Main and Mulberry: Grindstone – Nancy & Sam Sullivan-Shener, Lookout Point Lakeside Inn

When Nancy Sullivan-Shener and Sam Shener discovered Arkansas, they discovered a new home. Since then, they’ve launched Lookout Point Lakeside Inn at Lake Hamilton. Far enough from hustle and bustle, but close enough to enjoy Hot Springs, find out why guests love visiting this one-of-a-kind lakeside property.


Austin: Hello, I’m Austin and welcome to Main and Mulberry Grindstone. Grindstone is a podcast all about small business. And today I’m talking with Nancy Sullivan-Shener and Sam Shener owners of Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Thank you both for being with us today. How are y’all doing?

Nancy: Good. How are you?

Austin: Good, good. Well, we’re excited to talk to you. If you can let’s start with a quick profile of Lookout Point. Can you tell our viewers how long Lookout Point has been around? Are there any more locations other than in Hot Springs and a brief description of what you guys offer?

Nancy: Do you want me to go? Sure. Ok. So there are no other locations. We’re just the one and only, and Lookout Point was purpose built to be this boutique hotel back in 2003. We are not the original, we’re not the founding owners. We bought it three years ago. And we offer 16 luxury accommodations and we are this little gem of a resort on Lake Hamilton in the cool little city of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Austin: Ah, great. Yeah. Well, it definitely sounds like a little escape you have there but still close to town. So that’s very cool area y’all have there.

Nancy: It’s true. Yeah. We’re six miles from downtown. So we’re enough. We’re far enough away to get away from that kind of city noise, but we’re close enough that our guests get to enjoy all of the fantastic historic amenities and shops and restaurants. You know, just one straight shot ride down central app, so.

Austin: Gotcha. And you said Lake Hamilton right. Is, is where y’all are in Lake Hamilton and I mean, that’s one of the nicer lakes around there. I mean the views, they’re just beautiful, right?

Nancy: It’s spectacular. Yeah. So Lake Hamilton is one of three lakes in a series, you know, divided by some dams. And it’s the one that is probably the most tourist rich one. And it’s, you know, it’s fully developed. It has all kinds of vacation homes and properties like ours, right on the Lake with that 225 feet of lake frontage. So our guests really get to partake in that view, and they get to enjoy the water of Lake Hamilton.

Austin: Well, thank you all for that description. So I do want to ask, what would you all think is the coolest, most unique aspect of being there at the Inn and the business?

Nancy: So for me I think one of the coolest and most surprising things you know, since we bought the business is, we get a lot of celebrities staying with us. So it’s really cool for our, for our guests. It’s really cool for us at our team, you know, to, to have, you know, these really famous people, all of a sudden, you know, we are, we’re getting calls from their people saying they’d like to come stay and then they do. And then our guests, of course, our in-house guests run into them and it’s, yeah, it’s really, it’s a really cool and unique thing and experience I think for, for, for everybody. So if you come stay here, somebody comes here, you never know who you might run into in the hallways.

Austin: Yeah. That’s very cool. That’s definitely a unique experience there for sure. You are just kicking back on the weekend, trying to relax at the lake and then a celebrity walks by. So I could definitely see that being a unique experience for sure. But what about, what about you, Sam? What, what would you say is the most unique aspect of this?

Sam: I think it’s, I think it’s the fact that we are right up the water. So there aren’t too many properties here at Lake Hamilton or Hot Springs. So being at the water and having amenities, such as canoes and kayaks and paddle boats, and being able to do boat cruises on our on our boats, I think that’s is something very, very, I’m not aware of any other property actually anywhere or around here that is able to do something like that. So that’s very unique.

Austin: Very cool. Well, thank you all so much for that little business profile. I do want to dig into things a little bit deeper though. And if you could, can you tell us you know, just a general price range from booking a room there at the inn.

