Update: An Iconic Mad River Valley Inn Has New Owners | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your support!

Update: An Iconic Mad River Valley Inn Has New Owners 

Published December 24, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge Anne Marie DeFreest - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • Anne Marie DeFreest

For more than 25 years, Waitsfield's Inn at the Round Barn Farm has been a cultural magnet and economic driver in the Mad River Valley. In 1986, Jack and Doreen Simko, longtime visitors to Vermont from Somerset, N.J., purchased the 19th-century farmhouse and 12-sided barn from local dairy farmers. After investing more than $300,000 in renovations, they opened the inn in August 1990 and began to host events. It soon became the Mad River Valley's preeminent venue and helped establish Vermont as a major wedding destination. The couple's daughter, AnneMarie DeFreest, took over the business in 1994.

But DeFreest developed cancer in her leg and struggled through treatments to manage the inn. The cancer "came back with a vengeance" as a brain tumor in July 2013, just weeks before DeFreest was supposed to go to court to dispute a back tax bill. Instead, she decided it was time to sell the inn. DeFreest sought buyers who could not only afford her price but shared her community-minded business ethos.

UPDATE: DeFreest found the buyers she was seeking: longtime friends Kim and Jim Donahue of Wayne, N.J. In fact, Jim Donahue was with DeFreest the first time she set foot on the property in the '80s, and he has stayed at the inn more than 100 times.

"I never, ever expected it would be these two people," admits DeFreest. The haggle-free deal closed in June for an undisclosed sum, and the Donahues contracted with DeFreest to manage the inn for three years to ease their transition.

DeFreest is excited that the couple plan to bring back many community events and activities that had fallen by the wayside due to her illness, including concerts, high school art shows, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Also in the works is a line of specialty foods, including Round Barn chocolates, a concept DeFreest cooked up with her longtime chef, Charlie Menard.

Best of all, DeFreest reports that her brain tumor has "stabilized."

"As long as I feel good," she adds, "that's all that matters."

The original print version of this article was headlined "An Iconic Mad River Valley Inn Has New Owners"
Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Business

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2023 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation