2017-05-19 / Front Page

Higgins Beach Inn gets a makeover

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Migis Hotel Group employees Jesse Henry and Phil Kronenthal, former general managers of the Black Point Inn, take a look at renovations of the Higgins Beach Inn, which the hotel group purchased from Bob Westburg and Diane Garofalo last December. The renovated inn is expected to open next month. (Michael Kelley photo) Migis Hotel Group employees Jesse Henry and Phil Kronenthal, former general managers of the Black Point Inn, take a look at renovations of the Higgins Beach Inn, which the hotel group purchased from Bob Westburg and Diane Garofalo last December. The renovated inn is expected to open next month. (Michael Kelley photo) For the first time in generations, the Higgins Beach Inn will open this spring as something other than a family-owned and operated seasonal hotel and restaurant.

In late 2016 Bob Westburg and Diane Garofalo sold the inn to Migis Hotel Group, a Portland-based hospitality management company that oversees a number of hotels, resorts and dining facilities in the area, including the Black Point Inn.

Over the last few months, through the help of Caleb Johnson Architects and Builders, a Portland firm that designed and renovated the building, Migis Hotel Group has updated guest rooms, improved air conditioning, heating, plumbing, electricity and fire safety measures throughout the building and installed WiFi around the property. The restaurant has also been relocated with a new menu, expanded bar area and three-season porch.

“There is a lot of great potential and character in that building. That’s what we wanted to capture with the renovations,” said Patrick Boothe, a project architect with Caleb Johnson Architects and Builders, which moved from Biddeford to Exchange Street in Portland in early 2017.

Jesse Henry, Migis Hotel Group’s director of business and brand development, said once the renovations are done, the inn will still offer 23 rooms, but will be laid out a little different.

As part of the inn revamp, eight rooms on the second and third floors that had previously shared bathrooms, have been combined into four rooms per floor with  en suite bathrooms. To make up for the loss of those four rooms, Henry said, the previous dining room will be converted into four new guest rooms, one which will be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

That work, Henry said, will improve the accommodations for guests.

The 80-seat restaurant, now called Shade- The Eatery at Higgins Beach Inn, is being moved to the other end of the building where the outdoor deck once was.

“We’re getting rooms upstairs that are larger and now have bathrooms on suite. We are achieving ADA compliance in a great way, which is important to us and we are creating an energetic dining space that we are very excited about,” Henry said.

The menu has been rebranded to offer more casual fare than Garofalo’s did.

Henry said the restaurant, which will be open to the public as well, will offer food “that is appropriate” for individuals “coming off the beach and popping in for a snack or meal.”

Although much of the inside has been renovated, the inn will still feature the original hardwood floors and width of hallways.

“We, along with Caleb Johnson Architects, have been very careful to preserve those character pieces and incorporate them into the new experience,” Henry said.

“It was a matter of noting the great character of the building and making it more marketable for the clientele and preserving the investment of Migis,” Boothe said.

Both Migis Hotel Group and Caleb Johnson Architects are excited about the hotel revamp.

“We are very happy to become part of the Higgins Beach community and carry on a great tradition in that building,” Phil Kroenthal, vice president for facilities and procurement and director of operations for Migis Hotel Group, said at the April 6 council meeting in which the Higgins Beach Inn got its new food handlers license, liquor license, innkeepers license and special amusement license “It’s an institution and we’ve gone through great expense and great care to refresh and revitalize it and set it up for success for another 100 years.”

The idea of the Higgins Beach Inn took form in 1892 when Hiram Higgins passed away and his children, looking to capitalize on their inheritances, started developing the Higgins Beach area. As more and more people started coming to the area, no vacancies at the Lawson House, the only hotel at Higgins Beach, became much more frequent. Ed Higgins, one of Hiram’s sons, opened the first version of the Higgins Beach Inn in 1922-1923 when he added an addition to his home.

Ed Higgins’ hotel had 30 rooms and a dining space for 80 people. In 1945 Ed and his wife, Ora sold the hotel to Maurice Warner, who owned the facility until 1955 when Kenneth and Dorothy Laughton took over operation, renting rooms for $3 a night in he offseason or $35 a week during the summer.

By 1964, the hotel was purchased by John Derry and in 1968 by John Harrison, who changed the name from the Higgins Inn to Higgins Beach Inn. Harrison operated the hotel for 28 years until he sold the property to Bob Westburg and Diane Garofalo.

“This owner comes with a terrific reputation and all sorts of changes and improvements are being made,” Councilor Bill Donovan said April 6 prior to the council issuing new permitting. “I go by it everyday as I come and go from my house. Everyone in our community at Higgins Beach is looking forward to this new era of the Higgins Beach Inn.”

A June opening date has been targeted. A neighborhood block party will be scheduled next month for residents of Higgins Beach, who Henry said have been supportive through the construction process.

The Migis Hotel Group, according to its website, is a “small, Maine-based hospitality management company offering boutique hotels, destination resort properties and award-winning dining facilities that offer their customers a welcoming environment of rest and relaxation from an often hectic and overburdened life.”

The company operates the Inn at Ocean’s Edge in Lincolnville; Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake in South Casco; The Sparhawk Oceanfront Resort in Ogunquit; the Black Point Inn in Scarborough; Emerson Inn in Rockport; 250 Main Hotel in Rockland, as well as The Shire in Woodstock, Vermont, and Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. The company is also in the midst of relaunching the Groton Inn in Groton, Massachusetts.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarbroughleader.com

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