Taking the Hospitality Industry to Another Level
By Jack Criss • Photography By Holly Tharp
Luke Chamblee has become somewhat of a hotel magnate, with three companies under his leadership, all based in Oxford. One could say that it’s in his blood.
Growing up in Jackson as the son of a real estate legend, Luke Chamblee says that his father, Rodney Chamblee, never really pressured him to follow in his footsteps. “But, you know, that’s what I was always around,” says Chamblee. “Our family, and my father in particular, valued business and entrepreneurship. And I got to see firsthand how the different phases of real estate development worked.”
The Jackson Prep graduate went to Ole Miss, graduating in 2001 with a double major in Banking and Finance and Real Estate. “I was immediately hired by BancorpSouth after graduation and worked in their downtown Jackson office,” says Chamblee. “The development business and, ultimately, all business revolves around financing, which is why I wanted to initially go into banking. It was important for me to learn about and work in that world, dealing with clients and seeing how deals were structured.”
Chamblee left BancorpSouth after two years, realizing that instead of lending money, he wanted to be on the other side of the desk. “I subsequently decided to get into the real estate development world and went and interviewed with two real estate firms, one in Memphis and one in Atlanta,” he says. ‘There was traction with the Atlanta job, but my father then came forward and offered me a position with The Chamblee Company in Flowood. I decided to take it because I love this state and really wanted to stay in Mississippi.” Chamblee worked eleven years with his father.
“I was doing asset management, real estate brokerage, underwriting, and assisting on developments for him and his partners during that time,” says Chamblee. “We were managing office, retail, hotels, restaurants, raw land–a little bit of everything, with ninety-five percent of the assets on Lakeland Drive in Flowood where our office was also located.”
Chamblee says that he and his father always had a great relationship and that it was a positive experience working with him. “It was always the right mixture of personal and professional,” recalls Chamblee of those eleven years. “I still called him ‘Dad’ at the office,” he chuckles, “but it was his company and I was an employee. We both had different approaches, of course, being of different generations, but he was supportive of my ideas and growth as an employee and his son. I’ll never forget the day I walked into his office in 2013 and told him I wanted to spread my wings and start my own company. I was so nervous. He looked at me and said, ‘I wouldn’t have raised you right if this day hadn’t come.’ I remember that as a very powerful, memorable moment in my professional life, as well as our personal relationship.” The elder Chamblee tragically passed away in October, 2016.
Thus, LRC2 Properties was created. Chamblee explains the naming of his new company: “LRC2 is how I used to sign documents when I worked with Dad. He was LRC1 and I was LRC2.” And In 2014, Chamblee made his way back to the home of his alma mater, Oxford to build up his new company. “Graduate Oxford was my first development to be involved with and opened in the fall of 2015,” he says. “That is really what got me started. Soon thereafter we developed and opened the Home2 Suites by Hilton in Oxford, Hotel Indigo in Hattiesburg and South Lamar Court, which is a 37,000 SQFT mixed-use development in Oxford. Cotton House in Cleveland opened in July 2019.
As his company’s first Delta property, Cotton House prides itself on its contemporary offerings while showcasing authentic Southern hospitality to its guests. Delivering a cultured attention to detail and wide variety of amenities, Cotton House exceeds expectations. With ninty-five guest rooms, including six fabulous suites, each stay at Cotton House is tailored to every guest and their individual needs while on the road.
The hotel offers 2,800 square feet of meeting space including the Donelson Ballroom, Fairbanks Boardroom and the Peavine Room. Cotton House also has two onsite restaurants led by James Beard Award-nominated Chef, Cole Ellis. Bar Fontaine is located on the top floor of the hotel and offers one of a kind views of downtown Cleveland. This upscale bar and restaurant is open daily from 4:00-10:00 p.m. Delta Meat Market is located just off the lobby and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options in the full service restaurant serving internationally-influenced dishes inspired by culinary traditions of the Mississippi Delta.
When asked what made him choose Cleveland as a hotel location, Chamblee answers,
“When prospecting a new property location, we look for unique opportunities. The Mississippi Delta is one of the most diverse regions in the state, arguably the country, with a respected culture of music, food, and tourism. Downtown Cleveland was already a thriving area offering the ideal backdrop for a boutique hotel such as Cotton House,” continues Chamblee. “We wanted to add to the momentum of this region by giving both locals and tourists the perfect home base for experiencing the Mississippi Delta.”
Chamblee said he’ll be opening another new hotel in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in September, 2022. “It’s called The Alamite and will be our third hotel in the Marriott Tribute Portfolio,” he says. “The Alamite name comes from the name of the actual elephant mascot Alabama used to have on the field back in the 1940s and 50s.” He also elaborated on other recent and future projects. “We just celebrated the one year anniversary of The Memphian hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, and we’re also in the design process now on another Tribute Portfolio Marriott property in Rogers, Arkansas, which is near Fayetteville. We’ve recently acquired the Hilton Garden Inn in Tupelo, which will undergo a signficant renovation in the near future.”
Summing up a flurry of activity for LRC2 Properties and LRC2 Development Group, which actually develops the properties, Chamblee added that they always have their eyes open for new opportunities. There is also LRC2 Management, which is the arm of the company that manages some of the hotels in the LRC2 portfolio. LRC2 Properties employs around 150 people.
Chamblee is married to the former Beth Baldwin, and the couple has three daughters: Keaton, eleven, Lynlee, ten and Nancy, who is eight.
“The focus of my company is not growth for growth’s sake,” summarizes Chamblee about his business philosophy. “It’s about finding the right fit and the development or acquisition that makes the most sense. We’re always analyzing and on the lookout for quality existing assets to purchase and development locations to grow the company responsibly. In certain non-competing markets we have agreed to manage developments for owners that are not experienced in hotel development.”