When Rochelle Miller set out to rescue an ailing little community of cottages beside a babbling Blairsville creek, she wanted to buck the typical North Georgia rental property aesthetic of carved bears, pull-out couches, and lacquered pine. She wanted luxury but not too luxe. Approachable pampering, you might call it.
“I love design and the beauty of it, and how it makes one feel,” says Miller, owner Creekside Cottages, which debuted last month about two hours north of Atlanta. “I want my guests to experience this in a casual, comfortable, but elegant way.”
If Miller sounds like a seasoned hotelier—well, she’s not. Owning an Airbnb hotspot in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains was never in the cards for Miller and her husband, Mark, who sold their FedEx Ground franchise in Colorado five years ago and headed east—attracted by a cheaper cost of living and real estate, for one thing.
“We were at a point in our life where we were offered good money for our business, we were empty-nesters, both our parents had passed, and we had loved this area after visiting nearby,” says Miller, a grandmother of two. “We were used to mountain living, and although this was a different kind of mountain living, we felt it to be so beautiful and felt drawn to it.”
After a few years of recuperating from busy careers, exploring Appalachia via long hikes, ingraining themselves in a tightknit church where Mark serves as bishop, and helping others manage cabin properties, Miller began poking around for an investment opportunity of their own. She itched to host, to please guests, and most all, to design and decorate. An income stream for retirement would be icing on that cake.
The Millers found what seemed like a rough diamond about half a mile from Blairsville’s historic downtown square, along the shores of Butternut Creek. Four cottages built in 1995 by two cousins—thus the address: 121 Kousins Drive—had once operated as a hotel but more recently fell on tough times. The original investors lost the 1-acre cove of cottages to foreclosure during the Great Recession; a local businessman bought and hoped to restore them, but those plans never took off. Most recently, an investment group was in the process of converting the cottages to small-business rentals when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and squashed those plans. The property went back to market, and the Millers swooped in, closing the deal in late August.
“They were in bad shape, as was the sewer and the guts of them,” recalls Miller. “My husband worked on the grounds and the mechanical parts as I began working and renovating the insides.”
Two of the cottages opened for business October 1, followed by a third a couple of weeks later. The last is planned to be ready for occupancy in early December, and each carries a sentimental nickname for the Millers: The “Sneffles” unit, for instance, is an homage to the name of “one of the most beautiful mountain peaks I have ever seen” in Ouray, Colorado, Miller says. “Frada’s Nest,” meanwhile, is an ode to what Miller’s grandson chose to call her (“Frada,” for reasons unknown) before he could pronounce “grandma.”
Equal parts contemporary and rustic, each cottage has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and an open floorplan with vaulted ceilings that belie their 900 square feet. Amenities beyond the residences include firepits, grills, Adirondack chairs, and the creek’s aquatic symphony. Nightly rates start around $200, depending on the size of parties, and max occupancy for each cabin is six. Expect touches like spa robes, high thread-count sheets, and soft, top-shelf linens.
Beyond the grounds, as Miller notes, scenic Lake Nottley is about seven minutes away, with attractions such as Vogel State Park, Brasstown Bald Mountain, and Helton Creek Falls within 15 minutes. Nearby Blairsville is known to shimmer with festive lights throughout the Holidays.
So far, the Creekside Cottages have been a particular hit with Sunshine State residents, though guests have hailed from California, Indiana, Texas, and beyond. Miller foresees this personal project for her and Mark having a broad customer base, from wedding parties, reunions, mother/daughter getaways, and business travelers—or anyone just looking for a more memorable experience than hotels and humdrum cabins.
“Our main customer base so far has been a mix of people from Florida here buying a home, house hunting, or who have bought but can’t get into their new home for a few weeks and don’t want to stay in a motel,” says Miller. “Also Floridians here to see the fall colors. And we’ve had many from Atlanta as well.”
Find more about Blairsville’s Creekside North Georgia rental Cottages at www.mycreeksidecottages.com.
To read more from Josh Green on Atlanta Real Estate Forum, click here.