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FRYEBURG — In just four months, a great deal of interest was received on the Old Saco Inn, which sold just six months after it was listed.
“It can take two to three years to sell a lodging property,” said The B&B Team broker Dana Moos. “So we were quite surprised when it didn’t take but a few months. And having several interested parties within four months is unheard of. It’s just not common to have multiple offers on inns.”
Located at 125 Old Saco Lane in Fryeburg, the inn was purchased by Jon Hendrickson and Bruce Moffit for $1.35 million. The sellers were Sandi and Pete MacLachlan. The sale closed Jan. 31, 2018. Moos and Rick Wolf of The B&B Team represented the sellers and Moos represented the buyers.
Moos said interest in the inn was boosted by its somewhat unique characteristics, which include being on 65 acres on the bank of the Old Saco River, with views of the White Mountains, meadows and forest in the midst of Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region and neighboring New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. The inn has its own driving range, plus complimentary gear, like canoes and kayaks, for guests.
And with nine rooms and a small restaurant, it was small enough for novice innkeepers and also has potential for expansion. Only about five acres are developed; the rest is wooded.
The typical inn buyer is a couple, and they’re often retiring from a previous career but not necessarily retiring all together, said Moos.
“It used to be that buyers were older and often at retirement age,” she said. “Today we’re seeing people who are not quite the retirement age, but pre-retirement. A lot of them are tired of corporate jobs and being in overdeveloped, congested areas, and want a simpler life in places where they enjoyed vacationing. We’re seeing more 40-, 50-years-olds who have some money but want to make sure they’re not giving up all of the income they used to make. They want to make a sensible decision and buy something that’s financially viable, hold it for 10 or 15 years, then retire.”
The inn started out as a vacation home built in 1978, and was converted for inn use in 1996.
Before arriving in Maine in January, Moffit and Hendrickson lived for two years in Delaware, and before that in Lancaster, Pa. Both came to innkeeping from nursing careers.
“Jon was an emergency room nurse for most of his career, and he also did ICU,” said Moffit. “I was a nurse for just two years, and I did hospice home health care. Before nursing, I was an electrical engineer.”
What got him into nursing?
“I always had the desire,” he said. “I started classes and it led to a bachelor’s degree.”
But their schedules were completely opposite and they had little time together.
“So we were looking for something we could do together, as opposed to just running into each other as one goes to work and the other comes home from work,” he said.
While thinking about that, they became interested in Maine through the reality television show Maine Cabin Masters, whose principals renovate rustic cabins and camps throughout Maine.
“I said to Jon a couple of times, over the last couple of years, ‘We should look for a cabin there, a place to go to enjoy life and not work so hard,’” Moffit recalled. “That isn’t exactly what we did.”
Instead, they headed in the direction of innkeeping through two friends who had bought a Lincolnville inn. In the spring of 2017, the friends invited Moffit and Hendrickson, as part of a larger friend group, to come and help them get ready for the grand opening. Moffit and Hendrickson ended up traveling to Lincolnville half a dozen times over the summer and fall to help with that inn.
“Over that time-frame, we fell in love with Maine,” he said.
So they started looking for their own inn to buy, in the midcoast area.
“We’d either find something we liked but it didn’t have good financials and it was difficult to get a loan, or we’d find something one of us liked but the other didn’t,” Moffit said. “Until we saw the Old Saco Inn and we both fell in love with it.”
What was it about the place?
“The peacefulness, the solitude, the land, the beauty,” Moffit said. “We drove in the first time at, like, 3 in the morning, and the winding drive along the river, half a mile off the road — it’s magical.”
The couple financed the purchase by using some of their retirement money and through a loan with Camden National Bank.
The inn was in great shape and didn’t need anything in the way of renovation. But the couple expanded restaurant and bar hours. The restaurant and bar have had a long-time local following for dinners on Friday and Saturday nights during the season.
Moffit and Hendrickson added Sunday brunch and a pub menu, and they’re now open four days a week year-round, compared with the previous owners’ two days per week during the busy season and two days a month in the off-season.
“We’re doing well with the extended hours,” said Moffit.
They also have plans to build an events barn.
“We’re working with a couple of post-and-beam builders to build a wedding barn,” he said. “We’re hoping, if things go well, we’ll be able to be open that next spring or summer.”
The couple has eight employees, including two who worked for the previous owners. They were able to rehire a cook who had moved on to another job. Others have been local hires.
Their learning curve was substantial. But the previous owners trained them the first few days and left good systems in place, making it possible for Moffit and Hendrickson to run with it.
“We were open the first weekend after the previous owners took off,” Moffit said. “The next weekend we had the restaurant open and, because we didn’t yet have staff hired, we did the cooking and serving and bartending ourselves. We did that for about a month, then we realized it was way too much for two people to do.”
The inn is open year-round, thanks to the area’s popularity as a ski and snowmobile destination. Locals, said Moffit, come to the restaurant on a regular basis.
The inn is different from others, he said, because of those multiple revenue streams — not just lodgings but also the restaurant, bar and driving range open not just to guests but to the general public.
Nursing provided a good foundation for their new careers.
“Nursing is hospitality in the sense that you have to have good people skills,” he said. “We definitely feel the correlation.”