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August 21, 2017

In Camden, seller unbundles the Inns at Blackberry Commons for separate sale

Courtesy / Rick Wolf
Courtesy / Rick Wolf
The Blackberry Inn at 82 Elm St. in Camden, built in 1849, was purchased by a Houston couple.

CAMDEN — In an unusual transaction, a property package involving two neighboring 19th century inns under one ownership was split between two separate buyers.

Sellers Cyndi and Jim Ostrowski sold the Blackberry Inn, at 82 Elm St., to Catherine and Bob Hobson, in a deal that closed June 7.

The Ostrowskis sold the Elms Inn Bed and Breakfast, at 84 Elm St., to Gary Born and James Carmack, in a deal that closed July 26.

Rick Wolf, a partner/owner of The B&B Team in Kennebunk, brokered both deals and represented all parties. Both prices were undisclosed.

The Ostrowskis originally owned the package under a single name — the Inns at Blackberry Commons, although the buildings had separate signage. The Blackberry Inn has 11 guest rooms, and the Elms seven guest rooms. Eighteen rooms total was manageable for veteran innkeepers, but could be daunting to prospective buyers, said Wolf. So the inns were put on the market with the choice of buying them as a package or separately.

"To the best of our knowledge, this transaction is the first of its kind," said Wolf. "I can't say it's never happened before, but we've never encountered it."

The Blackberry, an Italianate Victorian, was built 1849, with additions added later, said Wolf. The Elms was built in the classic New England Federal style in 1806. They are three blocks from Camden village and harbor. Both are in excellent shape, with historic features like ornate moldings and tin ceilings in the Blackberry and wide-plank pine floors in the Elms, as well as modern amenities.

Second careers for both sets of buyers

Both sets of buyers credit the sellers for their wonderful help in getting them up to speed.

The Hobsons hail from the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas. Both had corporate careers — Catherine as a marketing project manager with a Houston accounting firm, and Bob in offshore oil with a Dutch company based in Houston. The two love to stay in bed-and-breakfasts when they travel, so they thought about running one of their own when they retired, said Catherine.

In early 2016, they began to look for an inn to purchase. They narrowed their search to upstate New York and New England, then stayed at inns there to get the feel.

"The Blackberry Inn was the winner," she said. "We've always loved the architecture of Victorian homes. This one was well maintained, it's in a beautiful, thriving town that's kept its character and has strong seasonal business, and we could just walk in and get it going."

Booking for the summer was already underway when they closed. They jumped into operations, with help from staff hired by the sellers. The learning curve included cooking for numerous people. The couple took cooking courses.

"We knew it would be hard work, but we're both workhorses," she said.

The Hobsons intend to try year-round operation to see if there's a market, since Camden has winter visitorship through conferences, the Snow Bowl and other activities.

"It's fun," she said. "Every Saturday, I bake double chocolate chip cookies, and it's door-to-door service."

Buyers of The Elms hail from Kansas

Courtesy / Rick Wolf
Courtesy / Rick Wolf
The Elms, at 84 Elm St. in Camden, was built in the classic New England Federal style in 1806 and was sold to a Kansas couple.

Carmack and Born moved from Kansas to buy The Elms.

"I was in corporate America for 27 years, and I was tired of it," said Born. Carmack ran a barbershop. They'd batted around the idea of owning a B&B for years since, like the Hobsons, they loved staying in them when they traveled. When Born helped a friend open a B&B, he was convinced.

"We were both at an age where, if we were going to make a change, we needed to do it quickly," said Carmack.

Born had vacationed in Maine and loved it. So Carmack researched inns and came across Camden as a great locale.

"I fell in love with this property online," said Carmack. "When we came, it was clear this was the right fit."

"It had that comfortable home vibe," added Born.

Courtesy / Gary Born
Courtesy / Gary Born
Rooms at The Elms feature wide-plank flooring and original fireplaces.

Walkability to the village and visibility on the main road were pluses. They leapt into operations, with full bookings, with a couple of staffers and a few days help from the sellers. Born had been practicing breakfast recipes before they arrived.

"It went great," said Born. "That's when we knew this is going to be fine."

They've changed the name to The Elms of Camden and plan to operate year-round. Planned improvements include installation of mini-split heat pumps to replace air conditioners, and turning the third floor into a suite.

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