Published Date Written by Tom EastmanBARTLETT — The New England Inn sold at foreclosure auction in less than 15 minutes Friday afternoon, with former owners Chet and Chris Hooper purchasing the 1809-built inn and its Tuckerman's Tavern Restaurant, enclosed pool and cabins for $640,000.
The Hoopers sold the property approximately four years ago to Diane and Larry Merrill for $2.2 million, according to Chet Hooper.
That price was confirmed by Earle Wason of Wason Hospitality Associates of Freedom and Portsmouth, who had been attempting to negotiate the sale of the inn with a few potential buyers, including the Hoopers and one whom Wason described as “financially significant.”
He said Lance Merrill, son of owners Diane and Larry, had wanted to continue operating Tuckerman's but to sell the inn.
“We actually had two or three interested parties, with one in particular, but he opted to wait and see if he could get it at foreclosure and then negotiate with Lance, but that didn't happen,” said Wason Monday.
Hoopers hope to reopen 'ASAP'
The Hoopers owned a third mortgage on the property but that was “wiped out by the foreclosure sale,” said Chet Hooper in an interview from his Pittsburg home in northern New Hampshire Monday afternoon.
He said his family wants to make some capital improvements and to get the inn and restaurant reopened “as soon as possible.”
Adam Hooper Monday said he and his brother Todd will be on-site, running the restaurant, known as Tuckerman's Tavern.
He said he will be speaking with the existing staff to see who wants to stay on over the next few weeks.
“I know a few of the people, and I've already contacted them,” said Adam Hooper who had been working at Hillbilly's Southern Barbecue in North Conway while his brother worked for the Moat Mountain Smoke House and Brewery.
“The Kiwanis Club has met there for years. They will need to find other places for the next few weeks, but I have already spoken with Tim George [of the club] and he said they would like to stay there,” said Adam Hooper.
Chet Hooper said it is not likely that the inn will feature entertainment, but said again, his sons will be running the bar.
He said the inn will seek to continue to do weddings.
“I think it's a perfect property for that — we could do more tent weddings,” said Chet Hooper.
Chet and Chris Hooper will serve as overall property managers at the outset, with Chet Hooper saying that they would no doubt be looking for a general manager in time.
As to whether the White Mountain Aquatic Foundation will continue to get to lease the covered pool, Chet Hooper said he soke briefly at the sale with Maury McKinney of the aquatic group but that nothing has been worked out as of yet.
“I said it was just too busy to deal with all of that that day, but I am sure we will take a look at what his former agreement was and see where we go from there,” related Hooper.
The Hoopers had a lease-to-buy option with the Lodge property across the street.
“We had a lease-to-own deal. He [Lance] would have owned it in another year,” said Chet Hooper. “With the amount we had invested across the street, we had to protect ourselves and go back in. We got it at the price we wanted.”
He said he believes the purchase price at foreclosure at $640,000 is a good one.
“I think the place is worth a lot more than what it sold for — but a lot of work needs to be done,” he said, noting that he is currently negotiating to obtain bank financing for those improvements.
He said Lance Merrill did a good job with Tuckerman's, but that running the entire inn was a lot of work for one person to handle.
“He was not behind in payments to us; it is my understanding he was behind to the bank. We didn't foreclose on him— the bank [Northway Bank] did,” said Hooper.
“The bottom line is that the inn and the lodge and all the cabins and pool are now under one operation, as they were when the Hoopers owned it before,” said Wason.
The Hoopers own a home near the inn, and also own a farm in Pittsburg in the northern part of the state, according to Wason.
According to the website, loopnet.com, “The New England Inn and Tuckerman' s Restaurant are located just a few miles north of downtown North Conway on Route 16A in the Mount Washington Valley. The property is comprised of 6.5-plus acres on the easterly side of Route 16-A. Within the main house are nine guest rooms and two apartments. Attached to the main house is Tuckerman' s Restaurant and Tavern with seating for 280-plus. On the grounds there are an additional 11 guest cottages, five of which are duplexes, and a stand-alone pool house with heated indoor swimming pool.”