Nancy: So right now it’s, you know, it’s July and we’re in peak season. And so we’re one of the priciest places around. Our rooms are all gorgeous, all have lake views. The only differences is size and whether it’s queen or King room or a suite. So prices range right now, one weekend that’s when most people travel. Our smallest room will run about $309 and our, one of our suites will run $509 for a night, a weekend night. And then, you know, of course it’s a little bit lower in the week during the weekdays. And then in the quiet season, you know, November, December, January you know, guests can enjoy, you know, they don’t want to splurge, they can come in and they can, they can book one of our smaller rooms for like $159 a night. So we’ve got a lot of guests that do that. They wait for the off season and treat themselves in the off season.

Austin: Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. So luxurious rooms, but you saw a little bit of a range of pricing there, and then that varies a little bit you know, according to season and that sort of thing. That makes sense. Well, thank you again for that business profile. I do want to dig a little bit deeper into the backstory and how you guys got involved with Lookout Point. So if you could tell me how did y’all get involved and what is your role there today?

Nancy: So we are, we’re the owners where we’re pretty hands on. We’re really, I think we would consider, our team would probably call us the general managers. But we’ve got an amazing team and, you know, they run it. We’re able to do whatever we want because they, they can run the whole place. But we, we, I guess we, we fill in where they need us.

Austin: Gotcha. Thank you for telling us a little bit about a Lookout In, Lookout Point Inn there. Could you dive in a little bit further though? We want to tell the story about how y’all came to be there at, at, with the business and in Hot Springs. So if you could tell us, how did you get involved with Lookout Point and what role do you play there today?

Nancy: So our story’s kind of, it’s kind of a funny story. We’re from Boston or I’m from Boston, never lived anywhere else. Sam’s kind of been all all over and we three and a half years ago we made a decision that we just wanted to, we needed to get out of the cold and the snow. And we talked about, you know, let’s find a business. What could we do? What would, what would we be good at doing together? And we love travel and we love luxury travel. And, you know, we had some advisors and, you know, we, we all agreed that buying a small luxury property, hotel property would be perfect for us. So we started our search and we were, we were zeroing in, on the Southeast coast. So South Carolina, Georgia, Northern Florida. And that’s really where we thought was the only place to be, and this property was available. And I, you know, I just kept looking everywhere in the country and I saw it and I thought, wow, that place is just spectacular. And then I saw where it was. And I was like, no, Arkansas, no, I know nothing about Arkansas. And you know, I probably didn’t go back to it for about a month and a half. And then finally, I just reached out to my brokers and said, Hey, just tell me about, put me out of my misery and just tell me about this property isn’t going to. And they said, Oh, you know, it’s a really great place, but it’s not on the coast and they were concerned about that. But anyway, they said, you’re going to love it. If you, you know, once they sent us all the information, it took me about a week to get the courage up to show Sam. And as soon as he saw Arkansas, he was like, no, no, no, Arkansas, you fly over Arkansas. And we don’t know anything about that area and it’s not near the ocean. I don’t want to be in a landlocked state. And then our broker just said, just go, just go see it and put it behind you. So we came and we stayed a couple of nights and we made our offer, you know, the day we returned and we closed three months later on the property. So pretty cool. Quick story.

Austin: Very cool story. So when was that that y’all closed? How long have y’all been there now?

Nancy: Yeah, so we had our third anniversary in May. So May of 2017 is when we came here.

Austin: Wow, very cool. Congratulations then three years, that’s a big deal and that’s, you know, it’s so cool. You know, y’all are looking at, you know, had never even thought about Arkansas and wanted to be on the coast and now it’s three years have gone by and y’all have made it at home in Arkansas. I think that’s just such a great story. And it’s so true too. I think a lot of people overlook Arkansas and you know, don’t think about it, but it truly is one of the prettiest places in the country.

Nancy: It really is. We had no idea. Yeah. So,

Austin: Well, thank you so much for joining us today and for the background. We love to hear, here at Main and Mulberry, how small businesses get started. So, so thanks for joining us today.

Nancy: Thank you. Thanks so much for having us.

Austin: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you everyone for listening in. We’ll see you next time on Main and Mulberry.

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