Walking into Holmberg House, the bell on the door chimes. The smell of freshly-brewed coffee fills the house, and the quaint porch offers a comfortable place to enjoy a fresh, made-from-scratch breakfast. This is Holmberg House.
Turned into a bed and breakfast in 1993, the house had several owners before falling into the hands of the Millsap family, who have owned and operated the inn since 2015. Melanie Millsap, who runs the inn today, said she and her husband got married at a bed and breakfast, which sparked a dream of one day running their own inn.
“My husband went up and knocked on the door,” Melanie said. “Everything's for sale, you just have to ask. We just decided one day, you know what, this is what we're gonna do.”
Holmberg House is located in Norman on Dean’s Row on the historic Campus Corner. The house was built by the first dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Fine Arts, Dean Fredrik Holmberg, and his wife in 1914, according to the inn’s website. It was initially a private residence in which the dean raised his family during his time at OU.
The Millsaps have been living at and operating Holmberg for the past five years. Although the house was initially built more than a century ago, Melanie said most of the house is still original to the initial build.
“Most everything is original,” Melanie said. “There have been some changes of course, like … all the rooms have their own bathroom, and before there was only one (bathroom) upstairs. But we've got original wood floors, and it’s been kept pretty well intact.”
The house features four suites — the Magnolia suite, the Port Aransas suite, the Blue Danube suite and the Norman suite.
The Magnolia suite is most popular among couples, and often honeymooners, Melanie said. The room features a Jacuzzi tub, a queen-sized bed and a powder room, according to the inn’s website. When weddings are hosted at Holmberg, the couple stays in the Magnolia suite, and the bride often gets ready in this room.
The Port Aransas suite is named after Port Aransas beach, which is located along the coast of Texas. The Millsap family frequents Port Aransas and named this suite in commemoration of the area. All decor in the room is beach themed.
The Norman suite is the fourth room, which is decorated with Norman and OU-related items like autographed photos. With the ability to sleep three, it is most often used by families visiting OU.
Holmberg House hosts a variety of guests, including students and families visiting OU for the first time, families visiting their kids, interviewees for jobs at OU and OU football fans on game weekends. Melanie said that some guests are local, and others come from international locations. On average, most guests stay two nights.
“There are tons of people that come and stay with us from Texas, and also here in Oklahoma, but we've also had people stay with us that are from Germany, from Japan and from all over the world, so I find that interesting,” Melanie said.
Some guests have been returning to Holmberg for years. Barbie Stover, a regular from Mangum, Oklahoma, has been staying at Holmberg with her husband for at least 15 years, ever since they stumbled upon it while biking in the ‘90s.
“We love the environment, and the food is wonderful,” Stover said. “It's a family atmosphere. It's fun to just hang out in the yard or on the porch. They take very good care of us.”
Stover said that her experiences at Holmberg have always been positive, which is why she has been returning for so many years.
“The other day when it was rainy for the spring game weekend, they made sure that we knew that they had some umbrellas for us, if we needed them,” Stover said. “That's just an example of what they do. It's very family-like.”
Another regular guest from Houston, Texas, Kimberly Hillman, has been staying at Holmberg since her son was a freshman at OU four years ago.
“It feels like you’re staying in a house,” Hillman said. “They're the sweetest couple, and it's just a warm, friendly and clean place to stay.”
Melanie said one of the biggest draws to Holmberg House is its location and proximity to the OU campus.
“I would say what makes it special is that we’re unique to being right here on Campus Corner,” Melanie said. “You can sit out on our porch, and you can hear the football games, and you can hear the cheers.”
Hillman is also drawn to Holmberg by the location.
“I would say by far the number one advantage of it is the location,” Hillman said. “It's right there on Campus Corner and walking distance to everything including all the events that I went to those first several years.”
Stover said the accessibility to the OU campus is a draw for her and her husband as well.
“We also like the accessibility to the studium and to the whole campus,” Stover said. “I spend a lot of time at the Fred Jones Art Museum when I'm there. I'm a librarian and an art teacher … And then we also like shopping on Campus Corner, and eating on Campus Corner in the evening.”
Another perk to staying at Holmberg is the homemade breakfast served in the mornings.
“She makes the best scrambled eggs I have ever eaten,” Stover said. “They have chives and other things in them, and they're wonderful. She also makes homemade bagels, and they're really good. My husband really likes her waffles.”
Even if you’re in a rush, Hillman said they still provide snacks and to-go options.
“They have snacks in your room, and it's really sweet and comfortable and homey, and they have breakfast the next day,” Hillman said. “Sometimes I'll be in a hurry or something, but they'll let you take it to go.”
In addition to hosting guests, the inn also hosts events like weddings, receptions, birthday tea parties, business meetings and reunions, according to Holmberg’s website.
“We've done small weddings, bridal showers and baby showers,” Melanie said. “We’ve even done an adult slumber party, which was pretty fun. Or, you can just do your own event and we can do as little of it or as much of it (as you want). You can just use our facilities.”
However, similar to most businesses, Homlberg has struggled in the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(COVID-19) affected us tremendously,” Melanie said. “We went from having guests to no guests, and not having guests for seven, eight months was not really good. Last weekend was good, we had Parents Weekend and it was a little sliver of normalcy. I think (getting back to normal) is just going to take a while.”
As a result, the Millsaps have had to make changes to some of their services. They now offer food boxes and deliveries, and deliveries are free to on-campus orders.
“(Food box deliveries) is something that I started doing that I probably never would have thought about prior to the pandemic, because I was always so busy with guests,” Melanie said. “I had one today for a girl's birthday. I made a birthday waffle box and delivered it to her from her parents since her parents couldn’t be here.”
Regulars like Stover were affected as well, as they were unable to come stay during the heat of the pandemic last year.
“Last year, with COVID, we couldn't come, and it was horrible,” Stover said. “We missed it so much. I just really appreciate Mark and Melanie's kindness through this time.”
Melanie said her favorite thing about running the inn is meeting new people each time someone books a room.
“I like talking to the people, and we meet tons of different people from other places,” Melanie said.
“We're a small, family-owned business,” Melanie said. “We're always here, and that makes us special.”