By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer
After 65 seasons the Pasternak family has sold The Flamingo Resort at Diamond Point on Lake George for $6.5 million to Chris and Jill Kozaczka.
The families share eastern European heritage and a desire to keep the Flamingo family-operated and focused.
“I did notice a lot of resorts selling and being knocked down for luxury homes or townhouses. Not interested in that at all,” buyer Mr. Kozaczka told The Chronicle.
He said they want “to continue to offer families the ability to vacation on the waterfront of Lake George. That’s something we love to do. And we know a lot of other people that love to do that.”
George Pasternak ran the Flamingo with his sister Chrystyna Pasternak-Panycia and his wife Laura. Sixty-five years ago his parents George and Olga founded the resort.
“I’ve been doing it 30 years myself, since my parents retired. My wife for 28, my sister for a long time,” he said. “We’re ready to slow down a little bit.”
He said the Kozaczkas’ was the first offer that clicked. “We certainly didn’t want to see it [The Flamingo] get destroyed.”
“Meeting them,” Mr. Pasternak said, “really made up our decision — a young family with three children, looking to do what we did and continue on. That’s important to us, because we watched a lot of nearby properties close in the last couple of years.”
The purchaser Mr. Kozaczka said he “really felt a good vibe and a good connection” with the Pasternaks and “fell in love with their story and their family’s history and it just felt right.”
The Kozaczkas, in their early 40’s, live in central Massachusetts, but have long vacationed at Lake George.
“My wife’s family has been coming up for over 30 years…..We stay at Carey’s in Bolton Landing.”
As “people that have vacationed on Lake George at a similar resort we wanted to preserve that,” Mr. Kozaczka says.
Mrs. Kozaczka said, “Even for us for the past few years, we couldn’t get into Carey’s. Trying to find a place that could accommodate our family…it was difficult to find a place without renting something for, you know—”
“A crazy amount of money,” Mr. Kozaczka finished the thought. “Like a single family house on the lake, that’s tough for a lot of people.”
Are their kids excited? “Beyond excited,” Mr. Kozaczka said. “I mean, [ages] 17, 13 and 10? It’s a cool resort…the jumping bridge. They love spending time on the lake jumping off the cliffs, tubing.”
In their careers, Mr. Kozaczka said, “I’ve worked in corporate tax for over 20 years. My wife’s a second grade teacher for 14 years. And at the same time we have a real estate business that we continue to grow over the last 20 years.”
He said it’s given him experience relevant to owning The Flamingo. “I have 20 residential units,” he said. “I’m the guy that you call if the toilet is clogged. I’m the guy that you call for anything. So I want to give my tenants good customer service, so it’s similar.”
Mr. Kozaczka, the son of Polish immigrants, said he also connected with the Pasternaks’ family story.
Mr. Pasternak said his parents were Ukrainian Roman Catholic immigrants.
“My parents survived the war, and especially my dad, he survived five concentration camps and ended up coming to Lake George after many adventures in America. And he fell in love with it. It was his American dream.”
He said his father wrote a book “called Survivor about his surviving the concentration camps. He lived through Auschwitz, Bruttig, Dora, Ellrich and Bergen-Belsen.”
Mr. Pasternak said of selling The Flamingo, “We’re excited for a new chapter in life. But it’s also a little bittersweet to leave a place that’s been our home for our whole lives.”
Mr. Pasternak says many guests became “lifelong friends” returning for decades. On Facebook, hundreds of comments wish the family well after the sale.
“That’s pretty heart-warming to read,” Mr. Pasternak said. “It wasn’t just a place for them to stay…The last five or 10 years there have been several people that have gotten Flamingo Resort tattoos!”
He said the Kozaczkas plan to honor next year’s reservations, “So it doesn’t feel like we’re leaving all these customers and…just taking away their tradition.”
Mr. Pasternak said they plan to help the Kozaczkas. “I think they’re going to be very successful and happy. And that view every morning and every week the new people coming in — I mean, yes, it’s tough work, it’s labor intensive, but it’s also extremely gratifying.”
Pasternak: Hopes it ‘balances out’ so Lake George retains family resorts
The Chronicle asked Flamingo Resort seller George Pasternak what he sees as the future of such lodging on Lake George.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “A lot of places closed up and became private residences, which I understand. People want to live on the Queen of American lakes. It’s beautiful.
“You have two lakes in one,” Mr. Pasternak suggests.
“Anything south of Paradise Bay is an active, touristy environment. And yet you have north through the Narrows and the Mother Bunch and all of a sudden, you’re in an Adirondack quiet lake where you hear loons and stuff. So it’s a great location.”
Mr. Pasternak said affluent people will inevitably come. “I’ve watched them over the years, even on the other side of the lake, all the little homes being replaced with these beautiful homes.
“But I think the demand for those family resorts is still there. I think some will hold on, will provide that access. It’s just going to be limited. Especially dock spaces and things of that nature that is shortening up.”
He hopes it “balances out because I know even for Bolton Landing it’s important to have that tourist influx in the summer for all the businesses, the restaurants, the boat rentals, everything.”
— Zander Frost
Muroff, broker on Flamingo sale, says change is a constant; does not believe LG hotels are doomed
Mitchell Muroff of Muroff Hospitality in Newton, Mass., handled the sale of Lake George’s Flamingo Resort.
He told The Chronicle that resort sales are “very strong.”
“I sold the Lake George Suites earlier in June. The Capri…was sold this year as well, which is next to the Flamingo. It’s busy. There’s a great deal of interest in Lake George and especially lakeside properties.”
Mr. Muroff, a former hotel owner whose real estate focus is hospitality, said, “The hotel market in general and ‘drive to’ areas like Lake George…have been very, very strong.”
“2020 was good for many Lake George resorts even though we were in COVID. And 2021 was in many cases a record-breaking year…in Lake George and other seaside resort communities like Cape Cod or southern Maine…or the Jersey Shore,” he added.
He said beyond its natural beauty, Lake George’s proximity to New York, Boston and Montreal gives it an advantage.
A number of lakeside motels have recently sold to be converted into residential use. The Chronicle asked: are motels doomed on Lake George?
“No, hotels are not doomed in Lake George. Not at all,” Mr. Muroff said.
He acknowledged, “The land, especially lakeside properties, is so valuable and so desirable for residential use that it’s hard to get the revenue for a seasonal property because the season is really three months. And therefore, it’s that the price of real estate has escalated.”
“On the other hand, there’s a continued desire to have family friendly resort properties. In the case of the Flamingo, for example, the owners…were desirous of selling to another family that would continue to operate the hotel as a family resort.”
re Airbnbs affecting hotel business? “Sometimes people can get good value and larger houses and properties. But in selecting an Airbnb property, you’re not getting things like security and housekeeping and all the amenities that you would get from a from a hotel property. It’s often a different customer.”
What’s next for Lake George? Mr. Muroff said, “There’s always been a turnover in properties for a lot of reasons. In this particular case, again, the owners have been there for 65 years. So they wanted to retire and enjoy life. So that happens a lot,”
He said sometimes hotel owners sell their smaller hotel to “trade up” to buy a larger property.
“There’s always a constant momentum in terms of transactional work in the hospitality business,” he said.
— Zander Frost
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