Packard: Owning a Park is Not All That Easy
In many ways, Randy Packard has an enviable life. He lives in a place other people spend money to just visit for a few days. Tall pines line a peaceful lake in central Massachusetts and nearby sits an inviting heated pool, the Boston Herald reported.
It could hardly get better, that is until the ice cream delivery man calls to say he’s going on vacation for two weeks during the hottest month of the year, a 10th of the staff calls in sick and the paperwork stacks up.
It’s one thing to visit paradise. It’s another to own it.
Packard’s family has been running Pine Acres Resort in Oakham, Mass., for half a century. While the product is pure fun, it is still a business. There are payrolls to meet, taxes to be paid and a long list of regulations to follow.
Those regulations are the hardest part, Packard said. The campground, which includes a small store, is regulated by several state agencies and local boards. In addition, there are the national groups that Packard has joined to get the campground on lists distributed around the country. All of this means numerous separate inspections throughout the year along with reams of paperwork.
“We’re used to smiling at people and saying, ‘Welcome,’ ” Packard said good-naturedly.
This work is on top of helping hundreds of campers move into their tents, RVs and cabins, while hundreds move out every week. Also to be managed is a staff of about 40 in the summer, 10 of whom stay year-round.
This is a job that Packard didn’t want initially. He grew up in the campground watching his parents build it up from a handful of sites to dozens. Packard left for the real estate business.
He reconsidered his decision when then the recession of the 1980s hit.
“That’s when I realized that there’s another way of making a living that might be more enjoyable,” Packard said.
He took over the park and almost immediately made improvements. He added more sites, paved the roads and put the utilities underground. Eventually, he built the swimming pool and then later added a splash pad for the children and installed Wi-Fi.
All of this was done slowly despite the temptation to get it all done at once. Packard said he wanted to maintain his cash flow without having a big commitment to a bank.
“I’ve seen other parks that got themselves into trouble,” he said. “They tried to grow too quickly.”
While other families have left the business, the Packards are planning to be here for a while. There are more improvements coming and Packard’s daughter, Tessa Wisnewski, recently left the corporate world to join the family business. She had always wanted to, but felt it was important to get outside experience first.
“It’s nice to have a different perspective,” Wisnewski said.
Still, she’s happy to be back at camp, even though she spends much of her time working on the books.