August 22, 2008
Stonebridge CC sold for $3m


GOFFSTOWN - Stonebridge Country Club has been sold for a little over $3 million to two New Hampshire couples who say they will make the investments necessary to make the business successful.

The new owners, Tim Yeaton and Gary DeGruttola, said they purchased the 164-acre golf course and country club at an auction on June 18 and closed on the sale at the end of July. They own the business, which will keep the Stonebridge name, with their wives, Sue Yeaton and Sherry DeGruttola.

Yeaton and DeGruttola have been friends for years but have never run a business together. They both have experience as corporate executives -- Yeaton in the technology industry and DeGruttola in financial services.

The purchase ends nearly two years of uncertainty and speculation about the par 82, 6,800-yard course on Gorham Pond Road, off Parker Station Road in north Goffstown. A year ago previous owners Ron and Cheryl Merino, amid rumors that Stonebridge would close, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reorganization.

The Merinos -- who owned Stonebridge for 10 years -- said floods in recent years had cost them more than $100,000. They also owed $337,000 to nearly 200 creditors and had a $3.7 million mortgage with the Community Bank and Trust Co. in Plaistow.

At one time the country club had 200 members, but membership has declined to about 70.

Yeaton and DeGruttola say they are in for the long haul, and hope to build a legacy.

"There aren't many opportunities in a career and a lifetime to build a legacy that survives longer periods of time," Yeaton said. "For us, this is that opportunity." 

Our motivation was, this is a real opportunity for both our families to build together a lasting legacy in the state, you know, where we live, where we work, where we play."

The new owners plan to refinish the outdoor decks of the clubhouse, paint the exterior, landscaping the area around the clubhouse and replace the televisions inside. They also have reconditioned all the golf carts.

The significant renovation plans include paving all five miles of gravel cart paths. The owners said the gravel paths require costly maintenance due to washouts and other problems. They said the paved paths also would allow them to buy new golf carts. Some companies have been bidding on the work and the owners say it will happen this fall. The new carts are due next year.

Course improvement plans could include a new drainage system and fourth tee boxes on some holes.

"Our vision is really to build this into one of the premiere semi-private, public access courses in the region and we've got the golf course to do it," Yeaton said. He estimated putting in several hundred thousand dollars in 2008, and more next year.

A third phase would be the removal of the cart barn and seasonal events tent next to the clubhouse and the construction of a function hall, with room underneath for storing the carts. The function hall, according to the owners, would extend the season for their business and enable them to hold more events, such as weddings.

Yeaton and DeGruttola said they would like to do the project in a couple of years, but no firm timetable has been set.

They are bullish about the greater Concord-Manchester-Nashua metropolitan area, with a population of 370,000 that is stable and relatively affluent.

"If you look at some of the estimates that we've seen, even in a slower economic climate, there's still more demands for golf rounds than are probably being played," Yeaton said.


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