You’ve probably heard stories about middle-age folks who run out and purchase a sexy new sports car, trying to capture a piece of a dream. Well, Washington state residents Neal and Maddie Love have raised the bar to a whole new level—they are buying a town.
The Loves are shelling out $360,000 for Wauconda, Wash.—an unincorporated town with a surrounding population of about 225—which went up for sale through an eBay auction. In late May the couple will close on a four-acre parcel that contains Wauconda’s nerve center: a 60-seat restaurant, along with a four-bedroom house attached to the town’s only convenience store, gas station and post office.
“We’re re-creating our life,” says Neal Love, 50. “We just looked around—the economy had changed, we’re both around 50 and we both lost our jobs for various reasons. This was an opportunity to start fresh.”
So the Loves will say goodbye to their home in Bothell, Wash., an enclave of 32,000 people northeast of Seattle with its own police and fire departments. And it’s hello to mountainous Wauconda, where the Okanogan County sheriff is 50 miles away, a 20-mile drive is required for cellphone service, and a breathtaking view of the Milky Way is on display practically every night.
Love at first sight
“This is where, I pray to God, we can retire in 20 years,” Maddie Love, 48, says from Wauconda, where she was learning about her new business and community. Her husband was 260 miles west trying to sell their possessions in Bothell.
The Loves’ hope is that the town’s store and cafe will generate enough business from locals as well as vacationers and hunters driving on adjoining State Route 20 to make their venture financially solvent.
Their new life will be a far cry from what they’ve had in recent years. Prior to Wauconda, the couple had a stranglehold on what many view as the American dream—a three-bedroom house and four-car garage on a bucolic acre and a half, three dogs, three cats, three vehicles, and his and hers Harley-Davidsons. However, in some respects the dream came up short for the couple, who fell in love at first sight during a chance meeting in Seattle 12 years ago.
Maddie was working as a trade show event manager at the time. But after 22 years in the business, “I flat out quit,” she relates. “I said, ‘Life’s too short. I’m not going to kill myself working 80 hours a week.’ For what—to come home and kick the cat?”
Neal’s separation from the workforce was somewhat more wrenching. “I worked for 28 ½ years for a telecommunications company and was let go,” he says. “I’m just not going to let that be the defining point in my life.”
The Loves had visited Wauconda about five years ago at the urging of friends who live there. Neal and Maddie were enthralled by a community where prospectors still flock to gold mines, the quilting club is a social hot spot, and sightings of eagles and black bears are commonplace.
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