2017-10-26 / Front Page

Grades high for Katofsky

County embraces new Loaf owner
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


TOUGH SHOES TO FILL ... THE MAN who wore these shoes to an interview with the Leelanau Enterprise has long-range plans in the county. Learn of those plans in his words on p. 9. TOUGH SHOES TO FILL ... THE MAN who wore these shoes to an interview with the Leelanau Enterprise has long-range plans in the county. Learn of those plans in his words on p. 9. If Jeff Katofsky was on a mission to convince Leelanau County residents and officials that he’s the guy who really can bring Sugar Loaf Resort back to life, mission accomplished.

Since he acquired the long-shuttered resort in November 2015, Katofsky has visited Leelanau County only a handful of times, most of them “stealth visits.”

On Friday, however, he conducted a day-long, whirlwind tour that included meetings with local news media outlets, business leaders and public officials.

Those meetings were before he appeared in front of a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 interested citizens at the county Government Center.

The California real estate attorney and investor told them that he plans to turn Sugar Loaf into a four-star resort, complete with its own wine. However, he stopped short of stating what many residents desperately wanted hear, that he would return skiing to Sugar Loaf Mountain.


JEFF KATOFSKY outlines his plans for Sugar Loaf Resort to members of the public at a meeting Friday morning. JEFF KATOFSKY outlines his plans for Sugar Loaf Resort to members of the public at a meeting Friday morning. Katofsky acquired the resort as part of a legal settlement with an individual whose name he has promised never to utter again publicly and who he hopes we will all stop thinking about — Remo Polselli.

Twice convicted of tax evasion, Polselli was the proverbial “man-behind-the-curtain” through about 17 years of decay and deceit at the resort. After the resort had closed, Polselli introduced Leelanau County to a string of would-be resort owners promising to turn Sugar Loaf around far quicker than was physically or financially possible.

“Without question, Mr. Katofsky has persuaded everyone that he is someone we can trust far more than ‘he-who-shall-not-be-named’ (Polselli),” said a chuckling Patricia Soutas-Little.

As the county commissioner who represents Leland and Centerville townships on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners, Soutas-Little was the driving force behind getting Katofsky to visit Leelanau County back in August when he toured his property and met quietly with a handful of local officials to discuss his ideas about Sugar Loaf.

Soutas-Little worked with Katofsky to plan a return visit to meet with a wider group of interested parties, notably members of the public whose fond memories of Sugar Loaf have kept hope for its revival alive all these years.

On this visit, Katofsky was joined by the architect he’s using to rehabilitate the St. Clair Inn downstate and the chairman of the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners. Both spoke briefly at the 11 a.m. public meeting after spending more time talking at an earlier meeting with about 25 local and state officials.

They were invited to hear privately from Katofsky and his retinue without a public presence.

Architect Vince Cataldo noted that Katofsky’s approach to the St. Clair Inn involves far more than putting band-aids on the property. Katofsky is sinking an estimated $31 million into that project — and reviving Sugar Loaf is likely to cost more than that.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Jeff Bohm corroborated Cataldo’s observations. He added that St. Clair County and its landmark St. Clair Inn had been plagued for many years by the same problems caused by Polselli, who oversaw the slow, painful death of Sugar Loaf Resort before Katofsky acquired it.

“We were reading about how much you guys were suffering up here with Sugar Loaf,” Bohm said, “and we’d been down the exact same path — but this guy (Katofsky) is different and we’ve learned to trust him.”

Perhaps what helped gain the trust of many residents attending the 11 a.m. public meeting was Katofsky’s admission that he doesn’t care whether you believe him or not. In addition, Katofsky promised to reply to every email message he receives from anyone who has any comment, question of suggestion about what should happen at Sugar Loaf Resort going forward.

Katofsky’s email address is jeff@oremowlz.com.

In addition to working as an attorney and commercial real estate developer, Katofsky and his family own a minor league baseball team in Utah, the Orem Owlz — hence the email address. Notable to those with an emotional tie to Sugar Loaf, he plans to salvage much of the original lodge building because it is still in good shape, but will add space to capture business for large gatherings through the winter. “If Sugar Loaf is known only as a ski resort, it will fail,” he said.

Katofsky has no plans to split up the property.

He hopes to grow some grapes on the property for a Sugar Loaf-branded wine that will mostly be available on the premises. He’s also considering a distillery.

The “biggest challenge” in redeveloping the resort will involve utilities such as water, sewer and electric. “We will probably need to build a new sewage treatment plant,” he said.

Leelanau County residents probably won’t hear any more public proclamations from Katofsky until around this time next year when his St. Clair Inn project and other projects are closer to wrapping up.

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