FALMOUTH ENTERPRISE - The Falmouth Inn on Main Street may soon be under new ownership

June 03, 2013

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The Falmouth Inn on Main Street may soon be under new ownership after it was put up for auction by current owner Gerald J. DiGiovanni of North Falmouth.

Mr. DiGiovanni, who purchased the inn with his wife, the late Sandra DiGiovanni, in March 1998, said he is not attempting to unload the property, but simply "trying to get an overall appraisal of the hotel just in case. This gives me an exit strategy if I want it."

JJ Manning Auctioneers of Yarmouth has had the property listed on both its website and Facebook page for roughly two weeks.

Since that time the 75-year-old Mr. DiGiovanni said he has received numerous calls from people asking why he is selling the property. "It is not really for sale, per se," he said.

At the same time, he said, if it is sold, "I think it would be to the benefit of the town that this place come back to what it was."

The inn was built by W. Russell Nickerson in 1951 and was originally called the General Swift Motel. "A motel offers its customers parking space and sleeping quarters, but serves no meals," a September 28, 1951, article in the Enterprise reads. "In Falmouth the nearest thing to Mr. Nickerson's building is probably the Tides hotel at Falmouth Heights. Farther down the Cape at Bass River, West Yarmouth and Harwich, genuine motels can be found."

It opened for business in May the following year. At a cost of roughly $100,000 the hotel had 36 rooms, 32 bathroom and an office with a courtyard and parking for guests.

Mr. Nickerson sold the business in 1961 to Fred E. Sateriale of Belmont, who operated it under the Holiday Inn chain of motel-inns.

Mr. Sateriale owned it until 1977 when Leonard F. Beford and Gerald W. Burritt, the previous owners of the Falmouth Country Club, purchased it for $1 million. A decade later the partners decided to remove themselves from the Holiday Inn umbrella and it became known as The Falmouth Inn.

The pair eventually sold it to the DiGiovannis for $3.2 million.

Today the inn features 123 rooms, a swimming pool and a restaurant, Landucci Italia, owned by Jay Bartolomei. The property is currently assessed at $5,098,000 on which Mr. DiGiovanni pays a little more than $42,000 in property taxes per year.

Mr. DiGiovanni noted that the inn has some star cache, with celebrities having stayed there over the years. A number of their photos appear on a wall in the lobby of the inn. Among the more prominent was actress Julia Roberts of "Pretty Woman" fame, who sang karaoke with her husband, Danny Moder, and their friends and family when visiting Falmouth in the fall of 2002.

Since moving here from Winthrop, the DiGiovannis added to their real estate inventory in 2000 when they purchased the Weeks block on Main Street, from Academy Lane to the Quarterdeck Restaurant, for $740,000. That stretch of property is currently assessed at $994,400 with annual property taxes of more than $8,000.

Mr. DiGiovanni also owns a home on Curley Boulevard in North Falmouth, which was purchased in November 2007.

While he was relatively reticent about future plans for the property, Justin Manning, president of JJ Manning Auctioneers, said interest in the inn is already high. "You've got a lot of heavy hitters who have contacted us about it, either them, their attorneys or brokers," he said.

He emphasized that this was not a typical auction as it is being done voluntarily. "This is not a court-ordered or legal sale," he said. "If someone comes in with an offer with no contingencies that is enough for our client to accept, then he can choose to sell the property preemptively."

The process, he said, has its advantages over the traditional route in which a property is placed onto the market by a realtor. "With these, the sale is very straightforward with a large deposit made, short closing time and no contingencies," he said. "From what I know, he has run this for a while and looking for an exit strategy that is quick, seamless, and not dragged out."

By choosing to auction off the property, he said, Mr. DiGiovanni would not have a potential sale held up by a buyer who may need to wait on such things as securing financing, inspecting the inn or attempting to sell one of their properties to buy this one. "There is none of that," he said. "Whatever the buyer needs to do needs to be done ahead of time. The seller is guaranteeing they can provide clear title with no liens or encumbrances."

As to what the inn could fetch, Mr. Manning said, it would be anywhere from $5 to $7 million. "The final number would depend on the competition," he said.

He said the property itself would remain an inn, as that is where its largest value lies, highlighting the number of rooms and the fact it is already tied into the town's sewer system.

With the business having been successful as an autonomous inn, he said, it is most likely that a corporate chain would come in and operate it in such a manner. "Maybe they do a little bit of work, do a facelift and some more marketing to create some added value," he said.

The inn, he said, is not only a proven commodity, but an enticing one, judging by the interest already expressed by those who have seen the auction listing. "Just on Facebook alone we've had over 10,000 views," he said. "And internally we've had over three dozen groups contact us and we are just in the infancy of marketing... It does a strong business and I think it could do much better under new management. There are only so many rooms in Falmouth and only so many that are going to be allowed. A business of this size hooked into the sewer and that is income-producing make it a very valuable commodity."