Packards Master Work/Family Balance at Pine Acres
Pine Acres Campground Resort has tents and places for outdoor fires, sure. But what really resonates on the property of 200 acres in Oakham, Mass., is, surprisingly, luxury – and legacy, the Worcester Business Journal reported.
The well-kept lakefront, RV rentals, heated pool, hiking trails and paddle boats are all managed by the second and third generations of the Packard family, who appear to have mastered the elusive work/family balance.
The 350-site campground is owned by Randy Packard, which he inherited from his parents, Frank “Kim” and Grace Packard. Kim and Grace originally bought the land in the 1950s to build house lots. Several lots were already sold when the couple switched gears and decided to make the lakefront site a family campground instead, starting with just six campsites.
Randy and his wife Denise, a former schoolteacher, bought the business from Kim in 1989. Computers were installed in 1992 and eventually – though she wanted no part of it initially – Grace became the best at online reservations.
“She had been using index cards to keep track,” Randy said. Though she begrudgingly adjusted to the new system, Denise said, her mother-in-law became computer savvy and her online reservations were always accurate with no mistakes.
Denise said the camp allowed her and Randy a place to work and not have to worry about child care. “That’s how this all started,” Denise said. “We saw it as a place to raise our children.”
Denise is the company’s treasurer. She and Randy previously owned an excavating firm together and collaborate on capital development projects on the site.
Now, their two daughters, son and son-in-law work in various capacities at Pine Acres as well.
Daughter Tessa Wisnewski, a CPA who worked at the Westborough-based accounting firm of Stowe & Degon before joining the family firm, is controller. Her brother Corey is a civil engineer by trade but helps out at the family business from time to time with IT and other projects. Another sibling, Jaclyn, now entering law school, has served as a campground merchandise buyer.
And the first generation still stays involved. Kim, now 87, keeps an RV on the site and uses a golf cart to get around the property. Grace passed away in 1999. His parents traveled extensively, said Randy, and Kim often surprises guests with talk of their home states when he sees their license plates.
“He’ll often escort guests to their sites,” Randy said.
Tessa’s decision to work in the corporate world was encouraged by Randy and Denise, but her surprise decision to come back full time last year, the camp’s 50th anniversary, thrilled her parents.
“It’s very important to go out and see what you’re interested in, and get a feel for some different things, and then you come back with a whole different perspective on it,” Tessa said.
KEEPING THE PAST ALIVE
Tradition is everywhere at Pine Acres. The rustic, A-frame office building is Kim and Grace’s former home. Photos of the family are prominently displayed along with current campground news and accolades. Randy’s office is his parents’ former bedroom and Tessa’s office was another bedroom. Denise has an enviable office in the former living room, which features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Dean. Original antique Pine Acres signage co-exists with Wi-Fi accessible RVs. Kids can buy an old-fashioned bug net at the gift shop, or play in the arcade.
The Packards laugh at the misperception that family members who work for the family business somehow don’t work as much.
“You’re so proud, so you want to work so hard,” Tessa said. Randy said the notion of second generations often losing family businesses was plenty of motivation for him to keep things running smoothly. “Suddenly you’ve got responsibility, you’ve got employees, and their lives revolve around this whole thing too – I didn’t want to [fail],” he said.
While 65-hour weeks are common in peak season, the off season allows for planning and projects. The Packards often travel to visit other campgrounds and resorts but it’s never really a break, they said. Denise said she’s constantly looking for ideas of activities or amenities they could add to Pine Acres.
“You’re always on,” she said. “You’re always looking for that something new we can bring back to our guests here.”