Businessman John Fear and his wife Cheryl are the new owners of Yellow Coach Motel, now the Adirondack Inn Schroon Lake. Schroon Laker recently caught up with John and learned how getting lost on the east shore of Schroon Lake, discovering the Adirondack General Store, and a random stop in Schroon for Dinner at Pitkin’s, paved the way for them to become the new owners of the Inn.
Schroon Laker: What led you to purchase the Inn?
John: It's an interesting story that I've been telling over and over, so I suppose that that will keep me from having to tell it a few hundred more times. It was interesting. My wife and I were looking to start building our retirement home, if you will, even though I'm 54 and my wife's only 47. It's one of those ones where we were going to be building our retirement home, so we bought 6 acres of land up on River Road in Thurman. We were just getting out and looking at different house styles. Well, we had connected up with the real estate folks, and they were going to show us a house. We got separated and we were on the other side of the (Schroon) lake. So they said to us, “just meet me at the Adirondack General Store." We're like, "Okay, well, we don't know what that is." "Oh yeah, it's right up there in Adirondack.
My wife's lived here all her life. I've been here for 10 years. I never knew there was such a town as Adirondack. So we went. We got to the store. It's one of those things where, and I don't mean to sound, almost like in the spiritual sense, but it's like we crossed the threshold into the Adirondack Store. It was literally like the Hallelujah Chorus. We fell in love immediately with it. My wife leans over to me, she goes, and “You know this is for sale. Right?" I said, "What do you mean it's for sale?" She goes, "Yeah, it's in the real estate guide where we were actually looking for our other stuff." So, of course, I didn't know that. Well, long story short, we fell in love with the place, actually started buying things for it. The one thing we didn't do is we didn't put in an offer just kept waiting, and thinking about it a little bit more. It would have been a big lifestyle change for us.
Lo and behold, we get a call and learned it was sold. "Well, they've got a written contract on it." We're like, "What happened?" A couple of weeks go by. We're kind of actually almost despondent. What we realized was that it didn't have to necessarily have to be that. We wanted to own a business. We literally, when we got home from the Adirondack Store that night, we literally went home and put our land up for sale on our 6 acres on River Road in Thurman. It was for sale. Because what we realized is, we don't want to just sit on our butt looking at the river. We actually want to be a part of the community. We want to be a part of something else that's going on. I don't want to just fade into the sunset.
As we got more involved in that and looked around some different places. We looked at a place up in Westport. But it was just too big. When we walked around there really wasn't any kind of community or anything. When we came across this place, we actually were on our way back from Westport. We stopped at the Mt. Severance store that was (then) for sale. Looked at that. Well, maybe, maybe not. Then we just got hungry. So we came in and we had dinner at Pitkin’s.
That was the weekend they were having the little Christmas fair there. We met a guy who was handing out little carved Santa Clauses. Everybody in there was just wonderful to us and everything else. We were just stopping through town to have dinner. We kind of took a little bit of a walk after dinner and my wife, we go past the Yellow Coach, and she leans over to me again and she goes, "Well, you know that's for sale, right?" I'm like, "Are you kidding?" We go in. We look around.
The thing is, the one thing that I have, I'm just wired this way, is as soon as I walk in, it was almost like one of those HGTV shows, where I wasn't looking at what was there. I was looking at what we were going to do to it. In one case, probably the biggest change is going to come from the owner's quarters, the lobby, that sort of stuff, all of that is going to go into hardwood floors. When you're looking straight on, it's going to have the fireplace is going to be surrounded with river stone on the fireplace. It will have, instead of the windows on either side of the fireplace, it's actually going to have doors, and they're going to go out into the back and actually go onto a paver patio.
Then if you were thinking about having a family reunion, or we work with the churches to host the wedding parties, or any of that sort of stuff, here you have a wonderful intimate place in there to kind of walk around off in the back and have nice furniture out there. We're taking and having Craig Masonville, who does the wood, all the tree cutting and everything else around in the area, coming in and kind of going, there's a beautiful stone wall in the back that I don't think anybody really knew about. So that's all being, on top of the stone wall, we're going to go up the hill about 8 feet and just cut down every tree that's up there to really kind of give this nice kind of overhang and everything else that you'll have in the back of just really a very peaceful little plaza in the back of the building there.
Schroon Laker: That's fantastic. What's your background?
