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Callahan's for sale

Ron and Donna Bergquist have owned the lodge since the mid-1990s
 Posted: 2:00 AM May 17, 2014

Fire and drought failed to deter Ron and Donna Bergquist in their nearly two-decade ownership of Callahan's Lodge near Mount Ashland.

Time, however, takes no notice of herculean rebuilding efforts or the will to persevere against economic odds. The calendar has been a steady reminder to the Bergquists that sooner or later they have to step aside and pass on a hallmark Southern Oregon tradition to someone else, just as they took the keys in the mid-1990s.

They've put the restaurant, lodge and surrounding forest acreage up for sale for $5 million, listing the property with Sotheby's International.

"In the course of life, people plan for their education, plan to get married, plan for their babies, careers and retirement," Donna Bergquist said. "... Ron is going to be 80 soon, and there aren't many men in their 70s who did what he did after the fire and said, 'We can do this again.' We need to start looking ahead."

The fire on Labor Day weekend of 2006 was catastrophic, leveling the historical lodge and forcing the Bergquists to rebuild from the ground up.

But in the 18 years since the couple acquired the property near the Mount Ashland exit off of Interstate 5, annual revenue has grown 300 percent, Bergquist said.

Last year, Callahan's took in $425,000. After a rough January, largely due to Mount Ashland's snowless slopes, the operation has erased a year-over-year deficit and is now running ahead of 2013's sales figures. On Mother's Day there were 600 diners.

She said at $5 million, the price is more than right.

"The truth is someone would have trouble recreating this place for double that," Bergquist said. "It's on 50 wonderful acres with a phenomenal water source and a wastewater plant big enough for a small community."

The Bergquists have completed two-thirds of the planned build-out since the 2006 fire. Four more guest rooms and nine cabins remain on the drawing board, along with three building sites.

"There are a lot of different scenarios that could play out very well," she said. "Ron and I would like to see a couple 15 to 20 years younger than we are that we could inspire."

A couple parties have asked general questions about the property, she said. "We'll know they are serious buyers when we get a deposit."

The Bergquists cast a global net to reach potential buyers with Sotheby's producing a video and brochure. There is no deadline, no urgency, Bergquist said, noting all reservations and events remain on the books and won't be altered.

"We really don't know long it will be on the market before we get the right exposure," she said. "It's really impossible to predict. We do know that it can provide an 8 percent return on investment and few places can provide that return."

Still, the clock ticks.

"We don't want to wait until we're too old, too sick, too tired to give Callahan's the proper transition," Bergquist said. "We don't want to be forced into a sale at that time. Ron is psyched about getting together with a new owner and helping them build out the property."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com.


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