“Serendipity” is the concept that good things, the right things, happen when you’re not looking for them. For Jeff and Alicia Luke, the new owners of Genesee Country Campground, a chance meeting in early 2020 was the serendipitous event that changed their lives.
Alicia and Jeff were torn: They had the opportunity to take on full ownership of the appliance store that Jeff’s family had run for generations, but while they enjoyed business management and helping their long-time clients, big-box and online competitors and long hours made acquiring the store a formidable commitment. On the other hand, they faced the daunting prospect of finding another business that could generate income and enable them to spend time with their sons.
One day in January 2020, a couple came into the Lukes’ appliance store. When they inquired about purchasing multiple washers and dryers, Jeff became curious – why would they need so many? They told him about the campground that they had owned for decades and also mentioned that they were hesitant to invest in the appliances, because they were considering selling the campground in a few years to retire.
The Lukes knew immediately that this was the opportunity they had hoped to find – a business in which they could work together while raising their sons in a family- and nature-oriented environment.
Alicia and Jeff didn’t hesitate to move forward on the purchase of the campground.
A complex business acquisition and a multifaceted loan package
The previous owners hoped that when they were ready to sell, they’d find new owners who cared about the campground and campers as much as they had: Of the 145 RV, tent and cabin sites, almost 75% are seasonally rented by guests who come to the campground year after year because they love the welcoming and relaxing environment. Their loyalty also means that the campground generates working capital year-round, even though it’s open from late spring through fall.
In addition to business intangibles, the campground includes the RV, cabin and tent sites; an owners’ home; several buildings for amenities and storage; and hiking trails and a nine-hole golf course on its 60 acres of fields and woods.
“The different facets of the business meant that we needed a complex funding package,” Alicia explains. “We talked to several lenders and when we met with M&T Bank, they suggested an SBA 504 loan in partnership with Pursuit.” The SBA 504 loan is the leading SBA loan option for real estate purchases, renovations and equipment purchases, among other eligible uses.
“M&T put us in touch with Pursuit, which we really appreciated because we weren’t familiar with Pursuit before we decided to buy the campground,” says Alicia. “Together, M&T and Pursuit created a package of three loans, including the SBA 504, to make this happen.”
A smooth transition and future success
The former owners let the Lukes family move into the owners’ home in September 2020, so that they could settle in before the campground closed for the winter. Alicia and Jeff closed the deal in early 2021 and with spring around the corner, they’re making preparations for a smooth transition. The campground typically opens in May, although Alicia and Jeff are aiming for April this year to give campers additional time to enjoy the campground after months indoors.
“The former owners have been so helpful and generous with their time and knowledge,” says Alicia. “There’s a lot to learn, but we’re fortunate to have the support of people who ran it successfully for many years.”
The Lukes live there year-round now and Alicia and Jeff work full time performing maintenance and making improvements in the off-season. In regard to pandemic-related impacts, the camping industry boomed in 2020 and Genesee Country Campground’s layout already had ample space for campers to be socially distant and safe. Campgrounds have been classified as essential throughout the pandemic, too, so 2020 proved to be an excellent year and that trend is predicted to continue.
Their dream of a “happy place” is fulfilled
“People come to the campground to vacation and unwind, to spend time with their families and friends and to spend time outdoors and we loved the idea of running a business in a ‘happy place,’” says Alicia. “To make this the best possible experience for them is really appealing to us, too, because as a family of campers, we know how special that time together is.”
Acquiring an existing business is an excellent way to achieve ownership goals and Alicia and Jeff are thrilled to have a well-established and well-run business. They also have ideas about ways to help the business evolve and grow, too.
“Our main focus now is getting the campground ready to open, with a target date of April 30,” Alicia says. “In the coming months, we’re putting in a new basketball court and will refresh the website and build a social-media presence. We plan on hiring a couple of seasonal staff to ensure that the campground is the best it can be for our guests. And over time, we’ll add even more family friendly amenities, like a splash pad.”
Pursuit can help you make your business dreams come true, too
Whether you’re interested in growing your current business or buying another, Pursuit’s experienced team can help. We have access to more than 15 loan options and outstanding relationships with commercial lenders to bring even the most complex deals to fruition. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today.