The 935 Ocean Beachside Inn had its soft opening this summer after Choquette and general manager Christine Schindler spent months repainting units, knocking down walls and refurnishing rooms. Choquette said it took more than $1 million to complete the vision, which now features several multiroom suites with clear ocean views.
“It’s got a little zip now,” Choquette said. “A little bit of excitement.”
Choquette bought the hotel for $2.5 million at an auction in October 2022. The hotel was built in 1794, according to town records, and was last owned by the Pouliot family. Anne and Richard Pouliot said they sold the hotel to retire.
Choquette said he plans to keep the hotel open year-round.
The hotel’s past is celebrated in one of the rooms with the deeds of three of the previous owners framed and on display. One of the deeds notes the property was sold in 1802 for $813.
“There’s a lot of stories here,” Choquette said. “A lot of history.”
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Choquette oversees a number of properties and has also owned several gyms in the Carolinas. The Windjammer was his first foray into running a hospitality business.
“We’ve had rental properties,” Choquette said, “But this is a first time.”
Choquette credits Schindler, general manager for all of his companies, with choosing the Windjammer and overseeing its complete overhaul. He said he sent Schindler to check out the property while he was out of town, and she immediately recommended he buy it.
“I just fell in love with this building,” Schindler said.
She said her boss was a little surprised by the work that would go into it.
“He got home and was like, ‘Okay Christine, I don’t think you understand what a big project this is,’” Schindler said.
Choquette came around. He said he financed the project while Schindler and her team got to work in remodeling the hotel, which she called her “baby.”
“She’s done an amazing job with this whole thing,” Choquette said. “She really did 99 percent of this, her and her team.”
The work included removing some of the walls that separated certain units that Choquette and Schindler wanted to make multi-room suites. The hotel has two suites on the third floor and three on the first. The goal was to accommodate more families, Choquette said.
“We did it from a modular perspective,” Choquette said. “You have a larger family, you have three kids, kids with teenagers. They want to be in their own room. You want to be close to them.”
At the same time, Choquette wanted to freshen the hotel’s brand. The sign out front features its new name, as well as the catchphrase “Surf, Play, Stay.” Choquette said they wanted to lean into the surf culture of North Beach, which draws many surfers and until recently was home to Cinnamon Rainbows Surfing Co.
“We’re just trying to change the vibe as more of a surf community,” Choquette said. “More of a younger crowd.”
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‘Surf, Play, Stay’ at 935 Ocean Beachside Inn
Amenities at the new 935 Ocean include the Windjammer’s pool remodeled by Choquette’s team, as well as new fencing and railings for added safety. In front of the hotel overlooking Ocean Boulevard is a large eagle statue Choquette said he got from Alaska.
Choquette and Schindler said they have been trying to keep rates reasonable after the costly new upgrades. They said some rooms are available at affordable rates like $159 a night. They say they also have offered discounts to help families return to their favorite hotel.
“We’ve had second or third-generation people saying, ‘My grandparents stayed here, my parents stayed here, I want to stay here,’” Choquette said.
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Choquette said some rooms will be priced higher at times, though, particularly in peak season. He said a factor is the cost that went into updating the Windjammer.
“We feel it is a premier hotel, and over time the rates will adjust,” Choquette said.
Behind the hotel is a green area that Choquette hopes to use for functions and weddings. This month, he held an open house that drew about 250 people and featured food trucks.
Choquette said he envisions using that green for some type of place for guests to eat. He said he has heard from locals a request to open a restaurant to replace North Beach Bar and Grill, which was destroyed in a fire last year. He said something smaller in scale is a possibility.
“We’re not really looking to open a full-time so-called restaurant,” Choquette said. “But it might be good for locals to have a place for snacks, maybe a warming kitchen.”
With hospitality being a new industry for Choquette and his team, Schindler said they are working out their service model in regards to how personally involved staff are with guests. She said some guests love the personal touch of an inn, others the automation of an Airbnb.
“We want people to feel comfortable,” Schindler said. “And whatever that is, we’re willing to make it work.”