This is how - we - Heidi and Konrad Linckh, came to buy Hill Island's Skydeck Observation Tower.
There is definitely no straight line between the idea of owning a Tower and the acquisition of such a unique and exotic piece of real estate. Perhaps the real estate agent, Michelle Caron, put it in perspective when she said, “People don't type into the MLS system – ‘I'd like to buy a tower today.’“
Our first contact with the Thousand Island area came in 2010 while on vacation. We were overwhelmed by the breathtaking views from the bridges of the clear-blue sky, turquoise water, and islands as far as the eye could see.
In 2011, after we were granted permanent-residency status, we packed up in New Jersey and moved to Gananoque with our toddler.
Heidi opened a bakery which also offered goodies at the Kingston and Lansdowne markets. I was fortunate to secure a position at Queen's University in Kingston.
It had always been our dream to be self-employed. We searched the area for "Businesses for sale". Cottage rentals were a possibility but we soon found out that a seasonal, cottage-rental business would not be viable. Based on our previous business experience, we also looked at campgrounds, a masonry business, a sawmill, and a window-framing company.
Whenever we had visitors from Germany, and weather permitting, we would take them to the Skydeck in our boat. It was our benchmark for navigating the St. Lawrence. If I could see the Skydeck, I knew how far I was from Ivy Lea, the International Rift and how much fuel I needed for a safe return home.
We learned about financial statements. We always volunteered to work at a prospective business to better learn about it. Heidi spent a day running errands at a campground. I spent a winter’s day, with the owner of a camp in the Ottawa Valley, trying to make sense of the numerous trails he had meticulously created.
In between these activities, I started to read Thousand Islands Life Magazine. In October 2011, I wrote an article about an unforgettable boat ride I had on the St. Lawrence. An Unforgettable Turn of Events, I pointed out an article to Heidy that appeared in the July 2011 issue -
The Top of the World For Sale. Which was written by Michelle Caron and it told the story of the Skydeck being for sale. Heidi didn't express interest but I thought we should take a look. As we had looked at other businesses so why not this one?
So, on a late-summer day we entered the Skydeck, looking at it from a business perspective. It didn't make a significant impression as profitability was a concern and we were still pursuing a hotel opportunity. By Christmas 2012, it was clear that the hotel would go to another party, and as fate would have it, we were contacted by the Skydeck's agent - "Yes, were now interested."
Our main concerns were the state of the structure and the elevator. Queen's Civil Engineering department advised that the tower should have a relatively-easy life as compared to a bridge with its horizontal areas and salt corrosion. I was directed to companies which analyze structures.
Fortunately, I have a nephew who is an an elevator mechanic. We spent time going through financial records and realized that we could close the deal just in time for the start of the 2013 season. We met the owners, Leonhard and Jean Stratford, who explained how the business works and introduced us to the machinery. We were assured that we can always rely on them should we need their help.
I am writing this on Day 2 of our new ownership. We have already been given lots of ideas for the future. What about events after the normal business hours as birthday parties or company meetings. You can watch the fireworks from above on the 4th of July. What about seeing the powerboat race from Kingston to Brockville as the boats pass under the Canadian span. Even movie nights on the tower… and the list goes on.
We completed the purchase on 15 April 2013, and each time I bring guests to the tower I remain overwhelmed by the views and believe that our happiness of being in the Thousand Islands will never wear off.
By Konrad Linckh
Originally from Germany, Konrad Linckh, an electrical engineer, was working as CEO for the US-subsidiary of a German laser equipment manufacturer when he came to the Thousand Islands for a vacation in August 2010 and as he says, “fell immediately in love with the scenery”. He applied for and received permanent residence in Canada and the Linckh family moved to Gananoque in April 2011. In the late Fall of 2011 Konrad took a visitor on a tour of the Islands and learned some good lessons about boating safety the hard way. In fact, he shared his harrowing experience with TI Life in An Unforgettable Turn of Events….
Editor’s Note: The late Paul Malo, a preservationist architect, launched TI Life in 2006. Paul had grave concerns about the lack of historic preservation of many Thousand Islands properties. (Carleton Island’s The Villa was just one). He understood the need to find good land stewards who would not hesitate to step up to save these unique places. Heidi and Konrad Linckh are a fine example of Paul’s dream. They have seen an opportunity and are stepping out front to accept its challenges. We sincerely congratulate them and wish them tremendous success.