Wall Street woes may shut Chilmark Inn
The Inn at Blueberry Hill in Chilmark will not reopen this summer, apparently a victim of Wall Street financing woes. The future of the resort off North Road is unclear.
Business interests and former inn employees on- and off-Island said this week that the Lehman Brothers investment bank, which declared bankruptcy in September 2008, financed Everlands Life Destination Club, based in New York City and King of Prussia, Pa., owners of the inn.
Efforts to reach company officials were unsuccessful, but published reports over the last month quote Everlands principals as saying the company has suspended all sales and marketing but would continue to manage and operate its inns.
However, callers to the inn, which has an associated restaurant called Theo's, were asked this week to leave names and phone numbers, and there was no reference to room or dinner reservations. Callers to the inn several weeks ago received a voice message discussing plans to reopen and encouraged callers to leave information for reservations. Reportedly, the inn has retained a former employee to cancel reservations and to return deposits.
The situation caught Martha's Vineyard, including several inn employees, by surprise. Joe Forte, an Edgartown real estate agent, said this week. "I know until very recently they were proceeding with plans to reopen and had engaged contractors and had asked my wife, Robin, for a new menu."
Robin Ledoux- Forte had been chef at the Inn for more than a dozen years, serving three owners, Mr. Forte said. Ms. Ledoux-Forte is off-Island on family matters, Mr. Forte said.
The property changed hands on Sept. 25 2007. The sale price was $4,250,000. Mr. Forte said his office handled the sale of the 50-acre, 25-room property to Lifestyle Development Corp., now called Everlands Life Development Club. Lewis G. King, a former Chilmark selectman, owned and ran the property as an informally comfortable guest facility and restaurant, as Blueberry Hill Farm. Esther Hilton presided in the kitchen.
Nick Copley, president of SherpaReport, a Newton-based website devoted to resort destinations, told The Martha's Vineyard Times this week that the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers and the unexpected economic downturn had affected the industry and its market severely.
Under Everlands, the landmark Chilmark inn has been in rarified resort company, joining The Point in Saranac Lake, N.Y., Lone Mountain Ranch in Montana; Lake Rotoroa Lodge in New Zealand; Mangrove Cay Club in the Bahamas; Bristol Bay Lodge in Alaska; and Castle Hot Springs in Arizona; and a country estate in Devon, England.
According to the company website, planned acquisitions included a wild partridge habitat in central Spain, an Atlantic salmon property in Iceland, an estancia in Patagonia, and a game reserve in Kenya.
The company's business strategy has been to provide inn and hotel amenities to high-income guests while it converts its venues into members-only properties with a $1 million membership fee. Members receive an ownership interest in the company and the use of all venues.
The SherpaReport said the company has 55-60 members at present. "(Everlands) are not alone to find life hard going," said Mr. Copley. "They are new to the market and having Lehman fail made it more difficult." Other clubs that have been around longer and not as high end are also struggling, he said, predicting, "The older, better established clubs will best weather the storm."
In 2008, Everlands reached accord with the town of Chilmark to provide 25 percent of its rooms for guests, while reserving the remainder for members. The inn reported it had booked 500 room nights in 2008, according to town of Chilmark records.