Walt Serdem is not a hunter. He spends most of his time working at Chemglass, a Vineland-based company he owns that makes laboratory glass. So why on earth did he buy a fancy hunting lodge on 86 mostly forested acres?
"I like the peace and quiet," Walt says. "It's beautiful out here."
Walt isn't exactly roughing it. The two-bedroom lodge, located in rural Buena Vista Township, is loaded with upscale amenities. It features a huge great room with a cathedral ceiling, radiant heat beneath ceramic tile floors and a state-of-the-art kitchen with granite counters, custom cabinets and a six-burner Viking range.
Outside, a paver walkway leads through beautifully maintained grounds to a 1,500 square-foot clubhouse with heat and air conditioning, a full bathroom, and a large lounge area with a wide screen TV and a pool table. Behind the clubhouse is a covered paver patio with a full outdoor bar, another TV and a fancy fire pit.
But make no mistake. This is a hunting lodge. The walls and ceilings are made of knotty pine planks. Stuffed deer heads are mounted on the walls and a bar made of Jersey stone has a granite countertop. A chandelier fashioned from deer antlers hangs in the clubhouse.
The freestanding heated garage has a stainless steel sink for cleaning game. Outside the main house is a man-sized built-in gas grill. There's even a walk-in cooler with hooks to hang deer carcasses.
"It's a hunting lodge, but it's a liveable hunting lodge," Walt says.
The lodge was built in 2002 by Dan Falasca, a Vineland based plumber who later sold it to a state trooper and his wife. Walt, a lifelong Vineland resident, bought the property two years ago when the trooper retired and moved to Florida.
It didn't take Walt long to decide it was his kind of place.
"It was pretty hard to conceal my enthusiasm the first time I walked through the door," he recalls.
The lodge stands at the end of a long, newly surfaced blacktop driveway off Pancoast Mill Road, a lightly traveled street that intersects with Route 54, just up the road from Buena Regional High School.
The driveway is lined with Bartlett pear trees. It leads through the woods to a clearing that features a vast manicured lawn separated from a meadow by a ranch style fence. The lawn is irrigated with a 24-zone sprinkler system. Walt leaves the mowing to professionals.
"I'm getting too old for that," he says.
The one-story lodge, which has about 1,750 square feet of living space, has two large bedrooms and 1½ baths. The cavernous great room has a 15-foot-high ceiling at its peak and includes the kitchen, dining room and family room. A wood stove is vented to a floor-to-ceiling chimney made of Jersey stone that takes up most of one wall. An enormous wooden dining room table seats 12 and an island counter topped with an immense slab of granite seats 10 more.
"I have a big family with lots of grandchildren," Walt says. "We've had Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving here."
The oversized two-car garage has heat, water and enough clearance to park a yacht or a tractor trailer cab. It also houses a water filtration system.
Walt added a security system with cameras that monitor the grounds and the gated front entry. A heavy duty generator runs on propane and can supply power to the whole property.
"It kicks in automatically when we lose power," Walt says.
The property is under forest stewardship, a state program that allows Walt to have a farm assessment, lowering his tax bill.
"I have to manage three acres of forest each year, have a forester come in and clear out unnecessary trees and growth," he says.
While Walt doesn't hunt deer, he likes to watch them. And there are plenty around.
"I've seen as many as 20 deer out in the field," he says.
To enhance his wildlife viewing opportunities, Walt installed a solar powered deer feeder that projects corn around the meadow. It attracts more than just deer.
"You should see the turkeys come running out of the woods when that thing goes off," he says.
Walt hasn't decided where he'll go when he sells the lodge. He just knows he wants to cut down on the time he spends running the business his dad founded in the 1940s.
"I'll be 72 in another month and it's time for the old man to cut it back a notch," he says. "I have a home at the shore in Avalon and I'd like to do some traveling."
For more information on this property, which is listed for $685,000, call Christine Peterson of Maturo Realty, 856-207-4989.
Where: Buena Vista Township
Lot size: 86 acres
Size: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths (including clubhouse)
Taxes (2010): $13,827