Wayside Inn goes on the auction block

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For 212 years the Wayside Inn has welcomed weary travelers on their way through the Shenandoah Valley’s Frederick County. The historic inn spent April waiting to welcome a new owner.

The business had fallen on hard financial times in recent months. Its owners, heirs of the late owner, Leo Bernstein, decided to sell it and hand the proceeds to the Washington, D.C.-based Bernstein Family Foundation. The county assessed the property at nearly $1.8 million. The minimum “reserve price” for the auction — scheduled for April 30 — was set at $995,000.

Leo Bernstein bought the property in 1960 and ran it until his death last August. As the economy slid toward recession and gas prices climbed, business dropped off. Last fall the inn cut back its operating hours to weekends while the foundation leaders, which are Bernstein’s children and grandchildren, decided what to do next.

The Ohio-based Chartwell Group has been handling the sale of the property, which includes a 22-room inn, conference center and restaurant. Gordon Greene of the Chartwell Group says whoever buys the property can keep operating it as an inn or convert it to a private residence. “The foundation wanted to send a clear message to the marketplace that they mean to sell the asset.” It could sell for less than the posted price. “It’s going to depend on the bidders,” he says.

A property like this one could take a year or more to sell, because it’s relatively unusual and so the pool of potential buyers is smaller. “So the thinking of the foundation is, we’ll close in June, somebody will get a good buy, and we’ll convert the funds to charitable activities.”

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