Waterford, Maine

Bear Mountain Inn under new ownership

Brian and Julie Sullivan became the proud owners of the Bear Mountain Inn on March 31, Julie’s birthday and the couple’s 24th wedding anniversary.

The Sullivans dove right in, dealing with a steady stream of guests while beginning an ambitious barn restoration project. The Massachusetts natives say they are excited about the inn’s potential.

New owners of the Bear Mt Inn

Brian and Julie Sullivan with Mackenzie in front of the inn.    Photo: Molly Breton

“We’re really hoping to grow this,” Brian said, noting that the first few weeks have been a blur with the chaos of construction. “We’re just trying to get everything done for our first wedding in mid-June.”

That event had already been scheduled by Christi Kerrigan, who owned the inn for the past eight years. She has been running it by herself since her divorce. She worked with the Sullivans for a week to help with the transition.

The Bear Mountain Inn is a 25-acre property located at the head of Bear Pond. It features 11 rooms in the main house plus a two-story post-and-beam home and a dog-friendly cottage. It has seen several owners but the actual inn concept was first developed by Mary and Oscar Andrews in the 1950s.

In recent years, it has blossomed into a popular venue for weddings and large gatherings.

Julie grew up on a 200-acre apple orchard 20 miles west of Boston in Stow, MA, a mixed residential and rural community with a population of 6,590. Her grandfather started the farm 93 years ago and she and her brother took over operations with her father more than a quarter century ago.

“As my dad was getting older and stepped out of it, I decided to step out of it, too,” she said, leaving her brother to run the farm after 24 years. The business features full retail with pick-your-own and a farm market. During the peak time, they employ 90 over seven crucial weekends.

“It was and still is a very big operation,” Julie said, noting that they had eight acres of parking. They also hosted a number of events including weddings, birthday parties, hay rides and school tours “with thousands of kids.” Brian said on a busy day there would be 70 buses.

Brian is a graphic designer with a successful business that was based in Newton, MA. When the 2008 crash came, it all but killed the business as several of his major accounts fell victim to the recession. He and his partner decided to “go virtual” and they’re still together, operating out of their homes while living three states apart.

It turned out it wasn’t all bad because the change cut out the hour commute and allowed him to handle advertising, marketing and IT needs at the farm as well as keeping the social media and web pages current.

Their quest for a new life started when they were having lunch in Lake Placid, NY with their dog MacKenzie and they began thinking about opening a doggie day care to serve vacationers staying at hotels. They even came up with a name - Adirondack Park and Play. But after looking at a local campground that would have been perfect, they found out the local zoning authority wouldn’t allow it.

Bitten by the campground bug, they began a cross-country search. They bought a 5th wheel RV and visited 27 states over the past year and a half, “looking for a new place to call home.” They were so serious about owning a campground that they interned at two and attended a national conference in Daytona Beach Florida.

Upon returning to New England last September, they found the about-to-expire listing for the Bear Mountain Inn.
Just days before the closing, they attended a national innkeepers’ conference in Missouri. They returned to complete the purchase and roll up their sleeves.

Brian said they discovered that their plans for the barn were complicated by strength issues with the floor. The existing floor was torn up and the support beams are being replaced. Chandelier lighting, wall sconces and celling fans will complete their vision for a picturesque wedding barn and meeting space.

A full-length patio will be added along the lakeside of the barn to accommodate guests for cocktail receptions. The patio will feature a propane fireplace and an
awning system for rainy days.

To make it more affordable, the Sullivans plan to hold most of their wedding events in the barn but tent weddings overlooking the lake are still an option.

For breakfasts they plan on using food sources from local farms and coffee from local roasters.

Source: Mutiny Brook Times - Issue 116