Monday, November 26, 2012
Camden Corners: The Merryweather - The Offer
Tracy Robinson Crowley and Holly Mackenzie Burke were enjoying a few minutes of quiet in Tracy's office on the first floor of The Merryweather.
“Can you believe it was forty years ago that we made the decision to buy this place and turn it into a resort?” said Tracy.
“Everyone in town thought we were crazy and looking back I can understand how they felt.” Holly said.
“It really was a mess, wasn't it? So many years of neglect. I think we were just young and romantic. Through the years I heard many stories about Aunt Millie. It was always preached to me that money couldn't buy happiness. My grandmother would say, 'look at Aunt Millie, she wasn't happy a day in her life until her fortune was gone and she began to care for others.' Grandma used to tell me stories from the old days that she heard after she arrived in town. I never knew if they were true or just Grandma's active imagination, but those journals verified every word. I wish Grandma had been around to read each and every one of those journals. She would have loved it.”
“Speaking of the journals, how is Ashley coming along on converting them? What a huge undertaking that is.”
“She loves it. Ashley is like me, she can't get enough of the old stories. I think she has finished three books now. My granddaughter thinks she would like to get into journalism some day. I think she would be good at it. I am amazed at how meticulous she is with those journals. She won't transcribe a word until she knows it is correct. It isn't always easy to read them with the fading ink. I sometimes wonder if we shouldn't have had them preserved professionally.”
“Are you kidding? We barely had enough money to cover the cost of the opening let alone preserving old books.” laughed Holly.
The intercom buzzed.
“Tracy, Mr. Scott Douglas is here for his appointment with you and Holly.”
“Thanks, Donna. Ask him to come in please.”
Tracy and Holly both walked to the door to greet the man. “I can't imagine what this is all about, Mr. Douglas was so mysterious on the phone yesterday.” said Tracy.
“Probably a salesman.” said Holly.
“Mr. Douglas, I'm Tracy Crowley and this is my partner, Holly Burke. What may we help you with today?”
“Ladies, it's a pleasure to meet you. You have a beautiful place here. I've often heard about The Merryweather. I know several of my friends have vacationed here and enjoyed their stay very much.”
“That's always good to hear, Mr. Douglas. We hope you will consider a visit yourself.”
Without answering, Mr. Douglas opened his briefcase. “Ladies, I represent a gentleman named Arthur Pierce. You may have heard of him. He is the builder of many fine hotels all over the country.”
Holly spoke up. “Yes, Mr. Douglas, Mr. Pierce is quite well known. He seems to prefer the major cities for his properties.”
“That is correct, Ms. Burke. Mr. Pierce has authorized me to make you and Ms. Crowley a substantial offer on your property even though it is in a less desirable location.”
“Mr. Douglas, I don't know where you got the idea The Merryweather is for sale, but I assure you it is not.” said Tracy while Holly nodded her head in agreement. Please tell Mr. Pierce we appreciate any offer he may make but we are not interested.”
“I wouldn't be so hasty, ladies. You haven't seen the offer.” Mr. Douglas showed them a prepared contract with the amount of the offer in bold print.
“Mr. Douglas, The Merryweather is very special to my partner and me but there is no way on earth it is worth this amount of money.” Tracy laughed.
“This is not a joke, Ms. Crowley. Mr. Pierce does not joke. This is a serious offer, one you most likely won't be receiving in another ten or fifteen years when you and your friend decide to take life a little easier.
“I'll leave this contract with you. My card is attached. I hope to hear from you soon.” Scott Douglas nodded his head and was out the door leaving two astonished women with their mouths open in shock.
“I don't believe it Holly. Do you think this guy is on the up and up?”
“Do you remember, there was an article in the Chronicle several months ago about Arthur Pierce. He is building high rise condominium resorts in many small towns through our state and several others. This would be a prime location for something like that. The reason we are so popular is because of our close proximity to the mountains, the lake being right here and, of course, the vineyards and wineries are a big draw. Not to mention all the shops on Main Street.
It would mean he would tear down The Merryweather and replace it with a thirty story building. This is an exorbitant amount of money, but I believe he would be making a profit in record time.”
“Are you seriously thinking of selling The Merryweather, Holly?”
“No, I hadn't given it a thought until now. This kind of money isn't something to scoff at though. Just think what we could do with it. We would be able to buy anything we wanted and still have money left over to give away. We could travel. Jack would be able to give up his law practice and Steve could turn the paper over to someone else. Our children and grandchildren would be set for life.”
“It sounds wonderful but I'm thinking of what Grandma used to say about money. We have a lot to think about. I'm not sure I want The Merryweather to be torn down. We worked so hard to restore it. Maybe its time has come. It's over two hundred years old now. We do have to replace the roof next year and that will take a big bite out of our profits. The new chef is threatening to quit if we don't replace two of the ovens in the kitchen. Hank caught a couple of the busboys chugging a bottle of top shelf scotch.”
“Are they at it again? Boys will be boys but why do they always choose the good stuff? What did Hank do?”
“He fired one boy and warned the other. It is a way to get rid of the teenage boys who take the job just to hook up with the teenage girls.”
“And drink our liquor!”
“We have a lot to think about, Holly. We both have so many memories of this place. You and Steve were married here three months after our grand opening. Jack came back to town for the wedding and we fell in love that very night.”
“It has been an adventure. We have almost forty years worth of guest registers. I enjoy looking at those and remembering the people who have spent time here. Visitors who fell in love on the dance floor just like you and Jack. The few who fell out of love. All the weddings that were held here and then seeing the couples return with their children. Our kids all spent most of their summer days at the pool or in the lake. They have all worked here and now the grandchildren are doing the same. So many wonderful memories, but so much money if we sign that contract.”
Donna knocked on the door. “Come in Donna.”
“I have to admit to you boss ladies, I was snooping and overheard the name Arthur Pierce. I read about him in Steve's paper. Did they offer to buy The Merryweather? Please tell me you aren't thinking of turning it over to that billionaire. Life in Camden Corners will never be the same.”
“Donna, remind me during your next evaluation to reprimand you for eavesdropping.” Tracy laughed. Mr. Douglas offered us quite a bit of money. Of course, we would share our profits with the entire staff. What would you say Donna's cut would be Holly?”
“Enough money to tide her over until she is able to collect her pension.”
Donna's mouth fell open. “You aren't serious.”
“We would have to have our accountant work up a plan, but yes, it would be a sizable amount. Would you like to rethink your objection to the sale.”
“Maybe I would.”
“We are far from making any decisions Donna so please don't mention this to the rest of the staff. No matter what we decide, you will be one of the first to know,” said Holly
“I won't tell anyone Holly, I promise. I think I'll take a little break and dream about a life of leisure.”
“Holly, I don't think we are going to be able to keep this to ourselves. I love Donna but she does like to chatter. At least we will find out what everyone in town thinks and maybe it will help our final decision.”
“The good thing about Donna spreading the word, we won't be losing any staff for awhile. I'm sure they will stick around just to find out if they will soon be coming into money.”
“Let's knock off for the day and go home to talk to our families. The Merryweather has always been a family project. We will make copies of the contract and lock the original in the safe. I'll have Jack take a look at it this evening.”
“See you tomorrow, my friend. I wonder if either one of us will get any sleep tonight.”