First in Second Homes

by Mary Landon

Stu and Marion Baraw have spent 30 years building second-home sales and commercial sales at Mountain Associates Realtors

MA_realtors_LEAD_DSC2244Stu and Marion Baraw, owners of Mountain Associates Realtors, have lived in Stowe since 1963 when they were married in the small inn his parents had just opened and named “Stoweflake.”

There are more real estate agents per capita in Stowe than in any other Vermont town, with approximately 100 agents in a town of 4,500 residents. About 55 homes for sale are priced at or above $1 million in this rural spot.

Despite the brisk competition and the luxury prices, Stuart Baraw Jr. and his wife, Marion, have carved out a strong niche for their company, Mountain Associates Realtors. Two of the main factors in their continued success are deep family roots and a commitment to their community.

“The health of the real estate market has certainly been volatile over the last couple of years,” says Stuart, known as Stu.

He and Marion have worked side-by-side most of their adult lives. They are a positive and animated couple with great enthusiasm for their extended families and for the healthy growth of north central Vermont. They sometimes finish each other’s sentences, although each has an area of expertise.

“We came to be here primarily because of a decision made by my parents, Stuart Sr. and Beatrice, to buy two acres of land in 1948 and build a small cottage for weekend ski trips,” says Stu.

That cottage grew over the years, and eventually became the original Stoweflake Inn. It opened in 1963, with 20 guest rooms and a restaurant in the basement. It has since grown into the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, an award-winning inn and luxury spa with pools, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, and two acclaimed restaurants. The property covers 50 acres.

“My parents started the Stoweflake as a family business, and it has remained that way ever since,” says Stu. “It is one of, if not the, largest rural conference and resort hotels in New England.”

Stu’s brother, Chuck, is the president of the AAA 4-Diamond destination resort.

Marion and Stu grew up in Manchester, Conn., and attended the same high school. They did not know each other well until they were introduced by a mutual friend who brought Stu to Marion’s 16th birthday party.

Their young romance grew, even after Stu transferred to Cushing Academy for his junior and senior years. He and Marion maintained their long-distance relationship after he entered Norwich University.

Stu was anxious to ski on its racing team, one of the top three teams in the country at the time. Marion finished high school in Connecticut and went to work for an insurance company in Hartford.

Stu was in his third year at Norwich when his parents began the construction on the inn. Because he wanted to be available to help his parents with their new venture, Stu tranferred to the University of Connecticut and finished his degree by doing correspondence courses. He also completed his six-months’ active duty in the National Guard.

Stu’s parents had offered Stu and Marion the job of helping to run the Stoweflake as soon as Stu got out of the service in October 1963. Marion worked tirelessly that summer with her future mother-in-law, helping to ready the inn and restaurant for opening.

“I furnished rooms and planned our wedding. There was so much to do to get the place ready for operation. Within one week of Stu’s finishing his active duty in the Army, we got married; then we had a week’s honeymoon before beginning our busy life together at the Stoweflake.”

The couple, along with Stu’s parents and later other family members, worked together to manage the varied duties at the Stoweflake for almost 20 years. Chuck Baraw, now president of the resort, joined the staff in 1969.

In the early ’80s, Baraw Enterprises, the family corporation that owned all of the Stoweflake components, purchased Mountain Associates from Tim Davis, and moved its office to the grounds of the Stoweflake. Stu had always been interested in commercial real estate, even earning his real estate license in the late ’70s, so he was a natural to run the new acquisition. It wasn’t long before he persuaded Marion to get her real estate license and join him.

In 1991 Stu decided this was his future career and with a partner, Duncan Nash, purchased the real estate firm from Baraw Enterprises, renaming it Mountain Associates Realty. In 2006 Stu took over Nash’s partnership interest, and made Marion a partner in the firm in 2007.

Stu’s specialty is commercial sales, while Marion handles residential sales and heads up the property management division of their company. Trine Brink is Marion’s part-time property management assistant. Cassie Mandigo is the office administrative assistant. Realtors Lynn Davis and Bill Mulhern complete the staff. Davis is in charge of the rental division in addition to selling residential real estate.

“We are totally involved with our customers and clients,” Stu says. “We’ve also lived in the area for 37 years. This gives us a tremendous advantage in this rural area, because we know so many people. We are able to make people feel very comfortable with the process because we have so many combined years of experience in the local market.”

Ken Libby, former Stowe chief of police, remembers meeting the Baraws in the early 1970s through the social activities of various committees. Over the years he worked off and on at Mountain Associates. “Stu was the leading authority on selling commercial property in north central Vermont,” says Libby.

“He encouraged me to get my real estate license, which I did, and in 2005 I opened Stowe Realty. My wife, Bunny, and I have now become good friends with them. Stu and I were two of the original members of the Vermont Commercial Investment Board of Realtors.”

Although the Stowe area is a relatively small market area, Stu says, “In our business, we’ve had action all across the board, from selling condos for $200,000 to selling luxury homes for $1.6 million. Stowe has as many second-homeowners as it does primary residents. Eighty percent of our sales are for second homes.”

“And,” Marion adds, “close to 50 percent of our business is from buyers in Massachusetts, followed by New York, New Jersey, and Canada.”

Tom and Dorla Brock are longtime clients of Marion’s. “She took us under her wing,” Dorla says. “She found us a house, and we’ve since done six transactions with Mountain Associates Realtors. Marion and Stu have also become close friends.”

The Baraws have two children. Scot is vice president of sales for the Stoweflake. Scot’s wife, Amy, owns Green Envy, a new retail store nearby on the Mountain Road. Their daughter, Sonja Raymond, lives with her husband, Tim, in Waterbury. Sonja owns Stowe’s Appletree Learning Center, while Tim is a chief hydrologist with the state of Vermont.

“We like to think that we have our own family compound here, Marion says. “It’s great to be together, focused on the success of our businesses and seeing the families grow up. Jake and Jenna, Scot and Marylou’s children, live practically next door, and our grandson Gregory is in Waterbury.”

The day of the interview, fifth-grader Gregory arrives at the Mountain Associates office, anticipating an afternoon of golf with his grandfather.

For relaxation, Stu spends time as a licensed hot-air balloon pilot. The couple’s main passion away from the office is their 50-foot sailboat, which they own with six other couples. It is docked in St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Community and industry involvement rank high on the list of the Baraws’ outside activities. Marion says, “Between the two of us, we’ve been on every committee in town. We’ve both been president of the Stowe Winter Carnival, and I’m currently on the board of the Copley Hospital. We also have served with various professional real estate organizations. Stu is past president of both the local and state Board of Realtors, and served on the Vermont Real Estate Commission for 10 years.”

Their involvement continues. “I am really a known source for local information,” Marion says. “I used to think I should start a business called ‘Ask Marion.’ Clients will ask my suggestions for all sorts of needed services. Stu and I are completely hands-on, and are respected in this area for the job we do.”

“At 68, I can’t retire yet,” Stu says. “I’d probably go nuts. I just like this business so much.” •

CORRECTION: In our July story about Mountain Associates, our fact-checker made a slip and wrote that Baraw Enterprises bought the agency from Tim King. That should have read Tim Davis. It has now been corrected online. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused