If you've always hoped to give up your 9-to-5 job to move to Maine to operate a historic bed and breakfast—one that sits on 12 acres and has scenic views of Kezar Lake and the White Mountains—then the Center Lovell Inn, built in 1805, could be your dream come true. All you need to make it yours is $125, a postage stamp, and the best 200-word essay around.
In 1993, then-owners of the Inn, Bil and Susie Mosca, held an essay contest (entry fee: $100) to find a successor. They chose Janice Sage, who had been managing a 50,000-square-foot restaurant in Maryland before winning ownership of the Inn. But after more than two decades of managing the bed and breakfast, Sage, now 68, is ready to retire. And she's planning her own essay contest to find the Inn's new owner.
"There’s a lot of very talented people in the restaurant business who would like to have their own place but can’t afford it," Sage told the Press Herald. "This is a way for them to have the opportunity to try."
The contest has already been deemed legal in Maine because the essay component makes it a matter of skill and not luck. Sage hopes to receive at least 7500 entries, which would earn her the $900,000 that local real estate agents suggested she list the Inn for—although unlike the Moscas before her, Sage has not promised to stop collecting entrants after she hits that amount.
"If I get more entries, all the better," she said.
To apply, aspiring Inn-owners (18 years of age and older) can send a 200-or-less-word essay on the topic of why they're the right fit, as well as a check for $125, to the Center Lovell Inn postmarked by May 7 (you can read the full instructions here). Sage will narrow down the applicants to a top 20 and from there, two anonymous judges will pick the new owner of the Inn. If you apply, be sure you're ready to dive headfirst into ownership—Sage is hoping to announce a successor on May 21st.
The Moscas are not involved in the contest this time around, but the couple still live in Lovell. Bil is confident that just as it did last time, the essay contest will deliver a fitting new owner for the centuries-old Inn.
He said people often asked him when he and his wife held a contest, "'What if you get the wrong person or what if this person lies to you?' Our answer was and is, 'We trust.' It was part of the magic of this whole thing. And it turned out we were right."