ELLERBE — Life has been stirring at the Ellerbe Springs Inn.
After being on the housing market for a year and a half, the famous local inn that sits on 43 acres has been sold to a Maryland couple for $450,000.
Mark and Donna Bucheridge currently work at a retirement community in Silver Spring, but have been in search for a good campground facility to start a new chapter in their lives. They fell in love with Ellerbe along the way. When Mark and Donna look at the inn, all they can see is potential. Because it is such a famous landmark in the county, the couple certainly has to fulfill many high expectations for the property, but they are up for the challenge.
It helps, they said, that neighbors already are lending a helping hand.
“The people here really are amazing,” Donna said. “It’s almost like night and day in comparison to the (Washington) D.C. area. People look at you when they talk. They are friendly and helpful. It’s a totally different world to what we’re used to, and that’s exactly what we’ve been looking for.”
What really drew them to the area was the campgrounds that the inn offered. Donna and Mark had the opportunity to attend a seminar that discussed the running and operation of a campground, and the couple thought it was something they could do.
“We do enjoy being on campgrounds,” Donna said. “When you’re on a campground it seems like everyone gets along and really enjoys themselves. Everyone is on vacation.”
The inn has around 200 spaces for campers, but the couple is looking to cut that number in half and offer between 75 to 100 spaces so that campers will have enough space to spread out and enjoy their time, but that is just the start of their plans for the inn.
Mark and Donna have already set to work despite that their time in the area is currently limited. They are still hoping to get their house sold up north and make the permanent move to the town. Now they spend their time on the weekends in Ellerbe trying to revamp the inn.
“Once we get down here on a daily basis we’ll be able to start the real work,” Mark said. “We want to be down here 24/7.”
Walking through the inn though it is clear that some renovations have already taken place. Mark has started taking down some walls to see how the structure of the building is. They are planning to put in a new kitchen to be open for catering events and for breakfast. Mark and Donna have also pointed out around eight rooms in the inn that they would like to have open.
“We would like to see this place as a bed and breakfast,” Donna said.
The couple has already ordered replacement logs for the many fireplaces within the inn, and they are looking at new light fixtures. They’re even looking to set up a pool table inside the inn.
“I love the antique look of the place, but I would also like to add a bit of a modern flair,” Donna said.
Mark agrees with his wife on the potential of the place, but he has his eyes set on the different things that could come out of the Spring House, a place that used to be used as a small bar area on the property.
Walking into the Spring House, ideas started filling Mark’s head on what the building could be.
“It really could be anything,” Mark said. “A dance hall, a bar and grill. Just a place for the locals to be able to come and have a good time.”
The couple is also planning on using one of the houses on the property to open up a general store for those staying at the inn and on the campgrounds. The house they are looking at currently has a two master bedroom layout and is very spacious.
Neal Cadieu, the former owner of the inn, was thrilled about the new couple taking over and having so many ideas on how to restore the inn. Cadieu was an owner of the inn from 1991 until 2002 when it was sold to Jim and Donna Lane. The Lanes lived in Greensboro before taking ownership of the inn. The Lanes ran the inn until 2012 when they could no longer financially support the inn. Since the inn was owner financed, it came back into the possession of Cadieu in 2012.
Since 1790 the land the inn is sitting on has had 22 different owners including the state, Richmond County Board of Commissioners, Boy Scouts, the federal government and the YMCA. Since the 34-room inn was established in 1906, it has had 11 different owners including Mark and Donna.
“I must have shown this place to 12 or 14 interested parties as far away as Buffalo, N.Y.,” Cadieu said. “Every one of those said they loved it, but it was just hard to get financing.”
Cadieu was entertained by Mark and Donna, who were completely flabbergasted by the hospitality and friendliness of the people in the area.
“They were so impressed with Richmond County so much that they couldn’t just forget about this place,” Cadieu said. “They know the task they have taken on because everyone in Ellerbe thinks they own a piece of this inn. Yes, it’s privately owned, but so many people camped here, got engaged here, met their spouse here and got married here. It has such a rich and wonderful history.”
And it is the case that the local people feel an attachment to the place. Mark and Donna have had curious drivers come through the property as they were working simply because the gate was opened.
“It really shows that the people here want to see this place succeed,” Donna said.
At this point in time, Mark and Donna are unsure when they will open up the inn and campground. There is still a lot of work to do to get everything up and running, but all the couple sees is what the place could be with a little bit of tender loving care.