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Shady Lawn Lodge went through extensive renovations and will be holding a free Open House
on Sunday, April 1.
Photo by Jamie Shell / The AJT

Originally published: 2012-03-23 10:41:17
Last modified: 2012-03-23 10:42:36

Ray of Hope

Jamie Shell / (

The former Shady Lawn Motel, known for its famed slogan of being ‘air conditioned by nature,’ has undergone extensive renovations and will officially reopen to the public with an Open House on Sunday,  April 1. The lodge, previously owned by Newland resident Sam Ray, was reacquired by the family within the past 1.5 years, with Ray’s  grandson, Justin, assuming the duties of overseeing and executing the reconstruction process on the facility and operating the business.
For decades, Shady Lawn Motel was the singular lodging destination for visitors passing through Newland, and Justin Ray hopes the new Shady Lawn Lodge will experience similar success and serve to help those traveling through the area to consider an extended visit in town.

“The main motivation for me and my wife was we ultimately wanted to return to this area. We saw this as an opportunity to come back here and start a business for ourselves,” said proprietor Justin Ray. “Another big part was that it had been such a big part of the community for so long. It was in operation back in the 1920s before the Ray family owned it when it was Shady Lawn Hotel.”

For Justin and grandfather Sam, the reopening of the lodge is the realization of a dream that has been years in the making and a culmination of the dream of Newland again having a place where visitors can stop and stay awhile.

“Another factor in deciding to do this was that Newland has no lodging. I grew up here and I felt I had an obligation if I did come back to give back to the community,” Justin Ray added. “The community needs some lodging to grow some economic development around here. Not only the business aspect, but it was the giving back to the community that hit home for us. I wanted to get the lodge running for my grandfather to see it running again, and also to give back and be a part of this community. We hope it’s a good thing for the community and the town.”

Sam, who purchased the Shady Lawn in 1964 and renovated the facility back in 1967, was thrilled to see that the property is again an integral part of the community and filling a need.

“I was tickled to death. There’s no way I could have done it, and Justin has put in hours and hours of work,” Sam explained. “I stay busy, but not with that sort of hard work. It’s good to get it back running, and I’m glad to have him back here to do this.”

The renovation process began in November 2010, a project that took many man-hours and many hands to make a reality.

“I started in November 2010 with renovations. I moved back here from Charleston, S.C. specifically to do this. I had a job with Wells Fargo and we found out the previous sale of the building was not going to go through, so I came back to take this on, partially to give back to the community,” Justin explained. “It took a lot of effort to get it done. We completely gutted the place. We tore out sheetrock, paneling and everything down to the original studs, even having to redo some of the original stuff that was rotten and not up to code.”

Justin took pride that many of the workers who had a hand in the renovation were based locally.

“Almost everyone who had a hand in the remodeling had local ties. Classic Stone Works did the stone and tile work. A local installer installed all tile and granite. I had a local carpenter do all the carpentry work. The painters were even local,” Justin said in describing the crew. “The biggest issue we had during the process was heating and air, but everyone was super helpful. The locals would drop what they were doing and help us, because they knew this would be a big asset to the county and the town.” 

Shady Lawn Lodge houses 20 units, with five different styles of rooms, all non-smoking and pet-free. Sizes range from a one queen-size bed unit to a 900-square-foot apartment unit with two bedrooms and pullout sofa that will sleep six to eight people. The lodge includes three full-sized one-bedroom suites separated away from a living room with king-sized beds and a queen-sized sleeping sofa. 

Rates at the lodge will be competitive with other local privately owned lodging and plans to beat chain hotel rates. 

“We have completely new stuff. There are a few things from the old motel that we refinished to leave character with the place,” Justin said. “The base rate will be around $67 per night and will range to around $150 per night, because we have different types of rooms and room sizes.”

Justin explained that with the absence of lodging, there was a void that the former motel filled, and he believes that the new lodge will more than suit the needs of passers-through and locals who wish to recommend a place for family and friends from out of the area, plus assist in housing the throngs of visitors who attend local events like Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Riverwalk Concert Series, Woolly Worm Festival, Singing on the Mountain and countless other activities.

“We envision the lodge helping out the local golf course as well as bring people in for the Riverwalk Concert Series and the local events that take place throughout the summer,” Justin added. “Right now, visitors have to choose to stay in Banner Elk or Pineola, but we want to make Newland more of a destination rather than a pass-through, which I know is a key thrust of Newland Business Association. I definitely support Newland’s business vision and want to be a part of it.”

Thus far, local response has been overwhelmingly positive to the presence of the lodge.

“Everybody I’ve spoken to when I go out locally to eat has been talking about seeing the work going on,” Sam explained. “The inside of the lodge is beautiful and really well done.”

“We’ve had a lot of local people stop by. I’d really like to invite more people to check out the facility, which was a reason I wanted to hold an Open House,” Justin added. “I know the locals live here and won’t necessarily be staying at the lodge, but they need to know what’s available for their guests or family members that might come to town. Most folks probably won’t stop by and ask to see our rooms, so I wanted to invite the public and everyone to come by, to see what we have available.”

The Sunday, April 1, Open House will be a day-long event that features a roasted pig, as well as indoor tours of the units and work done at the facility. Many of the individuals who took part in the renovation will be on-hand to show off their handiwork and advertise what services they can offer.

Shady Lawn Lodge will officially open for business on Monday, April 2. Visitors have already been asking about booking rooms, but Justin wanted to wait for everything to be just right before opening for business.

“We’ve already had several people stop by and ask for rooms, but I’ve regretfully turned them away because I want everything to be perfect when we open rather than just halfway doing it,” Justin said. “We want to make this a more formal thing. From what we’re hearing, a lot of folks like more of the hometown, boutique-style motels than the major chains. Nothing about our lodge is cookie-cutter. Everything is custom-built and made for this place, and we’re tickled to death about it.”

Shady Lawn Lodge is part of Avery Chamber of Commerce and Newland Business Association, and will be marketing its product through national hotel booking websites like to get the word out to target where many part-time residents reside who visit the area during the summer months.

“We’ll spend a little more money the first six months to get the word out in Internet advertising to areas such as Florida and Georgia, those folks who like coming to the area on a part-time basis to get away from the heat,” Justin explained. “Right now, the best advertising has been word-of-mouth. We plan to do as much advertising as we can do while staying within our budgets for marketing.”

For more information, visit Shady Lawn Lodge at 300 Cranberry Street in Newland, email ( or call (828) 733-9006. To book rooms, call the Lodge office, or email (