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July 17, 2018

Owners of historic midcoast restaurant-inn looking for the right buyer

Courtesy / Camden Hills Realty
Courtesy / Camden Hills Realty
The Youngtown Inn, built in 1810 and located at 581 Youngtown Road in Lincolnville, is on the market for $1.395 million.

The Youngtown Inn & Restaurant, although a turnkey operation in a well-maintained farmhouse that dates back to 1810, has proven tricky to sell.

Two years after it was listed, it's still on the market. But owners MaryAnn and Manuel Mercier knew the process would take a while and are willing to bide their time.

In fact, they've even seen an uptick in restaurant clientele since they listed the property.

"People are afraid it's going to be the last meal with us," said Manuel Mercier, a career chef who bought the establishment with his wife in 1991.

The establishment is at 581 Youngtown Road in Lincolnville. John Burgess at Camden Hills Realty is handling the listing. The asking price is $1.395 million. Burgess told Mainebiz that the combination of a lodging and restaurant makes it more difficult to find a buyer willing to handle both sides of the business.

"It's really loaded with opportunity for the right person," he said.

Burgess said he's marketed it heavily in greater Portland and is now pushing down further, into Boston. He said a prime buyer might be someone with a corporate job, wanting to get out of the rat race and run a rural hospitality business.

"I think a lot of people out there would love to relocate to midcoast Maine and own a B&B," he said. "I think there are people out there who have that in mind, and it's just a question of finding the right person."

Burgess said there's been steady interest in the facility, with showings being scheduled now and then to various folks.

'Buying a lifestyle'

Courtesy / Camden Hills Realty
Courtesy / Camden Hills Realty
The early 19th-century inn features wide pumpkin pine floors and wood beams.

"You get a lot of people who are pre-planning the next five years of their lives," he said. "They're approaching retirement — that kind of thing. Money-wise, I think it's doable. It's a very fair price, relative to other operations in the area. What makes it unique is that it's skewed toward food. It's a white tablecloth restaurant that attracts an upscale audience and has a good local following and repeat guests."

The facility is in a pastoral setting on five acres, located on Route 52 near Lake Megunticook and away from the busy Route 1 strip that runs through Camden.

Lodging is one of slowest-moving real estate sectors, Burgess said. "In the old days, someone would come up from Boston or New York, buy a B&B for $200,000, run it for several years, sell it for $400,000 and then the new person runs it a few years and sells it at $800,000. Now you see them priced at $800,000 or more. That's a lot of money. And you're not just buying a business; you're buying a lifestyle."

The facility has opportunity to add additional cottages and expand the events business, he added.

Mercier said he's not concerned about the timeline for selling.

Ready to retire

Courtesy / Mercier Family
Courtesy / Mercier Family
MaryAnn and Manuel Mercier are joined by their family at the Youngtown Inn.

The Merciers are only the third owners of the property.

Manuel Mercier, from France, started his career as a chef. According to a blurb on the inn's website, he met MaryAnn onboard a cruise ship where he was working as a staff chef. MaryAnn, a Wall Street bond trader, was a passenger. They married 11 months later, then decided to run a restaurant together. After a two-year search along the East Coast, they ended up in Maine and saw the Youngtown Inn.

"Right away, Manuel knew this was the place; the perfect old American building," the blurb says. "They purchased the inn in December 1991 and over the years, while raising a family, have built up an extensive clientele."

The building had started out as a home for its first owner, the Young family. The house was the center of the family poultry and dairy farm for more than seven generations.

An airline pilot bought it in the early 1980s and tried to turn it into a seasonal inn, Mercier told Mainebiz. The inn was not operating when the Merciers bought it.

The structure was sound but the Merciers did some renovation, concentrating on the restaurant first to get it going. As they made money, they fixed up the rooms, putting in private baths and gas fireplaces. The Federal style, white clapboard farmhouse features lots of woodwork with exposed beams, brick fireplaces and wide pumpkin pine floors. The basement was built from granite blocks. It has six guest rooms with private baths and a 70-seat white-tablecloth restaurant. There's also a four-bedroom, two-bath private owner's residence.

Mercier said he and his wife were ready to retire from the business, after 27 years.

"I might do consulting," he said. "I'd like to do what the customers do — travel, spend time in Europe or South America."

He said he envisioned the buyers as a young couple with plenty of energy — like he and his wife were in 1991.

"We knew it would take quite a while," he said of the sales process. "It's a special place."

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