First Settler’s Lodge has new owners

13 years ago

Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-First Settlers-dc4-pt-5NEW OWNERS — Steve and Sue Mine are the proud new owners of First Settler’s Lodge in Weston. The Mines took over the lodge from Elbridge and Judy Cleaves, who opened the establishment in 1998.

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    WESTON — Sometimes it takes the death of a family member to prompt one to make a life-changing decision.
    Such was the case for Steve and Sue Mine of Weston, the new owners of First Settler’s Lodge. It was at a funeral in Eagle Lake for Susan’s grandmother when they had an epiphany.
    “We looked at each other and I said ‘What are we doing with our lives?’ Steve said. “We decided we needed to slow down and enjoy life a little bit so we made the decision then and there that we were going to move to Maine.”
    Looking to escape the hectic pace of big city life, the couple started dreaming of the perfect location to run a lodge. The Mines were living in Connecticut and working for a “global company” that forced Steve to be on the road three out of four weeks each month.
    “Susan was traveling quite a bit too and we rarely saw each other, so we knew we had to make a change,” he said.
    The Mines began their search for a lodge to purchase in the Madawaska area and slowly began working their way south in search of their dream location. After a couple of deals failed to reach fruition, the Mines stumbled upon an old real estate listing for First Settler’s Lodge. At that time, the lodge was not officially for sale.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-First Settlers-dc1-pt-5TAKING A BREAK — Steve and Sue Mine relax in one of the newly-created areas – a sitting loft – at First Settler’s Lodge in Weston. The Mines took over the lodge in December after relocating to Maine from Connecticut.

    “We had our real estate agent inquire and Susan and I came down and took a look at the place,” he said. “As soon as we saw it in person, we immediately fell in love with it. The lodge was built in 1998, so everything is up to code for fire safety. Most of the places we looked at were going to need fire suppression systems put in, which would have been a lot of up-front cost and time before we could get up and running.”
    Located in the East Grand Lake area on U.S. Route 1, 28 miles south of Interstate-95, First Settler’s Lodge has provided a cozy place for people to stay and a good meal to eat for the past 13 years under the guidance of Elbridge and Judy Cleaves. The lodge was named in honor of the Cleaves’ family relatives who settled the area nearly 150 years ago. Several Cleaves’ family photos still adorn the walls in the lodge, which sits atop Gilpatrick Hill Farm overlooking Mount Katahdin and East Grand Lake.
    The Cleaves notified their clientele of their decision to retire in a letter dated Dec. 6. In that letter, the Cleaveses stated their decision to leave the family business was made with mixed feelings.
    “We have made many wonderful friends and memories over the last 13 years,” the letter states. “Some of you have visited and stayed with us only a time or two; others have become part of our family and provided friendship that will never be forgotten.”
    Sue said that Elbridge and Judy have been very supportive during the takeover. In fact, the whole community has been supportive, with selectmen and other town officials stopping in to wish the Mines’ goodwill.
    Another perk of purchasing this lodge over other options was the fact that First Settler’s Lodge, had an opportunity for immediate occupancy. In fact, on the day of the real estate closing, the couple received a call on their cell phone from an individual looking to make a room reservation.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-First Settlers-dc3-pt-5GUEST ROOM — The rooms at First Settler’s Lodge are both roomy and cozy.

    “That made us feel pretty good, so we made a big deal out of him being our first customer,” Sue said. “We were also able to move in and host a Christmas party a week later.”
    The couple hopes to have its restaurant up and running for the general public in the coming weeks. The dining room has just three tables, so increasing the number of diners they can accommodate is a top priority.
    “We’d like to be able to handle more people, and we also need to hire a wait staff,” Sue said.
    The Mines originally hoped to have the restaurant up and running for the general public in February, but with numerous bookings in January, they have not been able to meet that goal. Currently, the dining area is open to guests of the lodge. Groups can come to the lodge for a home-cooked meal by calling in advance to reserve the room.
    First Settler’s Lodge features an events/conference room in the basement; five guest bedrooms on the first floor and a bunk room. All of the bedrooms have private baths with queen and bunk beds to accommodate larger groups or families. On the upper level is a large guest room with private balcony, kitchenette and bathroom that can accommodate up to 11 people. There are also plans to redesign the loft area to create a “honeymoon suite.”
    With ITS-105 located behind the lodge, and numerous cross-country skiing trails in the area leading to Grand Lake and further south, the Mines are hoping to create more winter business at the lodge.
    “Judy and Elbridge would go to Florida in the winter, so we are trying to build up a winter clientele,” Sue said. “We’re trying to let people know we are open and are really looking to draw the snowmobile crowd. If people want to come here and relax, they can. Or they can be busy with snowmobiling, skiing and ice fishing.”
    The interior of the lodge features beautiful native knotty white pine covering the cathedral ceiling. The view from the dining room features breathtaking views of East Grand Lake and New Brunswick, while views from the lobby and many of the guest rooms.
    “We didn’t want to work less, but we wanted to enjoy our hard work,” Sue said. “We are up at 4 a.m. getting ready to flip eggs, and sometimes we have guests who come in at 11 at night. It can make for a very long day with just the two of us. But this is so much better than being stuck for hours on the [George Washington] bridge.”
    Plans for the spring include a great deal of landscaping, something Steve is eagerly awaiting. An outdoor deck with fire pit and an organic garden are also in the works.
    A new website is currently in development. The lodge can also be found on Facebook. For more information, call 448-3000.