Oral surgeon develops premier wedding venue
The future Dr. Robert Myers started a coveted dental residency at the University of Wisconsin when another of his irons got hot: He was accepted into the MBA program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Myers hemmed, hawed and talked to his adviser before reaching the most unlikely conclusion. He would do both programs and emerge as an oral surgeon with an MBA.
“It was not a fun time,” Myers said with a laugh. “It was tough, but it's the best thing I've ever done in my life.”
Today, Myers is one-third of the thriving Camp Hill oral/maxillofacial surgery practice Wood, Myers & Hartman. He is also a developer capping off his biggest project to date: the $4 million renovation of Linwood Estate in Cumberland County as a luxury wedding venue.
The 121-acre facility includes a mansion, separate dining hall, cottage, 10-acre lake and gardens. It was built in 1870 by Linwood Phillips, a Cumberland County businessman.
After Linwood B. Phillips III, a businessman and real estate developer, died in 2006, Linwood fell into disrepair. The estate was put on the market, and Myers learned his grandfather had been friends with Phillips. The Myerses — wife Christine is a development partner — toured the estate about 18 months ago.
“We were halfway through the main house, and we both looked at each other and said, 'This should be shared with people,'” Myers recalled.
Getting to work
They settled on the property in May 2013 and went to work. Myers counts 29 different tradesmen and -women who did work at Linwood, from landscapers to electricians to plumbers.
“We really took it back to the studs,” he said of the interior renovations. “It had sat dormant for almost seven years.”
Work went on for months and is just now finishing, with the final inspection completed last week. Work outside was just as involved, with 20 acres professionally landscaped.
As a wedding venue, said Michelle Hare, director of events for Linwood, the estate is “really incomparable” to anything else.
“For the wedding vows, they have multiple locations to choose from, both inside and outside,” Hare said. “Brides love that they have a backup location in case of bad weather.”
Myers said the luxury compares to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Fayette County, or The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The difference is that guests rent the entire Linwood Estate for their weekend wedding.
“This is a great diamond in the rough,” Myers said, adding that he wants to market Linwood regionally but also to the East Coast cultural centers of Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.
So far, the market has responded. Hare's calendar is filled with 23 weddings through the 2015 season. Although primarily a wedding venue, Myers said, Linwood can serve as a facility for weekend corporate retreats and special meetings or family reunions.
“I think there's a lot of markets we could go into,” said Myers, who also owns Caffé 101 in Boiling Springs.
Wedding packages range from $8,500 for a Saturday to $15,500 for the weekend, which does not include catering, photography, flowers or entertainment.
The Myerses have working relationships established with several of those area businesses. Kristen Rowe, communications manager for the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp., which handles tourism for the county, said the out-of-state dollars and trickle-down economic impact represent an economic boon for the area.
CAEDC data show a total economic impact of $60,000 to $65,000 from a high-end wedding at a venue such as Linwood, Rowe said. Those estimates are based on 150 attendees.
“We're really seeing a lot of wedding destination buzz about the Central PA area,” Rowe said. “For the bride who's looking for something a little different, we're kind of like that perfect spot.”
The most important alliance for Linwood is with Weddings by JDK, which provides all catering services. The exclusive agreement allows Linwood to offer premium dining services, Myers said.
The remaining acreage around Linwood is available for future development, and the Myerses have approval to build a self-storage facility, but that is a few years off, he said.
For now, the couple — parents to 12- and 16-year-old boys — plan to relax for a bit and focus on establishing Linwood as a wedding destination.
“We want to brand Linwood as a name itself, so in 10 years, when someone in New York City says, 'Linwood,' someone will know right away what they're talking about,” Myers said.
Linwood: A snapshot
Linwood Estate consists of several buildings and landscaped areas. Bob and Christine Myers named the buildings/areas as part of marketing the estate as a destination venue, said Michelle Hare, director of events.
Here are the estate details:
Address: 93 Encks Mill Road, Dickinson Township
Date built: 1870
Size: 121 acres
1. Linwood Mansion (the main house): an 8,600-square-foot home with five bedrooms
2. Appalachian Ballroom (the dining hall): about 9,000 square feet
3. The Cottage: A 2,300-square-foot home with four bedrooms and a kitchenette
4. Linwood Gardens and Labyrinth: 20 acres of landscaped areas
5. Lady Lucy’s Lake: a 10-acre lake with bass fishing allowed
6. North Lawn: Manicured grounds in front of mansion