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New Investors Reviving Virginia Resort

Smith Mountain lake in southwest Virginia

A group of investors, determined to reopen a waterfront restaurant, marina, campground and inn at the site of the former Campers Paradise/Sunset Cay in southwest Virgina, is moving toward final stages of its planned acquisition, the Smith Mountain Laker reported.

The property on the Bedford side of the lake just above Hales Ford Bridge was most recently operated by the now-defunct SML Partners. After a bankruptcy and foreclosure in 2009, the land and buildings became property of Wells Fargo Bank and have been for sale since.

"We have obtained a loan commitment from Bank of Fincastle that will enable us to finalize the transaction by May 1," said Tom Buck, who is leading the group of investors. Buck and wife Ellen own Mitchell's Point Marina & RV Park on Craddock Creek.

Buck said the waterfront restaurant, which operated during 2008 and 2009 as Harrison's at Sunset Cay with an investment of nearly $2 million to expand and renovate the kitchen, dining room and bar, is in excellent condition and could be opened within 45 days of the deal's closing.

Tom and Lynn Gordon, owners of Blackwater Cafe on Scruggs Road in Moneta, confirmed their intent to purchase and operate the restaurant. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in season, and breakfast and dinner during cooler months. They will continue to operate Blackwater Cafe. Gordon said he expected to hire about 30 staff members.

"Our priority will be providing quality food and service, convenience and waterfront ambiance at moderate prices," Gordon said. "We look forward to operating a casual-theme restaurant that is convenient to most locations around the lake, by both land and water."

The marina and campground — for motorized and towable RVs, but not popups or tents, Buck said — is expected to open under a similar timetable.

"The current group of committed investors is providing the capital we need to purchase the property," Buck said, "but we need a few more to help fund the improvements we feel will make the marina, inn and RV park a destination for locals as well as visitors."

Those include increasing the number of covered boat slips with lifts from 27 to 100 or more and expanding the RV park to include 150-180 sites. Long term, there are plans to expand the 25-room motel to 100 units. Improvements will be undertaken as capital and operating profits permit.

Buck said they plan to retain the 5,000-square-foot commercial building at the front of the property along Virginia 122.

"A number of people have expressed interest in leasing that space for a variety of purposes," he said.

Changes to Mitchell's Point in the seven years the Bucks have owned it include the addition of 70 boat slips, 40 RV sites, a 60-seat restaurant and a $200,000 sewage treatment plant. Annual revenues have grown from $175,000 in 2004 to more than $1.5 million last year, according to Buck.

"Our best years have been during the recent recession. A well-run campground and marina provides excellent vacation and lake-access opportunities for people of modest means," Buck said.

"I really respect what the Bucks have done with Mitchell's Point Marina," Gordon said. "We share the same business philosophies and I think we will work well together to help one another be successful in this new undertaking."

"In total, our venture will employ at least 60 people and return over $400,000 in local tax revenue," Buck said. "We have strong support from the local government, the Chamber of Commerce, civic leaders and local people who have seen what we've done at Mitchell's Point."

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