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Despite support, Back Bay bids adieu
Though Islanders have been vocal in their support of Back Bay Inn, well-wishing wasn’t enough to keep the beloved Burton eatery and bed and breakfast open.
Faced with an enormous payment they cannot make on the property, Back Bay owners John “Stormy” Storms and Victoria Davies are closing their doors this weekend, after a Valentine’s Day concert and a final shindig with regular musicians jamming together on Sunday.
“We’re going to go out with a bang,” Davies said, “and we’ll walk away with lots of memories.”
The duo, who have owned and operated Back Bay since 2006, breathed new life into their restaurant in September, dubbing it the Quartermaster Pub and adding a new, inexpensive menu. It was just what the Burton establishment needed, Davies said, but it came too late.
“It did take off,” she said. “The pub was the correct venue here, and it didn’t happen soon enough.”
And though the past few months have been quite profitable for Back Bay, it wasn’t enough for Davies and Storms to pay off their “balloon payment” — a final lump sum of the remainder owed on the property loan — by this month.
The couple, who live in the home adjacent to the inn, were hoping to refinance their mortgage but were unable to do so in today’s financial climate.
“Everything hinges on us refinancing, and we couldn’t,” Davies said.
She said she and Storms came into the restaurant and inn scene in 2006 without proven success in the industry, and therefore had a tough time getting conventional financing for Back Bay. Davies was then employed at K2, while Storms moved to Vashon to be with Davies and open the Back Bay.
Instead, the couple took a two-year loan from a private party, and had to pay it off in its entirety several months ago. Unable to do so, they’ve been “floating,” Davies said, but their time is up.
“We weren’t banking on the fact that it was going to take us almost two years to get to an in-the-black situation,” she said.
The business will change hands and be owned by the
lender later this month, Da-
vies said. Unless a sale can be worked out privately, Back Bay Inn will be auctioned off publicly on Feb. 27.
A few parties are considering buying the business, the Island’s southernmost eatery — but no offers are yet on the table.
“There are a few people who are interested and who seem like they’d be a perfect fit here,” she said, “so we’re really rooting for them.”
Davies said she worries about the fact that her establishment and Vashon Auto Parts, the Island’s only automotive supply store, are closing in the same month. The parts shop shut its doors last week, citing an inability to secure necessary financing.
“It’s not a healthy community when businesses are closing,” Davies said. “We were throwing some ideas around the other day, saying ‘How can we save the place?’ But this was the day that NAPA closed, and the realization hit us: This is so much bigger than us. This is about all Island businesses.”
She said she and Storms are moved by the upwelling of community support.
“I feel honored that people have let us into their hearts,” Davies said tearfully.
In July, word of the couple’s financial plight was made public when the duo put the inn up for sale even while they searched for ways to keep the business solvent.
Since then, Islanders have offered support and encouragement almost daily, Davies said, and they’ve had a few nibbles for the $1.85 million property. But nothing ever went through.
People calling, stopping her in town and e-mailing her in support of the inn “is a really big testament that we did something right,” Davies said, “so it doesn’t feel like a failure at all.”
“The operation was a success, but the patient died,” Storms chimed in matter-of-factly.
He, Davies and Davies’ daughter Kaitlyn are moving from their home, just south of Back Bay, to a rental.
They’ll leave the restaurant and inn’s contents — furniture, equipment and supplies — there when they go, so its new owner “could come in and open it right away,” Davies said.
They’ll only take personal items, like the wooden bistro tables made for them by Captain John Burke, a regular at the inn.
“It’s the little things that are special,” she said, smiling.
The pair will walk away from their two-year investment in Back Bay with memories and little else. They’ll both be out of a job, and they won’t get back any of the $900,000 they’ve put into the establishment — unless it sells for more than that privately or at the auction.
“Things aren’t selling for what’s owed these days, so there’s little chance of that happening,” said Storms. “We gambled, and we lost.”