GREENSBORO - After 57 years of welcoming guests through its doors, the Smith family has decided to close the Highland Lodge. A combination of factors brought the family to this decision, and they are not the only ones.
Over the last decade, the number of inns, lodges, and bed and breakfasts in the Kingdom have slowly declined. Is this because of the economy? Or is it something more?
Last Monday, the Smith family notified their staff that they would not reopen the Highland Lodge for the winter season. Through misty eyes, David Smith, the owner, and his son Alex described the reasons this decision had been made. The economy, people’s vacation interests, and an outdated model, were all mentioned as parts of the driving force that brought about this end.
As veteran employees soaked in the news, there were very few dry eyes in the room. Some of those workers had been with the lodge nearly 20 or more years, David's wife Willie Smith said.
The lodge has been special to a lot of people, David said. People met and were married there, people came on vacation there year after year and made it their home away from home, Alex said. With a place that meant so much too so many, especially the family that made running it their lives, how could they decide to close?
“It was time,” Alex said. “Over the last five years we have worked at making changes to keep this place viable, but all the marketing in the world couldn’t change the fact that this is a model that no longer works and we are at a scale that doesn’t work anymore. We are too big to do it all ourselves, and too small to afford the losses big chains can take.”
We also are not able to take large groups or bus tours, and we can’t be open all year long. So the decision was to quit while we are ahead to give the lodge and my family the best chances of a future.”
Unfortunately, this has become a common occurrence in the Northeast Kingdom. Small inns and the bed and breakfasts that were once so popular have one by one closed. But why? Is it the economy? Or is there a larger trend at work here? Why is a once popular tourist region loosing the businesses that catered too it?
Stay tuned for Forgotten Fall, a four part series about the decline of the tourist industry in the Northeast Kingdom.