Jeremy Jaech and his wife Jacquelyn have had plenty of singular successes as tech entrepreneurs over the years. Now the couple is going for a doubles victory, with a state-of-the-art tennis facility and events center that they’ve created near Lake Chelan, east of Seattle.
The creation of Harmony Meadows, in the small town of Manson, Wash., was a labor of love — and a quick one at that. The property, which previously served as everything from an apple orchard to a petting zoo, sat unused for four years but was rehabilitated in just over a year after the Jaechs bought it. It opened officially Aug. 12.
Jeremy Jaech is a longtime Seattle technology and software entrepreneur. He co-founded Aldus, the pioneering maker of PageMaker software, which was acquired by Adobe in 1994; and he founded Visio, the diagramming software that was eventually acquired by Microsoft for $1.5 billion in stock in 2000. After Visio, Jaech co-founded or led a number of startup companies: Trumba, Verdiem and SNUPI. He is currently a regent at the University of Washington and Chair Emeritus of the Technology Alliance board.
A native of Richland, Wash., Jaech has had a second home in the Lake Chelan area for 27 years. But tennis is a relatively new endeavor for the couple, who have been married for 14 years.
“I started playing in my 50s,” said the 62-year-old Jaech. “I started because I played basketball my entire life and started getting hurt a lot more as I got older and the opponents got younger. So Jacquelyn and I went out to Hawaii for an anniversary and as a surprise she booked a week’s worth of tennis lessons. So we learned to play on these magnificent courts and then came back and kept playing.”
Like many businesspeople who perhaps pursue an idea that is born out of a hobby, Jaech has discovered the common threads between what he achieved as an entrepreneur in tech and what he’s doing now with Harmony Meadows.
“All businesses have a similar kind of structure to them: you have to have a mission that you believe in; you’ve got to create a great team around that; you’ve got to execute well; run the numbers; make sure that you’re doing the right things and that you’re efficient in how you’re doing them,” he said. “I brought the best product person I know over with me, which is my wife, Jacquelyn. It’s really her vision for what we built here. She was both the primary designer of the center and she was the general contractor, and the prime operator of the business as well.”
Jacquelyn Jaech, who has also been an entrepreneur and a business builder at companies such as SNUPI, Blue Morpho and Velodia, has had a hand in building projects in Seattle over the years. Someone she worked with told her she should just become a contractor herself, that she knew more than most of the people out there and that she was probably the most organized person he’d ever met.
By creating an event hall, tennis facility, luxury guest cottage, hayloft guest suite, small brewery and more, she appears to have proven that person right.
“It was funny working with some of the local subcontractors here,” she said. “I don’t think they were used to seeing a Microsoft project plan, and having a calendar, and to-do dates and having somebody go, ‘No, you have to have it by this date.’ Even the tax assessor came out and said, ‘Did you build all of these buildings in this year?’ I ran it like any other business that we would run and nothing’s been built this fast over here before. And certainly not at this quality level.”
The tennis community around Lake Chelan is too small to support a center like they’re building, and the Jaechs realize it’s not going to pay the bills, which is why they added the weddings, hoping to seize on the top tier of a lucrative destination wedding business.
But a philanthropic mission is also in the mix, as Harmony Meadows will serve as the tennis facility for the nearby high schools in Manson and Chelan — and Jaech also wants to create a program for junior players.
“The only money-making part for tennis is destination tennis,” Jaech said. “We’re trying to create a facility that draws people from the westside and other parts of the United States to come here and play tennis on these magnificent courts that we’ve created. The courts are pro-level courts — it’s the same technology, although a different brand, that they use at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open. They are a draw in and of themselves for serious tennis players.”
The courts are a Laykold Masters 8 high-performance, all-weather system. The specialized, multi-layer acrylic surface offers exceptional footing and delivers consistent ball bounce, according to Harmony’s website, and the shock pad under the surface enhances resiliency and player comfort.
“There is no other tennis facility in the Pacific Northwest with a similar level of high-performance playing surface,” Jaech said.
Jaech said he now comes back to Seattle about once a month for his UW job, and said the couple is getting more and more integrated in the community in Manson. He changed his voter registration and is getting more involved in the social and political scene — even making a run for Chelan County Hospital Commissioner.
“The transformation that Seattle is going through is a little bit unnerving for people who’ve been there for a long time,” Jaech said. “Of course everybody bitches about the traffic and the congestion and the politics can get a little bit weird and all that. But there’s also a big disruption happening over here in the Chelan area. That’s the kind of thing as an entrepreneur that you look at — where is there an opportunity to do something new because of disruption that’s occurring around you?”
He said Chelan has traditionally been a Memorial Day to Labor Day attraction centered around lake recreation. But now, with more and more wineries coming in, the tourist season has been extended and Jaech believes wineries tend to be the precursor to more mature tourism development.
“That’s the disruption, I think, that is allowing us to come in and build a destination wedding and tennis resort and have enough other things going on around here to make it successful,” he said.