John: My background, actually, and that's what I'm doing these couple of days, is I'm actually a consultant. I'm a business consultant. A lot of stuff that I end up doing, it's doing stuff with strategic planning, sales coaching, and process engineering. So I work with business to look at ways in which they can do what they're doing more efficiently. I worked for 18 years with Travelers, left there about 8 years ago and started my own business. My wife actually still works for Travelers and will continue to. We're figuring out how exactly the transition will go to moving up there and living up there year-round. We do plan on it being a year-round business.
Schroon Laker: Where's home right now?
John: Right now it's in Queensbury.
Schroon Laker: You've had a chance now to spend some time in Schroon. What is it about our town that appeals to you and Cheryl?
John: The community. I don't know how to put that into a better scenario than in the first two days that I was there, I know more people by name in Schroon than in the neighborhood I've lived in for the past 10 years.
Schroon Laker: How many rooms all together are there?
John: There are actually 9 rooms that will be available for rent.
Schroon Laker: Talk about the renovation of each room. You’ve stripped everything out? Everything will be new?
John: Yes. The rooms are small. So we just have to make great use of a small space. One of the things that we're doing in there is sort of combining how they had before with things for bureaus. We're taking the microwaves out, because I really don't want people cooking in the rooms, per se. But I also know that you probably want to refrigerate something. So we will have small refrigerators. What we're going to do is we're going to have him custom build a cabinet that will incorporate a place for the refrigerator, and then have a few drawers, and then we can put a flat screen TV on top of.
John: You'll use much more compact in the rooms. There will be a lot more open and airy and that sort of thing. But it's ... That's where a lot of it is taking into that kind of stuff with the design. It will be all brand new carpeting in there. We're putting all new ceilings and ceiling fans and walls.
Schroon Laker: There's a big push to bring quality accommodations, “beds for heads” -- as the saying goes -- to Schroon. Sounds like the Adirondack Inn Schroon Lake is going to be a big step forward?
John: It will be. Great for guests who need to stay a night or two. I'm going to be looking at advertising it for small retreats that I can have them come in, and even the TV over the top of the fireplace will be sort of be a multimedia space that can be used to hold training sessions and things like that. Breakout groups in the back. People can actually stay there. I'll work with local restaurants to go through and cater meals, if that's what we need to do. Then they can go up to Sticks and Stones for the evening, and have a dinner up there. Whatever it is that we can do, and really kind of looking at it, the beauty of that place is, you come in there, you pull your car in, you park, and you don't ever have to get behind the wheel again.
Schroon Laker: Are you staying during the renovation.
John: I actually bring my RV up and stay in it. Because literally inside it's, if you're there in the times that we are I'll give you a tour inside. I mean the stuff is all ripped out.
Schroon Laker: How big are the owner’s quarters?
John: It's not big at all. It consists of a 13 x 16 bedroom, and about an 11 x 13 kitchen, and a 5 x 7 bathroom. But what we'll plan on using is also the main area will still be our living room, and really kind of having that as, kind of going back and forth between entertaining or not. Originally we were considering upstairs, because there's a 2-bedroom, bath, kitchen, and living room area actually on the 2nd floor. That will be more geared towards families, or people with multiple adults and that kind of stuff, or even folks who want to come and spend the week. That will be a great spot up there.
Schroon Laker: What bed sizes are you using? What's the layout?
John: It's going to be queen size beds in most of the rooms. Then in 2 of the rooms, they're actually about a foot wider than the other ones. In those one's we'll probably be putting in 2 twin beds that can then either be used as king, pushed together as a king, or just for those type of travelers where, we like traveling together, but not necessarily sleeping together.
Schroon Laker: Articulate for me, John, if you could, the experience of two travelers from New York City who have come up, and they check in. What is the experience going to be like for them?
John: Really what I want the experience to be is that quintessential Adirondack experience. In other words, you're in a town, and it almost sounds like a Cheers kind of thing, where people do know your name. Cheryl and I walked into Pitkin’s the other day, and they're like, "Oh, hi, John and Cheryl." Cheryl's like, "How do they know us?" It's one of the ones where, it's not that everybody knows your name, but people look you in the eye. People give you a fair shake on whatever. They're genuinely happy to see you. Like I tell Cheryl, we'll do enough with the advertising and so forth that people will get up there. But the reason why people will ever come back again is because of the experience that they have with us and the other businesses in town.
Schroon Laker: Thanks for your time and best of luck.
John: Thanks an awful lot for calling.