New owner to take over Stockade Inn

Buyer operates three Lake George motels, plans no changes at historic Schenectady property
The Stockade Inn at Union and South Church streets in Schenectady is shown on Thursday.
The Stockade Inn at Union and South Church streets in Schenectady is shown on Thursday.

SCHENECTADY — The Stockade Inn in the historic Schenectady neighborhood of the same name will soon change hands, but no changes are expected in look, atmosphere and services at the boutique hotel.

Also not changing: It still will be a family business run by an entrepreneur with an appreciation for the revitalization of the city’s downtown core.

The McDonald family is selling the 18-room inn with its 30-seat lounge and 125-person event space to the Gregor family, operator of three motels in Lake George and one hotel in Maine. The deal is expected to close in late April.

Owner Jeff McDonald said he is changing his focus, devoting more time to working as a general contractor and building houses in the area.

“I’m an engineer by trade and I have another business, McDonald Family Builders,” he said.

He’ll remain a Schenectady resident, county legislator and president of Discover Schenectady, but wants to step away from the inn, which includes his father, Jack, as a partner and once had as many 10 family members involved in the operation.

“It’s been a great run,” McDonald said. “It’s amazing how Schenectady has changed in the time since we started.”

The McDonald family bought what was then the Lower Mohawk Club in July 2003 and made a number of renovations to the property at the corner of Union and Church streets, parts of which date to the early 1800s.

Rob Gregor said he plans no alterations to the Stockade Inn or its operation or staff. 

“The goal is the day after we close [on the sale], nobody knows” it’s changed hands, he said. A couple of bathrooms were skipped in the earlier renovation and will get updates, routine repairs will be made, but no significant changes are in the works.

“It’s got such a great feel to it and such a feeling of coordination to it,” he said. “What was attractive to us was the fact that you’ve got a staff there that’s been there a very long time and we can fit right in there.

“The idea of one family going to another family was attractive to everybody.”

The transaction stemmed from the oldest of Gregor’s three children, Joseph, who was 7 at the time. Gregor had started teaching him to surf commercial real estate listings and showing him the basics of income and expense to overcome the boy’s dislike of math.

It was Joseph who found the online listing for the Stockade Inn, and suggested they take a look at it.

Gregor hadn’t been planning to acquire a fifth property, but he liked what he saw in the listing. They drove down to Schenectady, Joseph handed out business cards to everybody, and the process was in motion.

Gregor still marvels at how he and his wife, Nerisha, gradually came to own four hotels, let alone five.

“It just kind of blossomed,” he said. “We stopped being hotel owners and became a hotel business.”

As he spoke on Thursday, Gregor was preparing to fire up his grill, which was now clear of snow, and have a cookout for the staff of the three Lake George motels: Lake Haven, Montreal and Sundowner.

“We’re still small enough that everyone knows each other,” he said. “I still do everything, but as you get more hotels you transition.”

At $975,000, the Stockade Inn won’t be the Gregors’ most expensive acquisition — the Sundowner cost more than $3 million — but it will be their first hotel in an urban setting.

He’s comfortable with the urban landscape, having run a mail-order book business in Troy between college and law school and having practiced law in New York City. 

When Gregor tells people he’s going into business in Schenectady, he finds he can divide their reaction by age group: Older people are hesitant, recalling the long period of decay downtown; younger people are familiar with the revitalization and excited.

At 41, Gregor is old enough to recall the stagnant downtown Schenectady, but he thinks the younger perspective is the right one. 

“Schenectady is a gem waiting to happen,” he said, mentioning the downtown dining/entertainment district, colleges, new Amtrak station and all the development on lower State Street near the Stockade Inn.

As the Gregor family adds a Schenectady business, the McDonald family has divested itself of another — Jeff’s uncle Dennis recently sold Pinhead Susan’s. 

Family members still own The Van Dyck on Union Street and operate Mad Jack Brewing Company there.

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