Rideout’s Lodge under new management

12 years ago

Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-Rideouts-dc1-pt-22NEW OWNER — Jim Brown is the new owner of Rideout’s Lodge in Weston. Brown purchased the lodge in May and plans to continue the family-oriented traditions that have made it one of the premier fishing locations in the state.

Family camping, fishing, dining traditions to continue

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    WESTON — For 65 years, Rideout’s Lodge has been one of the premier spots along East Grand Lake for bass and salmon fishing. Because of that long and rich history, purchasing the lodge was somewhat of a “no-brainer” for one-time Houlton resident Jim Brown.
    Brown is a longtime summer resident of Orient, where he shares a camp with his wife, Kim and daughter, Emily Rose. Jim will be on-site much of the time as an owner/operator and is looking forward to an exciting 2012 season.
    “I love East Grand Lake and love Aroostook County,” Brown said. “Aroostook County is in my blood and I am so happy to have this opportunity to come back. I’d like to think a lot of the values I have used in my personal and professional life were derived from Aroostook County.”
    The lodge may be under new ownership, but campers can expect the same great level of service from the Brown family that they enjoyed with Robert and Annie Lorigan, Sr. and Bob and Jami Lorigan, Jr., who operated Rideout’s for the past 25 years. Many of those employed by the Lorigans remain on Brown’s staff.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-Rideouts-dc4-pt-22PAST AND PRESENT — Jim Brown, left, new owner of Rideout’s Lodge in Weston shares a lunch with former owner Bob Lorigan, Jr.

    Rideout’s Lodge employs upwards of 18 people during the height of its busy summer season.
    “The people who are here are just great,” he said. “They deserve the owner to be a working force here, and so do the customers.”
    Brown and the Lorigans had been negotiating the sale over the last year, and officially closed their deal on May 2.
    Brown said he did not have any immediate plans to change the day-to-day operations of the lodge and is excited that Bob and Jami have agreed to stay on as on-site advisors for the 2012 season. Jim said he feels fortunate to have the Lorigans accessible to him, which will help in the ownership transition not only with staff, but customers as well.
    Family will be the focus at Rideout’s Lodge, Brown said. His 7-year-old daughter has been practicing her skills to be a hostess for the restaurant and his father-in-law, Dick Rose will join him in the capacity of manager, living at the lodge. Rose recently sold his business and has entered into “retirement.”
    Rose is an avid outdoorsman, having been a life-long fisherman and hunter and is also working on becoming a “through hiker” on the Appalachian Trail; having covered much if it already. He has had a camp on Chesuncook Lake for many years and still plans to get over to “his” lake now and then, Brown said.
    A commercial real estate finance broker in southern Maine, Brown said he had been looking for “just the right spot” to invest in Aroostook County. When he walked on the property of Rideout’s Lodge, he knew he had found precisely what he had been looking for.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-Rideouts-dc2-pt-22SPECTACULAR VIEW — The docks at Rideout’s Lodge are a picturesque scene of tranquility.

    The Browns reside in North Yarmouth, but Jim has a history of being a “County boy,” having lived in Houlton for a number of years, attending classes at Lambert School and Houlton High School as a youth.
    “I have a number of relatives still in the area, and we have had a camp on East Grand Lake since 1999,” he said. “I grew up on this lake. My grandparents built a camp on this lake back in the 1940s. I was lucky enough to spend every summer on East Grand Lake growing up.”
    Brown said his grandfather, along with Allen Clark, founder of Houlton Farms Dairy, and Don McLaughlin each pitched in $500 to purchase half a mile of lake frontage, making camp lots for themselves. They eventually sold off parcels to their friends, creating a community atmosphere along the lake.
    There is believed to have only been four owners in the lodge’s 65-year history. Rideout’s Lodge was founded by Larry Rideout in 1947. Rideout caught a then-state record 12-pound salmon on the lake, effectively putting his lodge on the map for fishermen throughout the state and beyond. Rideout retired in 1963, selling the property to George and Jean Graham, who ushered in the “Golden Age” of Rideout’s Lodge. With a strong commitment to peace and tranquility, the lodge became the ideal place for family retreats and the lodge increased size to accommodate more campers and vacationers.
    In 1987, Bob Sr. and Annie Lorigan and Bob Jr. and Jami Lorgian took over operations. Together, the Lorgians ran the lodge for 25 years before selling to Brown this year.
    “The customer base is simply amazing and is very diverse,” Brown said. “Some people have been coming to this lodge for more than 50 years. The tradition continues each year.”
    Patrons hail from all parts of the country and abroad. Brown said he has taken reservations from folks from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia. He also has a number of customers from Europe.
    “The fishing is remarkably good, which obviously attracts people, but for many it is the tradition that keeps them coming back,” Brown said.
    There are 13 cabins on the site, and 14 rental units available. The largest cabin is a seven-bedroom, two-bath building featuring two levels.
    Nestled in the middle of the site is the main lodge, which features a sitting area, a recreation room with a flat-screen television and free wifi. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served in the dining area. Bag lunches are also available for those planning to spend the day on the water. Weddings and corporate outings can also be held.
    A 215-foot dock juts out of the shore, allowing people to moor their own boats. Rideout’s also has a number of boats that can be rented for fishing expeditions and recreational purposes.
    Future plans for Rideout’s Lodge include expansion into the various hunting seasons of late summer/early fall, as well as targeting to be open for ice fishing and snowmobiling starting in early 2013. In order to accomplish this goal, a number of the cabins would have to be winterized.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-Rideouts-dc5-pt-22QUITE A CATCH — Tom Stothoff of Flemington, N.J. shows off the prize fish he caught May 17 on East Grand Lake while staying at Rideout’s Lodge in Weston.

    “Possibly even the main lodge could remain open for these seasons, including dinners to the general public based on demand,” he said. “How many times in your adult life can you go back to a place you love and not just make a living, but maintain employment for others.”
    These areas of expansion should mean more “steady” employment for parts of the year when Rideout’s has historically not been open. Jim said he will be doing extensive marketing for Rideout’s not only to grow in the traditional spring and summer seasons, but also for fall and winter. The lodge has been featured in numerous national magazines including “Field and Stream,” and “North American Fisherman.”
    The lodge will continue its tradition of opening the dining room to the general public on or around June 27. The kitchen features a nightly special, with dinner served in a family style setting. In fact, the original bread recipe from when the lodge first opened is still used today. Rib eye and salmon grill nights are among the most popular with diners.
    “The dinner bell will continue to ring at 6 p.m. for great home-cooked meals,” Brown said.
    He added he was looking forward to seeing old friends from Houlton as well as meeting new ones from the area, too. For more information, call Jim at the lodge at 1-800-594-5391 or reach Jim directly at 210-7191 or visit www.rideouts.com.