Vandenberg Village's boutique resort, Village Inn, was buzzing with excitement last week as construction crews mounted a 1,000-pound 1960s-era "Village Inn" sign atop a 34-foot steel "V" at the front of the historic property, signaling a near return to the community.
The bright-colored signage is a nod to its 1960s predecessor — a midcentury modern architectural style reflective of the post-World War II era that popularized sleek lines, functional design and simplistic composition.
"We're very excited," hotelier Dave Mercer said Jan. 12. "The sign has gotten everyone fired up — a lot of locals are also very excited to see it again."
The property, which has undergone major renovations since the summer of 2021, is slated to officially open to the public in June, according to Mercer.
Above all else, Mercer said, the resort's iconic design was the reason behind the purchase.
"It's what got us to buy the place," Mercer said, referring to its historic lineage illustrated in a late 1960s vintage postcard which shows the boutique resort in its heyday, brandishing the same clean lines and distinct yellow signage out front.
"I said, 'We've got to do this — this is very cool,'" he added.
Located minutes from downtown Lompoc, northbound along Highway 1 in Vandenberg Village, the nearly 7-acre property, formerly the White Oaks Hotel, was purchased in October 2019 for $3.1 million by Mercer's real estate investment company, Realty Center Management Inc., or RCMI, located in Culver City. The company also owns the Diplomat apartments complex in Vandenberg Village.
The history of the The Village Inn dates back to the late '60s and '70s when its popularity as a gathering place for contractors and others who were in town to conduct business at Vandenberg Air Force Base offered respite through short-term living quarters. It was renamed the Spaceport Inn in the 1980s, then the Days Inn in the 1990s and, now, boasts its original name.
Since being purchased more than two years ago, the entire property has been gutted and overhauled — down to the sewer lines and electrical system, according to RCMI representative Wally Kane, while preserving some historical features throughout, including its retro design.
One example, Kane said, is the elegant terrazzo flooring discovered beneath the old lamanent found in the lobby and bar area, which has since been removed.
"We're just going to buff all that out and leave that the way it is," Kane said, noting that the lamanent, with a story of its own, was likely added during a 1970s update to accommodate a disco-era dance floor.
Another element that will live on, Kane said, is an original stone and stucco wall feature, which was constructed for the hotel's interior during the 1960s. In an effort to extend the wall, Kane said the team was able to locate additional stones from the original buildout at a local rock quarry. Those stones have since been installed as an adjoining wall in the upstairs mezzanine.
"Dave and I put the whole thing together from the get-go," he said. "We're not slapping it together by any means."
Once complete, the property will feature 61 midcentury-themed rooms, each with a private patio. A selection of double-queen suites and ADA-accessible suites will be available. Other features will include a renovated pool and deck, pool house, garden gazebos and a special wedding venue on the back lawn. There also are plans to plant wine grapes along the frontside of the property.
"We hope to get 1,500 to 2,000 bottles out of what we plant to serve in the restaurant," Kane noted.
According to General Manager Chris Milton, the restaurant and bar — named "Dave's Place" — will offer a full menu of locally sourced California-style cuisine and specialty drinks that cater to both affordable and fine-dining budgets.
"We want our soldiers to be able to dine here," Milton said, referring to nearby Vandenberg Space Force Base. "I'm a disabled veteran, so we want to welcome them here."
In addition to indoor dining at the restaurant and bar and seating in the upstairs mezzanine for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, outdoor dining will also be an option for patrons as individual, self-contained eating areas called "pods" will be available for use.
"The nostalgic part of this project, and what it really means to people, is what makes it fun," Milton said. "It's what keeps us going because you know what it's going to mean to the community."