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March 12, 2018 | last updated March 12, 2018 2:04 pm

Boothbay Region inn owners expand their footprint with Camden purchase

Courtesy / Bill Pearson
Courtesy / Bill Pearson
Jill and Ted Hugger bring years of hospitality and business development experience to the Cedar Crest Inn in Camden, which they purchased on Feb. 27 for an undisclosed sum.

The new owners of Cedar Crest Inn in Camden say its three acres, along with four acres on an adjoining property, provide plenty of opportunity for expansion if they decide that's what they want to do at a later date.

Jill and Ted Hugger, owners of the Cod Cove Inn in Edgecomb, completed the purchase of the 37-room inn in Camden from Bill Hahn and Stephen Liberty on Feb. 27, for an undisclosed sum. Roger Daigle and Nick Farrell of Daigle Commercial Group in Portland brokered the transactions on behalf of the buyers

Cedar Crest Inn was on the market for about a year, said Daigle.

"We'd had some serious activity on it," he said. "At one point we thought we had a match, but the buyers decided they weren't ready to make the move to Camden. So we kept promoting it."

There aren't enough lodgings on the market to satisfy demand at the moment, either in Camden or Maine overall, he said.

"There are currently more buyers than sellers," Daigle said. "We have qualified buyers who are looking to move into Maine, and others looking for second properties, who have done well with their first property. The industry is changing so that there are more multiple-property owners than there used to be years ago, when people would focus on one property, make it their home and their livelihood and that was the end of it."

Multiple-lodging ownership, he noted, helps achieve economies of scale for advertising, purchasing of soft and hard goods, and other operational aspects.

Future growth potential

Courtesy / Ted Hugger
Courtesy / Ted Hugger
The Cedar Crest Inn, on busy Route 1 in Camden, is under new ownership with the potential for future development.

The Cedar Crest Inn is located on busy Route 1 on the west side of Camden, with other hot tourist destinations — like Bar Harbor and the Boothbay peninsula — within an hour or two on either side.

According to a press release, Hahn and Liberty purchased the inn from George and Gypsy Underhill in 2000.

"It had been in their family for some 40 years and has now been a lodging property for nearly 100 years," said Hahn. "We were attracted to the Cedar Crest as a business opportunity, but also because of the quality of care the Underhills had given the property. Our model was to continue to provide comfortable, affordable, accommodations for travelers visiting our beautiful coastal town. We are pleased to pass it to the Huggers, as we know they will be stewards for the property who will continue the Cedar Crest tradition of providing great experiences to visitors for years to come."

In the release, Ted Hugger said that under Hahn and Liberty's leadership, the inn has earned a solid reputation among travelers to the mid-coast region.

The oldest building is a cape-style house built around 1840. Located at the front of the property, it houses the registration desk and offices. An addition was later added to accommodate a restaurant called the HorseFeather Grille (formerly the Elm Street Grille). Three other buildings with accommodations are set back further. The inn also features a heated outdoor swimming pool, playground area, and gardens.

With three acres, there's land to accommodate future growth, said Hugger. Plus, the couple bought an adjoining four-acre parcel of woodland from the same seller, also with thoughts of future development.

Overall, he said, the inn is in good condition.

"The previous owners, Bill and Stephen, had been steadily upgrading and making improvements," he said.

The Huggers plan to do minor improvements in the first year, including painting, redecorating, landscaping and a new website.

"Our thought is to run the inn pretty much the same as it's been, this first year, just to get a good understanding of the business and the facility, and from that decide on further renovation," Hugger said.

Boothbay-Camden connection

Courtesy / Ted Hugger
Courtesy / Ted Hugger
The new owners of the Cedar Crest Inn bought their first inn, the Cod Cove Inn in Edgecomb, in 2013.

Both from Michigan, the Huggers moved to Maine in 1989, when Ted became director of sales and marketing at WoodenBoat Publishing in Brooklin, before taking a job as director of marketing for Diversified Business Communications in Portland. He's also owned and operated two publications, an advertising agency and a tradeshow development company.

Jill has 25 years in hospitality, including general management of the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa and the Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit.

With their combined expertise, teaming up made sense, Hugger said. They purchased Edgecomb's Cod Cove Inn in 2013 and enjoyed the change. So they looked into acquiring a second lodging. Conversations with Cod Cove guests made them realize Camden would be ideal.

"We have guests who spend two or three days exploring the Boothbay peninsula, and then they say, 'We're going to explore Camden next,'" he said. "So that became a bellwether for us."

Working with Daigle, they looked at several properties and discovered Cedar Crest.

"It had to be the right fit for us," Hugger said. The Cedar Crest "is quaint, it's New England, it's got good bones — just as we found with the Cod Cove Inn when we purchased it."

Guests demographics tend to differ between the two lodgings.

"From what we can tell so far, Cedar Crest customers tend to be older travelers," Hugger said. "We have some tour group buses booked, and we get families because we have the space, with an outdoor pool and lawns, to do things like reunions."

Because Cod Cove is one of the few Boothbay peninsula lodgings open year-round, winter clientele includes business travelers and summer-home owners checking on their properties. Summer guests include vacationers and wedding groups.

Hugger plans to implement an aggressive marketing campaign for both properties through ads and social media.

The Cedar Crest will allow the Huggers to offer two-inn accommodation packages. It opens May 11.

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