Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slip Siding Away

Every once in a while, there’s a local business story that truly captures my interest. This one hits on all cylinders: it’s more than a bit preposterous while at the same time being more than a bit sad and heart-strings tugging. And, to my way of thinking, it involves more than a bit of wishful thinking on the part of the business owner, and some addle-pated decisions on the part of the loan officers he was working with.

Anyway, i
n 2008, one Kevin Dumont of Candia, New Hampshire, decided to open a water park, Liquid Planet.

From the get-go, it was a tough go.

The first couple of seasons were inordinately rainy ones. And, as one can imagine, the season for a water park in northern New England is inordinately short.

Dumont and Liquid Planet soldiered on, adding, over time a zipline and a summer day camp. The business developed a loyal following of patrons. (Just not enough of them…)

But running a short-season enterprise in New England is going to be chancy, and Liquid Planet is running out of chances.

The park has a $1.6 Million (!) bank loan that’s coming due, and Dumont is in no position to pay it off. When it goes, he’ll lose his business, as well as his home, which is also on the property. But Dumont is not going down without a fight.

Kevin Dumont says he’s “not crazy,” but the Liquid Planet Water Park founder has taken an unconventional strategy to save his floundering business.

Faced with foreclosure, Dumont has chained himself to the top of the Candia, New Hampshire park’s 30-foot water slide.

“I am doing this in a last ditch effort to save all that I have created,” Dumont announced Monday on Facebook. “The bank has foreclosed on me and is auctioning the property on December 2nd so I am staying up here to try and save it.” (Source: Boston.com)

Dumont plans to stay chained until the cash miraculously appears, or he’s “forced off his property” once auction time comes around. Meanwhile, he’s trying to raise some coin via GoFundMe. Unfortunately, keeping a NH water-slide business afloat can’t compete in terms of heart-string tugs with the kids who’ve lost their parents, or the dog that’s lost its hind legs, or the family that can’t afford to bury their dead child. When last I look, Dumont had raised a whopping $1,495 of the $1,000,000 he’s hoping to raise. (He’s quite an optimist, however. He puts the odds of his saving his business at 50/50. Me, I’d put them at 1,000,000/1,495, or maybe even a million-to-one. But I guess I’m just the half-empty type.)

Wherever his business acumen is lodged, Dumont’s heart appears to be in the right place. He wanted to build a locally-owned and run business that would provide jobs to his community. He’s tried to be environmentally conscious.

“I just wanted to have a little business,” Dumont said Tuesday evening. “I took the money I made and put it to something I thought would be an asset to the community, that would bring jobs, and create memories. That’s why I started a water park—not a car wash or something.”

Easy for me to say, but at least with a car wash you get 12 months worth of business. That said, my husband and I had an older friend – now long deceased – who’d lost his investing shirt in a Connecticut car wash business years ago.

Meanwhile, Kevin Dumont, the poor guy, has recently lost both of his parents. (Other than the heart-string tugging element, this info is really neither here nor there.)

What I’m really thinking about is what was going on in the mind of the loan officer who okayed a $1.6M loan for a NH water park business to begin with.

Was this all an upfront loan for the initial capital investment? Did it include credit lines that got tapped? Was the business “breaking even” (ahem) if you didn’t take into account any loan repayments?

I just can’t imagine what the business plan looked like that would get someone to sign off on this sort of $$$ for this sort of business, especially one being run by a seemingly inexperienced business owner.

Plus Liquid Planet came to life in 2008. Wasn’t that the year we became an illiquid planet?

I hope Kevin Dumont doesn’t freeze up there when his water slide turns to an ice slide. I hope he finds a way out of the mess he’s in. I hope he has good rest of his life.

But I think it would be a hope against hope to believe that he’s going to raise the money he needs to salvage its business.

I could be wrong, but I suspect this business is going to be slip sliding away.

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