Christmas Farm Inn and Spa sold

New ownership partnership to stress affordable getaways and local spa access

By Tom Eastman
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JACKSON — The Christmas Farm Inn and Spa has been purchased by two partners experienced in the hospitality business.

One of Jackson's most historic buildings, the inn, with its salt box wing dating back to 1778 and 14 acres of land on both sides of Route 16-B, was bought by Dennis Learner and Sydney Slome.

The previous owners, George Tolley and son Michael Tolley of the Tolley Group, purchased the inn from Sydna and former U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff in 2000. The Tolleys also own the Green Granite Inn and Conference Center and the Holiday Inn Express, both of North Conway.
Learner said he has been on  site for the past three or four weeks, overseeing painting improvements and renovations to the buildings' exterior.

“We're busy,” said Learner, who previously worked in the valley at the Eagle Mountain House and the Mount Washington Hotel.
He said all the paved driveways at the inn are also being repaved, the outdoor pool is being re-coated, the roofs are to be replaced by the end of the year, and the grounds are will be improved. Learner said he will serve as on-site general manager, while Slome will remain in contact from his two hotel properties in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Belcher family, who are related to the Tolleys, ran the inn for the past year. The Belchers also own the Lodge at Jackson.
The sale was transacted by Earle Wason of Wason Associates Hospitality Real Estate Brokerage Group of Portsmouth. Wason said he represented both the sellers and the buyers. Wason underscored that neither of Tolleys' other properties are for sale, but had been seeking a buyer for the venerable Jackson landmark for the past two years. He said the new ownership partnership of Learner and Slome brings decades of hospitality experience to the inn. “I think this really was a case of waiting to find the right people for the inn,” said Wason, whose company specializes in inn property sales. They will bring their strong hospitality and food and beverage background to the inn, and I think that's what makes this work,” added Wason.

He declined to reveal the purchase price but said that the deal truly came together through creative financing and give-and-takes by both parties over the past month.

Slome also owns the StoneFort Inn, an historic, 20-room Bed & Breakfast in the heart of downtown Chattanooga that is a National Historic Register landmark. Its sister property, The Legendary Delta Queen Hotel, features  87 staterooms, Victorian era heritage and a storied history.

Slome also previously had an ownership interest in the Wentworth by the Sea in Newcastle 25 years ago prior to its more recent restoration and re-opening and also owned properties in the Lake Winnipsaukee region of New Hampshire as well as a resort in Maine.
“I love that area and have been trying to get back up there for years,” said Slome.

Both agreed that the inn is a real prize as a destination four-season resort in the heart of the White Mountains. They also agreed that despite the downturn in the national and regional economy, now is a good time the time to buy real estate.

“I would say this is a good opportunity now,” said Slome in a telephone interview from the floating deck of the Delta Queen, two days before that hotel's opening. “Anyone selling now is realistic about the price of what they can get,” said Slome, adding that mortgage rates are the lowest they have been in years and that banks are beginning to loosen up on credit.

“I had been looking at the property for three years. The owners and I reached a good compromise last week,” said Slome, saying he and Learner are 50-50 partners.“The economy is turning around. It seems that this is the time to buy, don't you think?” said Learner.

In separate interviews this week, Slome and Learner said they look forward to repositioning the inn as an affordable family resort as well as enhancing its appeal for couples seeking a romantic weekend or midweek getaway in the mountains.“The inn has done fairly well, and we are looking forward to generating some new business. We will try and make it more affordable, specifically midweek by introducing some new lodging and spa packages,” said Slome.

They added that they will push to make the inn attractive to local residents who they hope will take advantage of midweek spa packages as well as a summer outdoor pool membership — the latter of which will be offered for $99 for individuals and $149 for a family for the season.

The cabana will be open, serving poolside lunches.

A greater emphasis on dining will also be accentuated, said Learner. “We are encouraging local customers to come in and experience the dining room,” said learner, noting the inn is open for breakfast 8 to 10:30 a.m. and dinner is served 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.” The inn's chef is Guy Putnam.“We use the best fresh ingredients cooked to order — nothing is processed. We use top of the line prime meats. We try and keep prices in line at moderate rates so it appeals to all,” said Learner.

Asked overall his assessment of the inn, Learner said, “This is a fantastic property. You've got it all here. Mount Washington, the national forest, the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, the ski areas, the valley's shopping.”

He said the inn will be pet-friendly.

A member of the Select Registry of Distinguished Inns of North America, the property includes the main inn and saltbox; the Carriage House Spa and Conference Center, 12 large suites in that facility, eight cottages, two residential homes and an indoor and outdoor pool.
The spa was created in 2000.

The inn is popular as a wedding destination as well.

For further information, call 383-4313 or go to