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August 6, 2018
On the record

Running the Migis Lodge is a 'labor of love' for third-generation operator

Photo / Fred Field
Photo / Fred Field
Jed Porta is the third-generation operator of the Migis Lodge in South Casco. He's also a partner in the Migis Hotel Group.

Jed Porta went to work at Migis Lodge when he was 12. The lodge, built in 1916, has been in the Porta family for 50 years. Gene and Grace Porta purchased the lodge in 1968, then sold it to their son Tim and his wife Joan in 1978. Jed Porta is now the third generation operating the South Casco lodge.

A graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Jed became general manager in 2009. He's also a partner with Migis Hotel Group, whose holdings include the Inn at Ocean's Edge (Lincolnville), Black Point Inn (Prouts Neck), The Sparhawk (Ogunquit), 250 Main Hotel (Rockland) and Higgins Beach Inn (Scarborough). Porta took time to discuss the business with Mainebiz. Here's the edited transcript:

Mainebiz: How do you define Migis?

Jed Porta: It's really a family summer camp and full American-plan resort: Rates include three meals per day and full use of the resort.

MB: Why is the American plan important?

JP: What guests love about Migis is the one-stop nature. The activities are here, meals are arranged. Full American-plan, summer-camp-style lodges don't exist as much anymore. The key is having a consistently strong food program. If the meals slip, the whole experience slips and the only thing you can do is only serve breakfast and guests are on their own for lunch and dinner. Once you do that, it's hard to make the summer-camp model hold up. The food program is the linchpin.

MB: Who are your guests?

JP: We have families that have come for 30 or 40 years. There was a time in the '80s and '90s when we had a reputation for being a great place but you could never get in, because we had 90% return guests. We're still blessed with high return, but it's 65% or 70% now. We're seeing more new guests.

MB: How do you get new guests?

JP: Our No. 1 marketing tool is word-of-mouth. We focus on providing a great experience. We're confident that, if we can get someone to visit us, they'll tell their friends. Many guests come from the Washington-to-Boston corridor, some from the greater Portland area, a smattering from the Midwest, California, Texas, Florida and even international.

MB: How have guest needs changed?

JP: Before the cell phone era, Migis was considered a place to get away from it all. Nowadays people need to be connected. We have robust WiFi. But our guests are active. They're paddleboarding and swimming all day. We're seeing more active and healthy lifestyles. Now, it's all stand-up paddleboards. From a food standpoint, they're looking for healthy options.

MB: Staffing is a perennial hospitality issue. How are you doing?

JP: We were once fully staffed for a week in 1985. I joke. You're never fully staffed. We're fortunate to have staff housing for 40 or so employees. That allows us to expand our labor market worldwide, essentially. We hire as many local people as we can, a dozen or so international employees and lots of college students. As with guests, word-of-mouth works. We provide a great work experience to get employees to return and, when they do, they often bring a friend. And there's a big banner at the end of the driveway saying, 'We're hiring.'

MB: What investments do you make to keep Migis viable for the future?

JP: The biggest thing with a property like this is our focus on facility care. If you let the infrastructure go, it costs too much to bring it back. That's probably what caused other full American-plan properties in the area to disappear. We have aggressive investment every year. It's not about expanding. We're as big as we want to be. It's just continual improvement. The only thing we expand is programming and amenities.

MB: Is this a tough business?

JP: It's tough if you don't love what you're doing. But it's a labor of love for me.

MB: Does Migis Hotel Group have plans for further acquisitions?

JP: We always have our eyes open, but nothing on the books right now. We just opened The Groton Inn in Groton, Mass. That's got our attention right now.

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