LONG BEACH — When Doug and Angie Brown pulled their RV into Long Beach in September, they discovered a town that was brimming with optimism and opportunity.
“It seemed like a happy community,” Doug said. “We just liked the vibe.”
It was the first time in Long Beach for the Redmond couple. They spent the weekend perusing the small communities that dot the Peninsula. They stayed at Andersen’s RV Park in north Long Beach and shot nine holes the Peninsula Golf Course, and met Jim and Sondra Eaton, where Jim operates the course and Sondra runs The Cove restaurant. The Eatons leased the property from successors to the Donald and Laura Thompson estate.
A little more than a month later, in early November, the experience culminated with the Browns purchasing the property becoming the official new owners of the golf course and restaurant at a price of $750,000.
The budding partnership between the Browns and Eatons has led to renewed optimism surrounding the facility’s potential.
Owning a golf course and restaurant will be a new endeavor for the Browns, who will operate largely from their home in Redmond, where they are raising two teenage boys. Doug spent six years in the Navy with a background in electronics before assuming a management position at a repair center in Kirkland. Since 2000, he has worked at Microsoft managing a team based in Issaquah.
“This is our first endeavor like this,” Brown said. “We’ve never owned a business before.”
The challenge is one to be embraced, according to Angie, who also has previous work experience in computer science and programming, and will work more directly with the Eatons as general manager.
“I really enjoy business strategy,” Angie said. “I love a good problem.”
The Browns have started setting short, intermediate and long-term goals for the course and restaurant. Making the course “more playable” is the biggest short-term goal, according to the new owners.
“The overwhelming feedback is to work on the condition of the course,” Doug Brown said. “We have plans to improve the drainage and irrigation.”
Soggy winters and dry summers are the biggest culprit. There are also plans to possibly lengthen the course, while making it more accessible with new golf carts and improved paths and signage. The goal is to design holes that are “interesting but not impossible.”
“We’re not going to put in a bunch of pro-level shots,” Brown said. “We want to keep it fun, but we also want it to be interesting.”
The nine-hole course currently takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
“Anything under 5,000 yards as an 18-hole course is a par-3 course. We want to get it up to 2,500 yards for nine holes. We only need to add a little less than 200 yards,” he said.
Other long term ideas such include footgolf, night golf tournaments and movies on the green.
“Stay and Play” accommodations are also being considered. “We’ve talked about tiny houses or yurts, where people could stay and vacation on a weekend,” Brown said.
The timing of the Browns’ purchase of the course couldn’t have been better, according to Sondra Eaton.
“I had two feet out the door before they showed up,” she said. She had been stressing for years over the seasonal ebb and flow of the business, often taking out personal loans to survive while leasing season to season.
“In the past, I’ve had to take out a line of credit every year, basically like $35,000 just to get through winter and then I spend all summer paying it back so that I can get another one to make it through winter again,” Eaton said.
“I haven’t made a lot of money doing this — it’s more out of a love to live here and for this golf course. It’s a lifestyle. But even after a while it can wear you down if you’re not making the money you need to retire, and Jim and I are in our 50s now. With Doug and Angie coming in as owners and us staying on as managers with an employment contract, it’s a godsend,” she said. Eaton will have a new role largely outside the kitchen as marketing and catering manager. The new job has brought stability and a paycheck.
“I’m stepping away from the kitchen physically,” Eaton said, adding that the same quality and commitment to food will continue with new hires. Previously, the restaurant relied on as many 10 staff for peak months before trimming it back to five during the slower, shorter winter days.
“With the new hours we’ll be at full staff pretty much the whole year,” Eaton said. “It will be great for those working here.”
Providing solid-paying jobs is a priority, Brown said.
“We want to be part of the community and provide good jobs,” he said. The hardest thing, according to Brown, will be living away from the Pacific County community they’ve come to love. “The biggest challenge is we’re located in Redmond,” he said. “But we’re excited about what we’re doing and want to be a part of it and the community.”