‘Bachelorette’ alum to buy Mainsail Hotel

HAMPTON — The owners of the Mainsail Motel and Cottages are retiring, selling their historic beach hotel to a young realtor who once appeared as a contestant on “The Bachelorette.”

Dave Hartnett and his wife, Cara, who bought the flagship boat on the New Hampshire Seacoast 10 years ago, were scheduled to close the sale on Sept. 14. The buyer is Christian Smith, who confirmed this on Friday. Smith is a 29-year-old real estate broker in Newburyport, Massachusetts, who has sold more than $25 million in residential real estate and who competed for Katie Thurston’s love on Season 17 of “The Bachelorette.”

The Hartnetts have made many improvements to the Mainsail since taking over the 40-room hotel and 19 cottages off Ashworth Street.

“My wife and I bought it and we literally said to each other 10 years ago, ‘We’ll give it 10 years, see how it goes,'” Hartnett said. “It’s been a great 10 years.”

Smith said Friday he was excited to take over management of the hotel, which was built in 1940, pending the completion of the deal. He works in luxury real estate, according to his online profile, and Keller Williams describes it as “one of the best hotels in the North Shore.”

“We have big shoes to fill here,” Smith said. “I really hope to keep what they’ve done and enjoy what they’ve created.”

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The Hartnetts invested millions in refurbishing the mainsail

The Hartnetts have deep ties to Hampton Beach. Cara Hartnett’s family, the Shacks, have lived on the beach for 140 years, according to Hartnett. While growing up in Somerville, Massachusetts, Hartnett said his family owned property in Hampton and Seabrook for years.

“Even though the locals don’t consider me a local, I’ve been there,” Hartnett said.

Before purchasing the mainsail, Hartnett described himself as a “lifelong serial entrepreneur.”

“I was actually the guy who introduced pneumatic propulsion into gas stations in the early 1980s,” Hartnett said. He also owns insurance companies, does consulting work, and owns storage facilities, he said.

When the Hartnetts found Mainsail ownership, he said it was a good opportunity to make improvements.

“It was a gorgeous property that needed a little TLC,” Hartnett said.

Over the years, they removed all the carpeting from the hotel rooms and cottages and installed new vinyl planks. They also replaced appliances and mattresses and rebuilt the pool area.

“We have invested millions of dollars in this property over the past 10 years,” Hartnett said.

Their children weren’t interested in running the company when they were ready to retire, so they put the mainsail up for sale this year, Hartnett said. They are now looking forward to spending most of the winter in Key West, Florida.

“I’ve been investing in real estate since I was 20,” Hartnett said. “I’m at a point where I want to enjoy it.”

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Christian Smith is eager to invest in Hampton Beach

Despite being based on Massachusetts’ North Shore, Smith said he’s no stranger to Hampton Beach.

“It’s like the Vegas of the north,” Smith said.

The mainsail became available at the same time that Smith was already getting his feet wet in hospitality. In 2022, he opened Hygge House Suites, a boutique inn in Newburyport, and also hopes to acquire the Inn at Rings Island later this year.

“Definitely some projects,” Smith said.

With all these projects going on, he said he hasn’t given much thought to whether he’ll pursue more television opportunities. He lasted a few episodes of “The Bachelorette” and caught viewers’ attention with his Boston accent, according to an interview in Boston Magazine. He said it was an opportunity he would have regretted not taking, and he made a lot of good friends through the show.

“I’ll leave the door open,” Smith said of television work. “I will let my life take me along my journey.”

Smith credited his parents with preparing him to become a real estate broker and businessman. He called his mother, Elizabeth Smith, a “rock star” who taught him everything he knew. He also said he looks up to his father when it comes to property management.

The opportunity to run hotels and inns in his area was too good to pass up.

“It’s like a vacation,” he added. “What’s better than participating in hospitality?”

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The Mainsail is one of the older motels that has managed to stay active in an era when many of them were torn down and converted into condos. Kentville on the Ocean and Sea Spiral is among the older hotels that have recently become condominiums.

“We saved it from the developers’ wrecking ball,” Hartnett said.

Smith said hotels and condos are important to Hampton. Hotels like Mainsail help keep the beach a tourist destination for years to come, he said.

“Having these short-term stays creates these experiences,” Smith said. “She creates a culture within herself in Hampton Beach.”

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