The Wells College Board of Trustees has voted to accept an offer from alumna Pleasant T. Rowland ’62 to purchase the College-owned commercial businesses in the Village of Aurora. The sale, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, includes the Aurora Inn, E. B. Morgan House, Village Market, Fargo Bar & Grill, Dorie’s Bakery, the Old Post Office, the building where Bet the Farm is located, and Taylor House, formerly the residence of the College president.
All of the commercial properties were extensively restored by Ms. Rowland between 2001 and 2006. Since its grand re-opening in 2003, the Aurora Inn has become an award-winning destination for weddings, experiential travel, epicurean events, and fresh regional cuisine. General Manager Sue Edinger and Executive Chef Patrick Higgins and their team will remain in place.
Wells College Board of Trustees Chair, Stanley Kott, of Auburn, NY, explains, “For a small, rural college, managing and financing such an extensive operation in the village has created considerable pressure. We approached Ms. Rowland about purchasing these properties, because her personal efforts and financial contributions have helped make Aurora the attractive, vibrant village it is today. She has been a loyal alumna and a community benefactor.”
As Wells College President Tom de Witt notes, “This change in ownership is a business decision that is good for the College’s future, the Aurora community, and the regional economy. We will all continue to benefit from a welcoming village with first-class amenities. At the same time, this sale will allow the College to make critical and exciting investments in our academic programs and physical facilities.”
Pleasant Rowland is a successful business executive best known for her creation and leadership of American Girl historically accurate doll and literature collection. In 2001, she purchased MacKenzie-Childs pottery ware and home furnishings company located in Aurora to save the enterprise and more than 200 local jobs. She returned the company to profitability and sold it to its current owners who have built upon her foundation.
Ms. Rowland was first drawn back to Aurora more than a decade ago out of her passion for historic preservation. “I have loved this village for over fifty years,” said Ms. Rowland. “The properties that comprise the Inns of Aurora are spectacular buildings in a gorgeous setting, lacking only the investment necessary for the enterprise to grow and thrive. I am confident that the Inns of Aurora can become the premiere hospitality destination of the region, building on the fine work that Sue Edinger and her team have done.”
Today, the Inns of Aurora employ a local workforce of over 140 people, and contribute more than $6 million to the local economy in payroll, purchasing, and taxes, in addition to the spending generated by 15,000 annual guests. “With added investment, I would expect all of these numbers to grow,” said Ms. Rowland.
Wells College President Emerita Lisa Marsh Ryerson adds, “Pleasant Rowland has implicitly understood and recognized the intertwined fates of the College and the village. Her extraordinary philanthropy has benefited Wells for many years and her restoration efforts in the village highlight her unparalleled creativity and generosity.”