New owners are thrilled with the unique character of Sun Mountain Lodge – Methow Valley News

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Erich Gunther
Collin Madden

Current employees retained at the iconic Methow Valley Inn

When they announced their purchase of Sun Mountain Lodge this week, Seattle-based GEM Real Estate Partners celebrated the uniqueness of the lodge and the experience people have there.

GEM founding partners Erich Guenther and Collin Madden said they were thrilled to own the property. With 360-degree views from its hilltop location, Sun Mountain is an exceptional place, with a sense of elegance and tranquility inside and out, Madden told Methow Valley News. “It’s totally irreplaceable – there’s nothing quite like it anywhere,” he said.

“We’re drawn to the experience,” Guenther said.

Guenther and Madden are also excited to be part of the Valley as they prepare for the busy summer season. Since the sale closed last week, they said they were still orienting themselves. Then, after a moment of reflection, they said that maybe it would be more accurate to say that they realize how much they don’t know.

But the partners bring essential experience in the fields of luxury hotels and real estate. Guenther, who grew up in a family that owned, developed and managed hotels, has been involved in the hospitality industry all his life. In fact, her father, who was a German diplomat, knew the Haubs, the German brothers who had owned Sun Mountain for 35 years.

Guenther first encountered Sun Mountain when he was exploring on horseback while on a family vacation. He later gained professional perspective by attending business retreats at the lodge.

GEM began a dialogue with the Haubs about the possibility of buying the property about a year ago, Guenther said. The previous owners wanted to keep the negotiations very calm and this was an off-market transaction.

Unsurprisingly, talks were put on hold during the Cedar Creek fire last summer, which happened less than a quarter mile from the lodge. While the fire burned parts of the trail system, the lodge and grounds were unaffected.

The lodge was evacuated in July and remained closed for three months. It has had a thorough cleaning to remedy smoke damage and all furniture has been replaced before reopening in October. “We were worried there was no lodge and we’re glad he survived,” Madden said.

International call

GEM owns office buildings, apartment buildings and hotels in and around Seattle, but this is the company’s first property outside of that area. With the Pacific Northwest’s enormous international appeal, the new owners see an exceptional opportunity to market a destination that combines the urban experience of Seattle with the lavish rural character of Sun Mountain, they said. The fact that the Valley is a top vacation destination for Seattle-area residents was also a big factor, they said.

Sun Mountain will be a great complement to their other hotels, the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle and the South Lake Union boutique hotel they are currently developing, the new owners said.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to acquire Sun Mountain Lodge and add another exceptional asset to our portfolio of luxury hotels,” Guenther said in GEM’s announcement of the acquisition.

Sun Mountain is an unusual property, with a great reputation and a special location, they said. Compared to GEM’s typical acquisitions – empty office buildings, which they modernize and transform – the acquisition of Sun Mountain is part of a plan to complement their hotel offering. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than working on an office building, Madden said.

While Guenther was introduced to Sun Mountain at an early age, Madden first came to the Methow last year. He grew up in Seattle in a family in the milk and ice cream business. Although the job often took them around the state, it never included the Methow.

As a result, Madden has an irrepressible sense of awe for the beauty of the Methow and the North Cascades. He has already embarked on local activities. He grew up alpine skiing at Stevens Pass and tried the Nordic runs at Methow last winter. Once he got rid of the heavy parka and snow pants and got to grips with the gear, he was hooked. Now he’s aiming for heliskiing.

Long term employees

Once the sale was final, all lodge employees were let go by the previous owners and quickly rehired by GEM. One of Guenther and Madden’s first plans is to meet each of the lodge’s roughly 100 year-round employees. They have already met about a third of them and were impressed by everyone’s authenticity and dedication, they said.

” It is refreshing. They love the lodge and they love their job,” Madden said. Some have been there for more than three decades. “That says a lot about the place,” Guenther said.

Currently, they have no concrete plans for the resort, although they are looking to improve the spa experience, Guenther said. “We are very new to this – we are still orienting ourselves. We are thrilled to own the property,” he said.

Especially as they take over at the busiest time of the year, with a full schedule of guests, weddings and special events, the new owners are focused on the summer season and on hiring. of people who will create a special experience for everyone at the lodge. . After that, they will solicit feedback from employees, guests and Valley residents and re-evaluate before planning any changes, they said.

Both Guenther and Madden have young families and they look forward to discovering the charms of Sun Mountain and the valley with them, from horseback riding to ice fishing. Over the past year, some of their most special experiences have been cowboy meals. “Riding and having dinner – that’s something you’re not used to experiencing,” Guenther said.

“We also like the sun – it’s a good motivator,” he said.

Story

Jack Barron opened Sun Mountain Lodge in 1968, which he designed as a rustic mountaintop resort that would blend into its surroundings.

The Haub brothers purchased the lodge in 1987. They embarked on an expansion and renovation that maintained Barron’s original vision. Renovations incorporated natural materials and heavy Douglas fir beams to complement the huge rocks and local timber Barron had used. In 2002, the Haubs remodeled the lodge again, commissioning local artisans to create furniture and fittings.

According to Okanogan County assessor records, the lodge, Patterson Lake cabins and 69.5 acres sold for $12.5 million. GEM Real Estate Partners is a Seattle-based firm focused on long-term investments in Northwest real estate.

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