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5 Businesses That Have Survived 50+ Years

The International
Bolton, Ma.
25 full-time employees; in-season up to 250

Dan Weadock, entrepreneur and owner of The International golf course and special events destination, says his company's story is one of "change and adaption."

The golf course, situated in picturesque New England, started out as a private club that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. But with memberships declining and revenue falling, particularly during the most recent economic downturn, The International, under Weadock's charge, has evolved significantly from a private club to a "world class golf and special event destination," which features a restaurant, spa and lodge that is open to the public.

"The crux of the story is we've had to adapt," by "breaking every rule that ever existed in the private club industry," Weadock says.

Weadock credits his unconventional decision to implement a Groupon (GRPN - Get Report) offering for the company's growth. Since its first Groupon debut in 2012, The International has sold nearly $307,000 in daily deals through the site.

"Groupon was instrumental in helping our company successfully shift our business strategy and model from a private golf course to be open to public," says Weadock, estimating that 95% of Groupon customers a repeat customers. "Our business is moving forward in an industry where other businesses are getting crushed."

Weadock may have a point.

Annual revenue at golf courses and country clubs rose 5.5% over the past year, as of April, slightly better than the 4.6% increase in 2012 and the biggest gain since 2004, according to data from Sageworks.

However, golf courses and clubs, on average, are still struggling with profitability. Net losses for golf courses have been around 2% of sales since 2012, though that's an improvement from negative mid-single-digit margins from 2009 through 2011, Sageworks says.

"Because many courses require memberships involving financial commitments of a year or more, golfing may be slower to rebound than some other leisure activities," Sageworks analyst Brad Schaefer says. "In addition, business budgets for entertaining clients through golf and other activities may still be constrained."

The International is raking in roughly $10 million in annual revenue, with food and beverage as its largest sales generator. "The company was a dues-centric company," Weadock says. "I've moved away from dues to events."

As much as Weadock tried unconventional approaches to improving business, he says, the business still prioritizes the customer experience. "We serve our customers a premium service. We [know] our members by name. Even though the club isn't the core focus anymore, people have been here for a long time and we treat them as family," he says.

And the company hasn't forgotten about its golf course, holding many golf tournaments and even hired a top golf recruit.

"We're trying to keep the best of what was while trying to be modern and evolve," Weadock says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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