Owners still optimistic for future of Juniper Hill Inn
By Josh O’Gorman
Staff WRITER | April 03,2013
Len Emery Photo
The Juniper Hill Inn is in foreclosure, but its owners say it will reopen May 1.
WINDSOR — The Juniper Hill Inn — a bed and breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a featured location for the television program “Hotel Hell” — is in foreclosure.
Last month, mortgage holder U.S. Bank filed paperwork with the town, seeking to sell the 28-room mansion, nestled in the hills above Lake Runnemede, just north of Windsor Town Forest.
In September 2005, partners Robert Dean and Ari Nikki purchased the 15,000-square-foot inn and surrounding 14 acres for $1.6 million from Robert and Susanne Pearl. However, a combination of bad health and a floundering economy have left Dean and Nikki — and the inn — in dire straits.
“Basically, it’s been a terrible economy,” said Dean, the public face of the partnership. “Also, my partner’s illness has taken a lot of time away from the property.”
With the building consuming 400 gallons of heating oil and $2,500 in electricity every month, turning a profit from the 16 guest rooms has never been easy, Dean said.
The inn was last open in February when frozen water pipes forced its closure. Dean and Nikki had to lay off four full-time employees.
Signs around the inn state that it is undergoing renovations. Dean made an effort to make clear the inn isn’t closed for good.
“Needless to say, when something like this happens, the bottom feeders come out and the sharks begin to circle,” Dean said. “I want to quash all the rumors that we’re closed for good. We will re-open May 1.”
In spring of 2012, television celebrity Gordon Ramsay brought his production crew to the Juniper Hill Inn to shoot footage for his program “Hotel Hell.” The footage was culled to create two back-to-back episodes which aired in August. Dean said the television show, which laid blame for the inn’s financial problems squarely at the feet of him and Nikki, was not completely accurate.
“The whole thing was presented to us that they were there to help,” Dean said. “I will fight until my dying day that we are not the people portrayed on that show.”
Dean said he and Nikki are at least six months behind on their mortgage. According to filings from U.S. Bank, Dean and Nikki owe the bank $1,163,355. They also owe Windsor $80,000 to $85,000 in back taxes, said Town Manager Tom Marsh.
“From our end of it, we hope that no matter how this turns out, the Juniper Hill Inn continues to operate,” Marsh said. “It’s in our interest to see it be an operating business. It’s part of the fabric of the community.”
Dean added, “We’ve raised hundreds of thousands for nonprofits because we always thought that was the right thing to do for the community.”
He said he is speaking with potential investors and hopes to remain open from May through October, which he called “a pivotal month for any inn and bed and breakfast in Vermont.”
In the face of foreclosure, back taxes, broken pipes and empty guest rooms, Dean remained optimistic.
“We hope to stay, but if not, we’re prepared to take our lumps and move on with our lives,” he said. “But that’s not our first choice.”