When Bonnie and Jeff Minnich became the new owners of Tanglewood Manor Golf Club last month, they knew exactly what they were buying.
But their detailed knowledge didn’t come from studying the club’s books. Rather, they got informed by the most firsthand method possible.
The Minnichs have been handling the janitorial, maintenance and merchandising chores at Tanglewood two or three evenings a week for the past 20-plus years.
“And we’re still doing it,” said Jeff Minnich on Monday. “We have not hired a (janitorial) service.”
The Minnichs bought the 140-acre Quarryville area property and business from Bonnie Minnich’s brother, Dwight Wagner.
The 653 Scotland Road real estate sold for $1.7 million. Including the cost of improvements, the Minnichs are investing nearly $2 million in the property and business.
The business was co-founded in 1967 by the late Emory Wagner, who was Dwight Wagner and Bonnie Minnich’s father. Dwight Wagner became the owner in 2000.
Working part time at Tanglewood “was a way for Bonnie to stay in touch with something her father had started,” explained Jeff Minnich.
Now, by becoming a co-owner herself, it’s a way for her to sustain the legacy begun by her father and continued by her older brother, he added.
“Most people won’t see much change on the surface ...,” said Jeff Minnich. “There’s no sense in changing what’s not broken. We have a very faithful and loyal following here.”
Minnich said the upgrades are largely behind the scenes, such as new phone and computer systems, new golf carts and mowing equipment, and improved irrigation of part of the 18-hole public course.
A few differences at the 40-employee business are noticeable, however, starting with the 78-seat restaurant.
Instead of continuing to lease the restaurant to an outside operator, the Minnichs are running it. They’ve pared down the menu, replaced the dinnerware and switched cooking equipment from electric to propane.
They’ve changed the name from the Gallery Grille to Emory’s at Tanglewood, a nod to the siblings’ father.
A second visible change will involve marketing. Jeff Minnich wants to lower what he calls “expensive barriers to entry” that can keep non-golfers from trying the sport.
The strategy comes as the East Drumore Township course, like many in the region, sees substantially fewer rounds played than during its heyday decades ago.
Through the 1980s, golfers would play up to 40,000 rounds annually at Tanglewood. But in the 1990s, 25 new courses were developed between Baltimore and Tanglewood.
“Everybody thought it was a great business to get into,” said Wagner, except that increases in demand didn’t keep pace.
As additional choices in the region grew faster than the number of players, Tanglewood’s usage dropped. Over the past decade, golfers have played 25,000 to 27,000 rounds annually.
So Minnich intends to hold free clinics for beginners. He also has started loaning golf balls and a set of clubs to people who want to see if they would like golfing.
“‘Free’ sounds like a pretty good way to reduce those barriers. ... That’s how you grow the game of golf — one person at a time,” said Jeff Minnich.
Wagner, 71, said the sale of the property and business is part of his transition to semi-retirement. He sold his real estate firm, U.S. Commercial Realty, to his son five months ago, though he remains there as a commercial and industrial sales associate and broker of record.
Jeff Minnich, 57, is a Solanco High School and Bloomsburg University graduate. His wife, 59, is a Solanco alumna too. She graduated from Lebanon Valley College. They continue to own Groff’s Printing, a six-employee commercial printer in Quarryville.
Minnich, an avid tennis player who began playing golf regularly in 2004, first talked to Wagner about the possibility of buying or managing the golf club in 2007.
“So a little patience, and here we are today,” said Minnich.