By Faith Bemiss
Dreaming of owning a top-notch restaurant with a view, look no more, Noelle Ark owner and chef of Der Essen Platz, in Camdenton, is offering her place with a unique slant.
Instead of placing the well-known restaurant up for sale, Ark and her husband Daniel Holton, have decided to offer it to the winner of an essay contest. They have operated Der Essen Platz in Camdenton for nine years and previously operated the business in Cole Camp for over three years.
Holten, Ark’s business manager, said they have set up a website with the rules and conditions of the contest that begins Sept. 15 and runs through Jan. 15, 2016. Those interested must pay a $225 entry fee and write a 300-word essay explaining why they would be qualified to win the restaurant. The couple stated that entry fees will be placed in escrow and returned to contest participants if there aren’t enough submissions. Essay entries will be judged by local members of the Camdenton-area community.
“We’re getting ready to do a nationwide press release,” Holton said. “We’re probably going to put out press releases every week or two.”
They plan to send out press releases through PRBuzz.com.
Ark said she is retiring due to health reasons and wanted to offer the restaurant using a new concept; an idea she found was used on the east coast. In Maine, 20 years ago, a woman won a restaurant and Ark said she gave it away again last year with the same concept.
“It was done that way because the economy as it is and the banking as it is, they would not finance businesses,” Ark explained. “I feel this is a good way to to really give somebody a chance. You can win the restaurant for $225, free and clear, the building and everything.” However, the winner is responsible for applicable taxes.
The couple has been thinking about “gifting” the restaurant for two-to-three years.
“We can give somebody the opportunity to have a better life, and take the restaurant to a another level,” she added. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Der Essen Platz is well-known for it’s German, French and American cuisine, fine wines and beer, homemade desserts and lake view. It has been listed on TripAdvisor as the No.1 place to eat in the Lake of the Ozarks area.
“We have a very sound clientele base, and we do very well,” Ark said.
Holton added that the they have 600 customers who receive newsletters and invites for special dinners.
“We have a French night once a month, which is very successful,” Ark said. “We get a lot of people who come and eat French food. We’ve carried the restaurant through the hard times. We’ve had some hard times. We kept it going, and kept improving it, and we have done it.”
In 2011, the highway system was changed and this caused a loss in business for a while. Since that time, business has built up again.
“Now the only problem, now that we have it, I’m am sick,” Ark added.
I’m going to be 70-years-old in January, and I have worked very, very hard,” Ark added. “In my heart I hate to let the restaurant go. But, I want to let it go while it’s good. It will give somebody, maybe a family, a great opportunity to walk into a business that is very viable.”
“The other key point is, the restaurant is going to remain open as usual through the contest,” Holton said.
“If this thing doesn’t go through, we’ll be open next year,” Ark added. “We’ll have to see what happens.”
Holton noted that if a restaurant is placed on the market in the Lake area, it usually takes three years to sell; and while the owner is waiting for the sell, the clientele begins to dwindle.
“The reason most restaurants fail, they don’t have enough cash when the get into it,” Holton said. “You’ve got to have a backing, you’ve got to have that cash. What happens if they do get it (through the bank) they have this big debt, this monthly bill, and they can’t sell enough food … we see it time and time again.”
The winner of the essay contest will receive the restaurant and the majority of its contents, including food.
“We are going to leave them whatever there is,” Ark said. “Everything, they can just walk in. They just have to get their licenses. Last year we bought $14,000 worth of refrigeration, and whatever food there is left, they can have it.”
She will take her personal items such as wall decor.
The restaurant also has an a 400-square-foot apartment downstairs that can be a living quarters.
“They can live on premise,” Holton said.
“Daniel and I lived there for nine months when we bought the place,” Ark added.
The couple said they are looking for the essays to demonstrate qualifications and why one should own the restaurant.
“What your dreams are,” Ark added.
“Essays should have three parts to them,” Holton said. “An introduction, a body and an a conclusion.”
The couple said that the property is “beautiful.” It sets on Thunder Mountain overlooking the Big Niangua River arm on the Lake of the Ozarks.
“The restaurant is a destination place,” Ark said. “It’s very European looking, it almost looks like Switzerland. We are No. 16 in the state of Missouri for the view. We have the best sunsets …”
“And, the hummingbirds come with it,” added Holton. “We were up to 45 hummingbirds this year.”
The Der Essen Platz Win A Restaurant Essay Contest begins Sept. 15 and runs through Jan. 15, 2016; the entry fee is $225. The January deadline date be be extended; if there are not enough entries turned in, all entry fees will be refunded. Those interested in writing an essay to win the Der Essen Platz restaurant may visit htttp://www.winarestaurantessaycontest.com for information including the rules and entry form. Der Essen Platz is open at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and it is located at 8 Bridal Cave Rd. in Camdenton and the contact number 573-346-1122.
Want to own a restaurant? Write an essay