New Mystic resort finds high-end niche
Mystic — The nearly 2 acres of land that Matt McCormack bought more than two years ago in the Willow Point neighborhood near Mystic Shipyard may have enjoyed spectacular views of the water, but the cottages on site could only kindly be called dilapidated.
They were a wreck. And the property on Casino Road just past the railroad tracks, long owned by the Ritzie family, had been known at the time as a place where teenagers could hang out and party with little consequence.
In the early days of Mystic beach life, the property had housed a casino where summer residents would gather to socialize. But the glamour of those days was long gone by the time McCormack came on the scene.
"Everyone thought I'd lost my mind when I bought it," McCormack said.
But what has emerged out of the chaos is a high-end resort McCormack calls Harbor View Landing, consisting of six buildings and eight living units all with spectacular views of the Mystic River. The resort had a soft opening on Memorial Day weekend last year as McCormack and partner-in-life and general manager Hannah Peil rented out six units while they completed the resort's final building.
Now, however, McCormack said he's fully committed to promoting the year-round resort as a great place for weddings or getaways.
"We're very bullish on this business," he said Tuesday during a tour of the property. "I built it for the long run."
'Most expensive' in Mystic
McCormack, who owns Mystic Indoor Sports and previously built up and sold the data-management firm QDiscovery LLC in New London, said the resort had to shut down in March when COVID-19 restrictions were put on lodging facilities in Connecticut. But since the restrictions were lifted June 17 by Gov. Ned Lamont during phase two of the state's reopening, Harbor View Landing has been selling out every weekend and remains about half occupied during the week, he said.
This despite the fact that McCormack competes at the highest end of room prices in Mystic.
"This is the most expensive place to stay in Mystic," McCormack said.
Prices at the resort vary from $350 to $1,000 a night, depending on which unit is being rented. The buildings, with units ranging between 700 and 1,500 square feet, are named with shoreline themes: Nantucket, The Vineyard, The Cove, Block Island, The Bluffs and The Mystic.
"Our amenities set us apart," Peil said. "This is so beautiful, and there's so much to do here."
The resort, which has one dock with another on the way, includes more than 500 feet of direct waterfront looking toward a harbor sprinkled impressionistically on a foggy day with charming sailboats. Guests can bring their boats or get free use of kayaks, paddleboards and bicycles, not to mention a firepit and shaded grounds with estate-sized trees. There's even a virtual driving range in the basement of one building.
Inside the units are small retro refrigerators, microwave ovens, espresso machines, high-end sound systems and a complimentary bottle from Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington. The rooms are tastefully decorated in soft colors and luxurious linens, Peil's touch.
While most of the buildings on-site were tear-downs of previous cottages, McCormack managed to save the large 19th century main house that sits at the center of the resort, newly renovated next to an outcropping of large stones. Guests tend to come from Boston, New York, Europe and places in interior Connecticut such as West Hartford.
"You're not in the concrete jungle," McCormack said. "Here, you're surrounded by grass and water."
Mystic an ideal location
McCormack reports hosting several weddings of 200 guests or more last fall, but he expects this year to welcome many more boutique weddings of 30 to 50 guests that are more conducive to the site, and to the era of coronavirus social distancing.
He cited statistics indicating Mystic as a perfect place for a high-end property. About 7% of the U.S. population lives within a three-hour drive of the site, he said, accounting for 40% of the country's overall wealth.
What's more, Mystic contains a host of exciting restaurants and shops, he and Peil said, citing Sift, Oyster Club, Red 36 and Bravo Bravo.
"One unique thing about this town right now is we're all playing in the sandbox in a healthy, nice way," McCormack said.
Since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, McCormack said, "Hannah's been on the phone nonstop. We've been selling out every weekend." What's more, he believes the resort has been set up perfectly in the age of COVID-19 considering he has long used self check-in and keyless entry while also building the units so no entrances are next to one another.
Since COVID-19, McCormack said the resort has instituted a two-day minimum stay. He added that some of his clientele has included families visiting relatives in the area who are unable to stay at their parents' homes because of coronavirus considerations.
In many cases, the families wind up hanging out together at the resort, enjoying its amenities and water access.
It's a whole different scene from last year, said Peil, when Mystic Harbor Landing had to balance running the business with overseeing construction of the final two buildings on site. She and McCormack are still trying to ramp up marketing, but they are already listed on a variety of travel sites, including Airbnb and the resort's own website, harborviewlanding.com.
"Last year, we didn't come out as loud and proud as we might have," Peil said. "This season we're trying to come out loud and proud."