Aurora Inn was known as a destination for great food and a vibrant bar," he said. "Sadly, that was lost over the years. We expect to turn that around and restore the hotel's stature in Northeast Ohio."
Boutique hotels are hot, Bliss said, as travelers across the nation discover that they offer unique experiences and more personal customer service.
The Aurora Inn, a fixture in the center of Aurora's historic district, will receive a full makeover to capitalize on this trend, he said. The current building was erected 50 years ago after a fire destroyed the original 1927 building.
THE THREE new owners have hired Riley Hotel Group of Medina to manage the property. They said Riley is known as an award-winning management company whose properties include the new Kent State University Hotel, Mayfield Village Hilton Garden Inn and many other branded and unbranded hotels.
"The Aurora Inn is a gem with tremendous potential," said Riley Hotel Group president Joe Moffa. "Our role is to ensure the property delivers excellent food, drinks, events and customer service. We're confident our guests will have fantastic experiences here."
The group also has contracted with Genevieve Gorder, a celebrity interior designer and HGTV show host, to redesign the inside of the building.
Partner Mansfield is surprised by the level of support and desire of residents and local officials to restore the inn to its glory days.
"Thousands of people have attended weddings and events at the inn, have dined there or have had pool memberships," he said. "There are so many memories here. Our team will restore the Aurora Inn in a way that pays respect to its long history, while providing guests with the modern amenities of a luxury hotel."
Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the Aurora Inn is a landmark in the city, and she would love to see it revitalized.
"I think it is exciting that someone like Dan Bliss, with roots in the community and an appreciation for its history, is taking on this project," she said. "We look forward to working with Dan and his partners as they develop and implement their plans."
When renovation is complete, the hotel will offer 67 rooms, including three suites, a restaurant, patio dining, bar, indoor and outside pools, spa, fitness center and outdoor event/wedding space.
BLISS SAID some rooms are now available for overnight stays, and the indoor pool is open to residents who have memberships.
Bliss said crews are working to get the kitchen and bar open, which hopefully will occur by early summer. The restaurant is targeted to open in late summer or early fall. The outdoor pool might not be open until next year.
"Cosmetically, the building isn't where we want it," Bliss said. "There's a good amount of work yet to be done before we raise the level of the entire property to where we want it. But it eventually will be a quality hotel.
"Taking over the hotel is nostalgic for me," he added. "I ate there and used the pool when I was growing up. I have a lot of memories."
After high school, Bliss graduated from Ohio State University in 1992, and went on to own Peabody's Down Under in Cleveland for six years, plus Heaven & Earth in the Flats, The Barn in Elyria and the Euclid Tavern at University Circle.
He has lived in California since 2001, where he owns a tech firm and a couple other businesses, and sells commercial real estate. He will travel between his California and Aurora holdings.
Dan's older sister, Michelle Harman, also is a local business person. She and her husband operate Harman Home Designs. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.
Phone: 330-542-9400 ext. 4189