Two families, both longtime leaders of Franklin County’s hospitality industry, last week closed on a deal to transact ownership of St. George Island’s Buccaneer Inn.
At a July 19 closing, the Patel family bought from the Armistead family the island’s signature beachfront hotel, at a deal valued by the property appraiser’s office paperwork at $4.6 million.
Anil and Mira Patel, who have operated motels in Apalachicola for going on 40 years, purchased 92 of the inn’s 100 gulf front rooms in the sale, plus land and amenities. Walter Armistead, his older brother Graham, Jr., and their sister Joann Shiver, retained ownership of the most recently built standalone annex, which encompasses eight rooms.
“It was just time to make a transition,” said Walter Armistead. “The Patel family approached us about selling and we were able to cut them a deal.
“I’m happy about it,” he said. “I wish them well, I wish them success. I think the island needs a motel, It doesn’t need a Ritz-Carlton but we need a motel.
“It’s an affordable beach motel and I think the island deserves that,” Armistead said. “A lot of times that’s the first place people get introduced to St. George Island."
Speaking on behalf of the Patels, daughter-in-law Sejal said she was especially delighted because the closing at Dodd Title took place on her birthday, July 19.
“That’s the best birthday present that you got,” her father-in-law told her.
“The Patel family is community minded and looks for opportunities to better Franklin County and the surrounding area,” she said. “They saw the opportunity to keep the Buccaneer Inn locally owned and operated, and to maintain the family-oriented feel for locals and tourists alike. The Patel family looks forward to serving the St. George Island residents and vacationers for many years to come.”
Interestingly, both the Armistead and Patel families entered the hospitality industry in Franklin County the same year, in 1979.
It was then that the Armistead parents, Graham and Veronica, assembled 17 25-foot commercial lots, buying from multiple owners, to put together 325 feet of beachfront property, about 275 feet deep, upon which they would build.
The first building, of 45 units, was completed in 1979. Within the next five years they had added a pool, as well as a second building of 44 rooms. In 1995, Walter Armistead said, they had enclosed it into a horseshoe space, and added two additional suites. Later they would add another separate building to the west, the eight-room annex, on pilings.
Walter Armistead said his family plans to rename the building they retained, and will continue to rent it out.
In the case of the Patels, their venture into innkeeping in Franklin County began when they bought the old Apalachicola Motel in 1979, located on the property just to the east of of the current Best Western.
Over the years, as they raised their three children here, the motel prospered, and in 1996 they tore it down and built the current Best Western. In 2007 they built the Best Western Wakulla Inn and Suites in Crawfordville.
Sejal Patel said they plan to add some tender loving care to the Buccaneer, with some room updates such as new carpeting. She said the facility will remain independent, and won’t affiliate it with a larger franchise chain.
“We are in this business for a longer period,” she said. “We saw the potential we can bring some change, to bring more people in, to make it more like a family place, to make more memories.”
She said plans are in the works for a ribboncutting and grand opening in the weeks ahead.