Warm welcomes, striking surroundings and meals served your way – it’s a formula that’s won Thee Matriarch a loyal following. Part bed-and-breakfast, part event venue, this hub of hospitality in downtown Orangeburg is located blocks from South Carolina State University and about four miles from Edisto Memorial Gardens. Though the town is small, Thee Matriarch bustles with activity as if it were serving a big-city clientele.
Proprietors Rachelle and Fred Holmes aim to please, catering to the individual needs of overnight guests, business travelers, wedding parties and more. Need a girlfriend’s getaway or romantic escape? The Holmes will create the perfect vibe. Need a meeting room and lunch for a business training session? Your executive needs can be comfortably accommodated. Want to honor your college grad with a family celebration? Rachelle and Fred know how to throw a party you’ll never forget.
Armed with a degree in fashion design, a love for entertaining and admiration for the strong women in her life, Rachelle envisioned putting all three to work to create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. From the moment you enter, it is clear her decorative sense is a blend of exotic and elegant. From high-flown Victorian accents to exciting African motifs, the decor reflects all of Rachelle’s favorite things.
“Having a business where I could create and entertain was always part of my plan,” said Rachelle, who opened the inn in 2012 with hubby, Fred. “I grew up knowing what I wanted to do, but I thought I’d be involved with the hotel industry. At the time, I didn’t know there was such a thing as bed-and-breakfast. It turned out to be the perfect fit for me – I longed to design a business around themes I found appealing. I wanted to give it my special touch and having a bed-and-breakfast allows me to do just that. It was important to me not to create a cookie cutter look and feel.”
But the inn’s core charm lies in what Rachelle considers the most important theme. The first clue lies in the name, Thee Matriarch.
“We called it ‘Thee Matriarch’ as the name represents the women who played significant roles in our lives,” explained Rachelle. “Each room is named for a specific matriarch in our family. These are women who inspired us and helped make us who we are today.”
For example, “Lillie of the Valley,” which serves as a conference room, is named for Rachelle’s great grandmother. The “Rosetta” buffet room carries the name of Fred’s mother, who was a skilled cook. And the “Florence of Italy” guest room honors Rachelle’e grandmother, Florence, as well as Fred’s grandmother, Florene.
There are four guest rooms, two of which can open to one another to create a large two-room suite, that are comfortably and elegantly appointed. There are mini-fridges and microwaves in each, as well as a sitting area for enjoying coffee or a private meal. Recently, a new addition was built to house the inn’s most plush guest room and bath, the "Jazz It Up Suite," which features a large sitting room, bedroom with an electric fireplace and beautiful bath with double sinks, a Jacuzzi tub and walk-in shower.
A major part of the pampering, however, comes from the kitchen, where Fred cooks up delicious meals. Room rates vary depending on the kind of breakfast you want: continental, deluxe continental or full Southern-style.
“We noticed that not everyone wants a big breakfast, so I don’t want to cook a huge meal that won’t be eaten by guests,” said Fred, whose mother inspired him to develop his cooking skills when he was just 9. “So, we offer a choice, depending on guest preference.”
Fred prepares special lunches and dinners, too. All guests need to do is ask when they book their accommodations. The dining room at Thee Matriarch is also open to the public on the first Friday of the month, when it features a meat-and-three menu. Other specialties of the house include Fred’s version of shrimp and grits and curried chicken salad croissant sandwiches.
“We are more than a bed-and-breakfast,” Rachelle said. “We are a community center for all kinds of entertainment and gatherings. I’m from Orangeburg and made a decision to establish this business here because this community means a lot to me. It brings us joy to be a part of it.”