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Community , Why NEPA?

Brian Linton of The Rex – Why NEPA?

“I think that’s what Northeastern Pennsylvania does—it gives you the opportunity to have a healthy and well-rounded life.”

Brian Linton discovered something special in the deep forests of the Poconos—so special that he and his wife, Joanna, decided that it was worth sharing with others. Last fall, they took a break from the bustle of Philadelphia, came to Greentown and bought an old, 1950s motel. The place needed a lot of love, but the Lintons set to work, transforming the sleepy summer cottages into a stylish, modern, year-round retreat. And despite the whirlwind of renovations, they still found time to enjoy the relaxing pace of small-town life, the serenity of a quiet trail and the wonders of a Pocono winter.

The Rex officially opened in July 2021, offering 10 rooms directly on the border of Promised Land State Park. The hotel combines modern luxury and eco-friendly design with the spirit of outdoor adventure (hello, personal fire pits!). It’s a little escape with a big backyard, with thousands of acres of pure wilderness just outside the door.

Brian now splits his time between Promised Land and Philly, where he serves as the founder and CEO of United by Blue, a sustainable clothing company that removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways for every product sold. He’s lived all around the world, from growing up in Singapore to spending time in Tokyo and Beijing. Yet, there’s something about the endless trails and family-friendly atmosphere of NEPA that drew him here for his latest venture. We just had to ask—why NEPA?

How long have you lived in NEPA?

We were living up here full-time for the last year, and now we’re living here part-time. My other business is based in Philadelphia, so that’s where we are the rest of the time.

What brought you to NEPA?

Pre-COVID, we were really interested in the area and wanted to find a place here. We have two young kids now. We’ve lived in Philly for the past 15 years, and we really, really love the outdoors. My background is in sustainability and the outdoors and building brands in the outdoors.

Then COVID hit, and we started looking a bit more. We realized that maybe the bigger thing that we wanted to do was to use our experience and background in brand-building and real estate to renovate an old hotel and make a really special destination, not only for my family, but for other families and people who want to experience the outdoors.

Did anything surprise you about NEPA?

It’s amazing how different it is just two and a half hours outside of Philadelphia. In Promised Land, for instance, the winter was intense, but in a beautiful way. We had snow on the ground for nearly the entire winter. In Philadelphia, we’ll get snow, but then it will melt in a day. I also think there’s an overall serenity of the environment. You get farther up north like to the Promised Land area, to Lake Wallenpaupack and the surrounding areas, and it’s wild. We’re right on the border of Promised Land, which is 3,000 acres, but then that’s also connected to the Delaware State Forest, which is 12,000 acres. We have 15,000 acres of wilderness at our doorstep, which is just so different than what people are used to in the suburbs and cities.

What do you love about the community?

To be here year-round was very different than what I think most people experience when they’re just here on the weekends. It’s a very intimate, small-town community that I think is different than what I’m used to from bigger cities. And I really enjoyed it—the camaraderie of people basically wanting to help us out. A lot of people were stopping by, very curious about what we were doing and what we were building. They were very excited about it, very supportive of it. They want to see people come and enjoy this area of Pennsylvania. Especially being here in the wintertime, that’s when I felt like I was really able to interact and embrace the community. Everything was very slow and relaxed. It really facilitated a lot of connections.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

Around Lake Wallenpaupack, we really like The Dock and The Boat House. There are beautiful views of the lake there, and the kids like to walk down to the lake afterwards. And then, the Glass Wine Bar at the Hawley Silk Mill and Sylvania Social in downtown Hawley. We also love to head out to Milford. We love this pizza shop there, John’s of Arthur Avenue. It’s great, great pizza.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Obviously, we love spending time in Promised Land State Park for hikes. We go to the lake and the playground. I love going on bike rides around Promised Land State Park. There’s tons of great trails and gravel trails. I love to run. But also, we do love to get out to Hawley and Honesdale. Those are two go-to places for us. My kids love Bingham Park in Hawley, which is probably the best playground around. It has a big tower that they love climbing up. And then, we love the Delaware Water Gap. Beautiful, beautiful. We love doing the bike ride from Milford down to Stroudsburg. Over the summertime, the kids loved going to all the various fairs and carnivals that they had throughout that area. And then, just all the beautiful sights and sounds around Lake Wallenpaupack and all that the area has to offer.

What’s next for you?

The Rex is a starting point for us. We really envisioned opportunities that have extensions beyond the hotel. So, how do we integrate food and beverage? How do we integrate the outdoor recreational element of the area? How do we make it so that when you show up and stay at The Rex at Promised Land, there’s a whole host of things you can do through us? We really want to make Promised Land a destination for people to come for food and beverage, music and entertainment, camping and recreation, all of the above, so it’s basically the go-to place in the Poconos.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I think that with COVID and with everything that’s going on, it’s been an amazing introduction to the area for a lot of people. A lot of people got out of New York City and Philadelphia and got to experience it for the first time. I think it’s only up from here, and I mean that in a good way. The difference between pre-COVID and post-COVID is that people want to have more space. They want to be in the outdoors, and they want a healthy and well-rounded life. And I think that’s what Northeastern Pennsylvania does—it gives you the opportunity to have a healthy and well-rounded life.

Why NEPA?

For me, it’s almost hard to think of why not. I think that it has the pristine natural beauty of the area, the amazing climate and recreational activities in all four seasons. It’s very family-friendly—not only the ample open spaces, but the friendly people and the opportunities to have a really well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. And also, the economic opportunity of starting something in NEPA right now is just so profound. It gets me really excited about what we have, and also what we’re doing in the future as well.

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