Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

Lake City News

The Blanche
An Observer Interview

Last November 2009, an original investor in the Blanche, under the condition of anonymity, had a series of three conversations with your reporter. What follows is a result of those three conversations about the Blanche Hotel.

The Interview

OBSERVER:      When you first invested did you expect to make any kind of profit?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     We didn't think that we would make a lot, but we did think we would get our money back and get some return on our money. like you would invest your money any other way?

OBSERVER:      How much did you invest?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:    About twenty or twenty five thousand.

OBSERVER:      I heard there was some kind of investigation regarding the finances of the Blanche.

BLANCHE INVESTOR:      At one time the State Attorney was investigating it and they came and got all of our records and they never returned them.

OBSERVER:     About how long after you invested was that?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:      About five or six years. We could never get to the bottom of the true facts.

OBSERVER:      Why is that?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     It was very hard to keep a paper trail. It wasn't clear cut.  

OBSERVER:     Did you ask the State Attorney to investigate?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     No. I do not know who did -- just that the Blanche was being investigated to be sure there wasn't fraud with the money that was being received from the investors.

OBSERVER:       At that time the prime investors were Richard Cole and Daniel Crapps?


OBSERVER:      And Mark Vann and Paul Vann?


OBSERVER:      How were you treated as an investor?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     We were treated terrible as a renter and as a member of the trust.

OBSERVER:     Mr. Smith claims that they have spent a million dollars on renovations in that building. Do you believe that?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     No. And they did not spend every penny they collected, because they bought property with it.

OBSERVER:     Some of the investor's original money was used to buy other properties?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     That's true. It was used to buy other properties. And that started pretty soon after the investors started and that's when people had to fall off, because they didn't realize it was going to continue to cost so much. What we were sold was that they would convert part of the Blanche into nice apartments and then part of it would be offices

OBSERVER:      That was in 1988 that they promised to do that?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:    Right. All of the downstairs would be business. We were taken up to Tifton Georgia. They were trying to sell people that were coming onboard. We were told by our financial advisor at that time – you know the only people that were going to make money out of this were Richard and Daniel.

OBSERVER:     You were not the only investor that walked away from it?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     Oh no. Daniel had always said, "Don't worry – you'll get your money." It was a bad deal for a lot of people – everybody -- nobody wants to lose money.

OBSERVER:     Mr. Smith claims to have invested all the money they have taken in on the building.

BLANCHE INVESTOR:    Clearly that's not the case.

OBSERVER:     Did they ask you for more money as time went on?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     Oh yes, you were always asked for money.

OBSERVER:      Did you contribute any more after your initial investment?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     I think maybe our total might have been forty. You continued to have to contribute money. That's how they were able to buy other property.

OBSERVER:      Do you blame yourself for any of this?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:      Part of it was possibly our fault, that we didn't stand up for ourselves, but we didn't really know where to turn and we didn't have deep pockets to hire a lawyer, so we just sucked it up and got out and kept going.

OBSERVER:      After all you've been through and all the money you've lost, do you think the City should get involved with this thing?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:     I'm all for it. If they can salvage it, they should do it. But they should know what they are getting into. Especially if that's TIF money and we only have so much TIF money to spend on other projects downtown. I think they just need to be smart about it. It would be terrible for a whole city block to go down.

OBSERVER:      Anything else?

BLANCHE INVESTOR:    The saddest thing of all is it could have been done. All the renovations could have been done at the beginning, had the momentum been picked up, as it was told it would have been done. It could have been done then – at the beginning.