Years of losing money at Felicita Resort had to end, according to its owner.
But that's led him to a new business model that will be introduced when the secluded resort reopens in May.
The resort has lost money just about every year since owner Richard Angino, 73, opened it in 1997, he said, with a high of about $1 million a year. In 2013, he said, the resort lost about $200,000.
Angino, a prominent Harrisburg attorney and real estate investor, said 2013 was the "one last chance" season for golf at Felicita, but the annual course management cost of $500,000 to $750,000 did not get close to being recouped at the 18-hole course. He didn't say how much was lost, and he also wouldn't say how much he's lost in total on the resort since it opened.
Felicita sits on 800 acres Angino and his wife, Alice, amassed since they bought 55 acres at the Middle Paxton Township site in 1971 to build a home. Over the years, the couple acquired more adjacent land along Fishing Creek Valley Road, culminating in 1997, when they bought the 335 acres of Blue Mountain Golf Club for about $2.8 million, according to county records.
"There are people that make mistakes and never learn from them, and there are other people that learn from their mistakes," Angino said. "Although (Felicita) lost much more money earlier than it has recently, I had to refashion. I asked myself, 'What do I have at Felicita that no one else has?' The answer was the gardens. That's where we will emphasize in the future."
Angino said the spa, lodges and dining facilities will be closed, and the resort — now called Felicita Gardens — will be a "special events resort." The club did not allow the approximately 30 remaining members to renew their memberships for 2014.
It's the second golf course to close this offseason in Dauphin County, as Hershey Links closed for expansion at Milton Hershey School. The school bought the course in 2006.
"I think I speak for everyone in the golf community when I say we all don't want to see courses close," said Harrisburg District Golf Association Vice President John McNair. "Essentially they are businesses just like any other business and face the same challenges in an ever-changing economy and marketplace."
Rick Dunlap, a spokesman for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau, said Felicita's course and resort are overshadowed by the Hershey resorts in Derry Township.
"Pricing aside, whether a business or leisure traveler is looking for golf, spa, formal gardens, upscale lodging or meeting space, the Hershey resorts offer those same amenities," he said. "And Hershey's brand equity after nearly 100 years as a destination combined with (its) marketing resources creates a real challenge for anyone within a 100-mile radius trying to compete in that same all-inclusive resort arena."
Felicita is owned by King Drive Corp., Angino's real estate development business. A La Carte Enterprises Inc., also owned by Angino, managed the resort and golf course.
Angino recently announced he is renaming his longtime firm Angino & Rovner as Angino & Lutz because five of the seven attorneys at Angino & Rovner had left the firm. He said the money loss at Felicita had nothing to do with the downsizing of the firm.
The bright side for Felicita, Angino said, is that it will be used throughout spring and summer for weddings and special events. Flair, an event management company with offices in Dauphin and York counties, will handle most of the arrangements.
The company already is booking for 2015, Angino said.
"Weddings were incredibly profitable at Felicita," Angino said. "We do three-quarters of a million dollars in events, so it's a win-win for Flair and Felicita. They can handle the management, and we can provide the venue."
Angino said he's not looking to sell the resort or any of its aspects that are closing. He did, however, say he'd be interested in "partnerships," such as the one he formed with Flair.
Dunlap said he's not aware of any resorts with a business model similar to the one Felicita is attempting.
"But we do hope it allows them to remain a viable business in our area," he said.
Prominent attorney Richard Angino, owner of Felicita Gardens in Dauphin County, said the money he lost at the resort since he opened it in 1997 didn’t have anything to do with the downsizing and renaming of his Susquehanna Township law firm.
And if it did, the departed lawyers from the firm Angino & Rovner — now Angino & Lutz — aren’t saying.
Of the seven lawyers at Angino & Rovner in the fall, only two — Angino and Dave Lutz — remain. The other five have landed at other Harrisburg-area firms.
Michael E. Kosik and Daryl E. Christopher are now at Schmidt Kramer in Harrisburg,
Neil J. Rovner and Lisa M. Benzie are at Navitsky, Olson and Wisneski in Susquehanna Township.
Richard A. Sadlock is now at Freeburn and Hamilton in Susquehanna Township.
Rovner, Kosik, Christopher and Benzie declined comment for this story. Sadlock did not return a message seeking comment.