In less than a year, Anna and Mike Eastman had put a lot of sweat equity into their property overlooking the Applegate River in Southern Oregon: New floors, new lighting, fresh paint, renovated bathrooms and fireplaces.
Now the inn and restaurant, once featured on the reality show “Hotel Hell,” had a new name, a fresh look and a chef at the helm who’d earned national acclaim at top-flight restaurants in the Bay Area.
The Lindsay Lodge was ready to wow a new generation of guests. With Anna handling front of the house, Mike taking care of kitchen operations and their third partner, Anna’s brother Kelley Beck, managing the bar program, they were poised to deliver an elevated hospitality experience to match executive chef John Blevins’ ambitious menu.
There was just one hitch.
“We had no heat retention. Zero,” Mike recalls. “It was in the winter, so it was 40 degrees outside. We’d turn off the heat and within 10 minutes it would be cold again.”
The Eastmans discovered that there was no attic insulation in the restaurant, and the vents in the aging heating system weren’t connected. The system also wouldn’t let them control the temperature in the kitchen separately from the dining room. They had to heat the entire space even when only the kitchen staff were in the building.
Something had to give.
A DIY approach
An Energy Trust advisor worked with the Eastmans to solve their heat-loss problem. One thing that’s unusual about the project is that they did the work themselves instead of using a contractor from Energy Trust’s network, he says.
But as a descendant of the Applegate Valley’s original settlers, the advisor also notes that DIY approach is in keeping with the area’s history — and the pioneering spirit of the inn’s new namesake, homesteader Lindsay Applegate.
The Eastmans purchased the property in late 2022 from Joanna Davis, who with her ex-husband had bought the restaurant 30 years earlier and built the lodge alongside it.
Mike’s sister had gotten married there years later, and the Eastmans remembered the lodge even when they lived abroad for Mike’s career in e-commerce technology. When they returned to Oregon and found out that the property was for sale, it felt right.
But they knew from experience that they’d have to invest a lot of elbow grease. For decades, their extended family has run a steakhouse in Ogden, Utah. And Anna had managed operations for a fast food franchise.
“We’ve always had a love of restaurants,” Mike says, “This became a passion project for us. We see it as a challenge.”
To stave off their rising energy bills, Mike researched insulation types and incentives available through Energy Trust of Oregon.
“The website was great. I was able to go through, find the program, easily click and find the eligibility rules. And I could look at the sheet and say, ‘This is something that we would actually be able to take advantage of.’”
As he crunched the numbers, he realized that the materials might be fully covered by cash incentives, but they would still have to pay a contractor to install it. And with their energy costs over budget, that would be painful.
So, he reached out to his energy advisor and asked: “‘What’s the procedure if I did this myself? Is it easy to make sure I comply with all the requirements?’ He walked me through everything, and it was really simple.”
In April, the Eastmans purchased the materials and rented a blow-in insulation machine from a nearby big-box store. Mike covered more than 2,600 square feet with insulation, at less than $1 per square foot. And Energy Trust had a bonus incentive to offer along with typical cash incentives. The $2,300 total incentive essentially allowed the Eastmans to break even on the project.
“Adding as much insulation as they did should significantly lower the heating and cooling cost as well as add comfort to the space,” their advisor says.
The results have been dramatic.
Energy Trust projected annual energy savings of 7,400 kWh and about $600 in energy bill savings a year. But Anna, whose background is in accounting says they’re already seeing a big drop in the monthly energy expenses for the restaurant, so the annual savings will likely be higher.
Just as important, the staff can focus on great hospitality instead of on regulating the temperature. “It gives us peace of mind that we can keep it comfortable, and that we don’t have to stress about the bill,” Mike says.
More to come
The insulation project went so well that the couple is already looking for more ways to partner with Energy Trust. Much of the kitchen equipment is due to be replaced, so Morris also suggested trading out the lodge’s wall-unit air conditioners for energy efficient ductless mini-splits, which could be part of a future renovation.
“For me it’s a no-brainer to use the incentives. As a business owner having to worry about 500 things at the same time, it’s great that there’s somebody helping guide me through it. The experience was as good as it could be.” – Mike Eastman, The Lindsay Lodge
As far as they’ve come in 10 months, the Eastmans aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Asked what they hope to see at the lodge in coming years, they paint a picture of an exceptional wine country experience.
It includes expanded outdoor seating on the deck, a courtyard with a wood-fired outdoor kitchen and live-music venue, a garden with produce that inspires seasonal specials, and guest rooms that combine rustic charm with sustainable luxury.
“Mike and I have a passion for entertaining people, and there is just so much potential here,” Anna says. “That’s a huge driver for us.”
Learn more about insulation incentives available for your business, visit www.energytrust.org/incentives/existing-buildings-insulation.