NORTHPORT — Tami and David Hirschfeld, of Camden and Montana, are circulating requests for proposals to lease portions of the 387-acre Point Lookout Resort in Northport and keep the restaurant, event facility and gymnasium in operation, as well as 40 of the 106 cabins in the lodging business.
The Hirschfelds, acting as Deep Creek Grazing Association, came to their decision after several months of soul-searching, they said.
On Sept. 20, they made the announcement first to the employees who are currently keeping the resort functioning, and then to area media. They were accompanied by their marketing consultant, Crystal Canney, of the Portland-based KnightCanney Group.
On June 4, just 10 weeks after announcing its acquisition of Point Lookout Conference Center, in Northport, and stating that the event and hospitality business there would continue, the Hirschfelds announced that they would be closing operations at the resort by mid-December.
That stunned the 30 full-time and 20 seasonal employees, as well as the general public, who had come to rely on the resort to ensure jobs, be a place to recreate, and rent as a function facility for auctions, weddings and parties.
“That was a premature decision,” said David Hirschfeld, on Sept. 20. “It was based more on our fear.”
He and his wife, Tami, said they grappled with the decision all summer.
“It broke our hearts hearing all the sadness and disappointment, and learning what an intricate part of the community it is,” said David Hirschfeld.
When they initially considered purchasing Point Lookout, it was with the intention to have a home there, raise blueberries and make maple syrup, “and run the resort below,” he said. “But since this wasn’t our field of expertise, we needed to bring in people to help us.”
Following a court battle with athenahealth, the former owner of the conference center over a dispute that involved another competing offer for the property, the Hirschfelds eventually prevailed and bought Point Lookout in March.
The couple, who own a cattle ranch in Montana, first started visiting Camden when David Hirschfeld was enrolled in law school in Vermont. They would visit the Maine coast, “and we fell in love with Camden,” said Tami.
They raised their children in Montana, homeschooling them there, and bought a second home in Camden. When their son reached high school age, he was prohibited from playing football with the high school team in Montana because he was homeschooled, said Tami.
So, the Hirschfelds came East for four years in the fall while their son played with Camden Hills Regional High School, and then they would return to Montana for the remainder of the year.
They all eventually moved to the Maine coast after their children graduated college, though still owning their Montana ranch.
When Point Lookout came on the market, they decided they wanted to live there, and run the farm.
After purchasing the property, David Hirschfeld said they retained consultants and managers for the resort, and then spent two months conducting a financial analysis of the athenahealth-owned business.
“It came back not good, to say the least,” said Hirschfeld. “We would have been filing for bankruptcy.”
So they made their June announcement that the resort would be shuttered by the end of 2019.
“When we did that, a lot of people in the community were hurting,” he said. “It broke our hearts.”
They heard comments from those working at the resort, they read the comments following news stories, and they listened to fellow parishioners at their church in Lincolnville.
Over the summer, “We went through iteration after iteration of preserving the place and jobs,” said Hirschfeld. “We finally came up with leasing and we are excited.”
They are hoping that interested parties will want to lease the entire resort, or even pieces of it. One stipulation is that their daughter and son-in-law will be keeping the gym open for the public, and operating it.
At the Sept. 20 meeting with employees, ideas were popping, said Canney.
“One employee is thinking about the Copper Pine Cafe,” she said. “People are buzzing about what might work.”
The bigger world already has caught wind, as well.
“It took all of three minutes,” for the bites to come in, she said.
The goal is to keep the resort in business and employing local people, without having to run the business. David Hirschfeld wants to concentrate on the agricultural possibilities.
He and Tami said there will be no more development on the 387 acres of Ducktrap Mountain they own there. The land in conservation easement remains in conservation easement, he said.
“With repairs and moderate improvements, we will cooperate,” he said.
Of the 106 cabins, 40 are to remain available for business. Sixty six of them are being sold and moved off the hillside.
“It is a reduction of the the footprint,” said Hirschfeld.
As for selling off any of the land, he said: “There is zero possibility of it getting subdivided. With us.”
Point Lookout Leasing Opportunity Request for Proposal
The objective is to: “provide an operation on terms and conditions that are most favorable to the owner. Provide a high-quality product or service.”
Deadline for RFPs is Nov. 15.
The project site includes:
10 three-bedroom cabins
28 two-bedroom cabins
2 one-bedroom cabins
Hedges Hall, with a 6,000 square-foot ballroom
Pavilion, a 10,000 square-foot covered outdoor space
Copper Pine Cafe
Education Center, with six classrooms
The fitness center will operate independently but will be open to the public, including guests/tenants.
Questions about the RFPs are to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org