FAIRMONT - When Nate and Sarah Brown began preparing to open their restaurant, Serenade's by the Lake, acquiring the adjacent lakeshore property was only a pipe dream.
"We didn't even go down and look at it until we learned it was a possibility," Sarah Brown said.
The Browns had worked with Martin County Economic Development Authority to transform the former Sirloin House into a place for both formal and casual dining. As part of lending a hand, the EDA did some research and learned the details regarding the lakeshore property.
ON?THE?LAKE?— Sarah and Nate Brown, front, owners of Serenade’s by the Lake in Fairmont, were backed by, clockwise from left: state Rep. Bob Gunther, Martin County Commissioner Elliot Belgard, EDA chairman Chris Pierce, County Coordinator Scott Higgins and Bryan Stading, Martin County EDA adviser, in acquiring lakeshore across from their restaurant on Albion Avenue.
"We didn't know who owned it," said Bryan Stading, an adviser to the Martin County EDA. "We learned it belonged to the county, then the state ... The idea was to give options to Nate and Sarah to try and look at ways to incorporate the lakeside with the restaurant."
"When we originally looked at purchasing [the restaurant], we wanted the lakeshore," Brown said. "People have asked us if we would do dockside delivery, or have a place to park their boats. So we decided to pursue it."
But dealing with the state was not easy. After a lot of leg work and fact-gathering by Stading and the EDA, the Browns were able to get the right information to state Rep. Bob Gunther, who worked with the state Attorney General to quickly add a component to the DNR bill to release the lakeshore property back to the business.
"From an EDA standpoint, it was a real team effort," Stading said. "It would be a struggle for the owners or for us to do alone what we collectively were able to do."
Exactly how Serenade's will now incorporate the lakeshore has yet to be determined.
"With the lakeshore and the docks, there might be some unknown regulations," Brown said. "So we can't even go there. Short of a docking system, there is not a lot of room, because the lakeshore comes right up."
There are other considerations as well, such as a safe crossing for busy Albion Avenue.
"We just got the information last week," Stading said. "It was always a 'what if' up until then ... We're getting the details, and we will help Serenade's navigate with the city and who else they need to have discussions with ... We literally roll up our sleeves and help whenever we can. These are unusual circumstances. There are still some unknowns, such as getting back from assessments, but we are definitely here to support this."
And just as boaters are starting to show up on the lakes for the summer season, the timing works out.
"People will be able to dock, or we can do dock delivery if people call in ahead of time," Brown said.
"With three places on the lake, that's when people think about coming down here for fun," said Chris Pierce, a local banker who serves on the Martin County EDA.