RUMFORD — With its fluted limestone columns, soaring lobby and a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel Harris appears to be a steal with prices as low as $49 a night.

For some, it has offered an interesting experience of staying in a classic hotel that long ago fell on hard times.

Some would-be guests, though, have said they fled before ever seeing a room, scared of the hotel’s atmosphere and appearance.

Behind a cracked window facing Hartford Street in Rumford is a sign for Jadin Hotels, owned by Jim Adinolfi, which offers three rooms in the Hotel Harris building, according to Adinolfi.

And others have reported leaving in disgust after finding dirty rooms that fell well short of what they’d been promised when booking rooms on everything from Airbnb to Expedia.

Online reviewers and at least two guests spoken to directly insist the hotel is a scam that takes unsuspecting guests’ money under false pretenses, adds fees unusual for the industry, and refuses to give refunds, and should be shut down by authorities.

In complaints to the police and the Better Business Bureau, guests and would-be guests insist the hotel doesn’t come close to matching its promise of luxury lodging.

Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter recently said, “We’ve had as many complaints as he’s had guests,” referring to the hotel’s owner.

The Maine Better Business Bureau, which has received gripes that it says the hotel’s owner has never tried to explain, gave it an F rating, its worst.

But hotel owner Jim Adinolfi sees it differently. “I don’t think there’s anything dishonest. I’m not trying to rip people off,” he said in a recent interview.

In fact, despite the reviews and complaints, Adinolfi’s Jadin Hotels is expanding in Rumford, selling overnight rooms in a small house owned by Seth Carey, who ran unsuccessfully for district attorney last year, and getting ready to open another.

The Hotel Harris is Jadin’s signature location, a symbol of what Rumford once was and, in Adinolfi’s view, a place that could become the centerpiece of a economic revival for the struggling downtown.

The 29-year-old Connecticut native said the tales of his hotel’s flaws are off the mark.

‘SO DISGUSTING I’LL NEVER FORGET IT’

It doesn’t take much searching online to find reams of reviews from people who insist that Adinolfi cheated them. But tracking down the real-life people behind the screeds is not always possible.

The Main Avenue house in Rumford that Jadin Hotels appears to be getting ready to serve as a new lodging house called Maine Suites.

Two of them, though, were willing to tell their stories. Adinolfi said he didn’t remember either of them.

Before attending a wedding reception in Rumford in mid-October last year, Searsport resident Rachel Leavitt and a friend hopped online to find somewhere to stay the night.

What they saw about the Hotel Harris looked impressive, with “very much professional and neat-looking” pictures and a description that made it sound like a normal hotel. They didn’t hesitate to book a room.

When they arrived, Leavitt said, they were shocked.

“The outside of it looked like it had been beaten by a baseball bat,” grimy and not maintained, she said. Her friend wouldn’t even step inside.

Leavitt, however, walked into the lobby and thought it appeared “cool and vintage,” but also kind of creepy, in part because no one was there.

The hotel desk had a thick coat of dust, she said, and everything looked “dirty as heck.”

Finding nobody to speak with, Leavitt said she went back to the car and they called a phone number they found for the hotel. Adinolfi answered, Leavitt said, and asked her to send a picture of a photo identification card and a credit card.

After they did, Leavitt said, he gave them a code to get into a room for the night.

Leavitt said they found the room on the second floor with “a weird lockbox” that opened when she put in the code.

And they walked in.

“It was so disgusting I’ll never forget it,” she said.

Her friend walked into its bathroom and found hair on the toilet, the sink and the tub and then squealed in horror, Leavitt said.

They checked out the beds next, she said. One pillow had a big red bloodstain, she said, and when she pulled down a comforter she found “some type of substance” crusted on the sheets.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Leavitt said. “I didn’t want to know.”

They decided to depart.

“Oh, my God, it was so gross,” Leavitt said.

A sign taped to a column in a hallway of the Hotel Harris building indicates the area is reserved for hotel guests.

She got Adinolfi on the phone again and told him they couldn’t stay there. He tried to talk them into going to the High Street Suites instead, Leavitt said, offering to escort them there after the wedding reception so they could find it late at night.

Leavitt said when she couldn’t find any information online about the High Street spot, they decided to find another hotel entirely.

They told Adinolfi they were going to go elsewhere because the conditions were unacceptable.

“We never, ever heard from him again,” but soon found a couple hundred dollar charge on their card from the hotel. The bank turned down a bid to overturn the charge, Leavitt said.

“What kind of business is this?” she asked.

‘LIKE A FLOPHOUSE’

When Dixie Saraiva of Morrill, Maine, tried to find a hotel room online in Rumford, she said she came across what she thought was “a beautiful hotel with a good eating space and lovely rooms.”

Rated four stars, she said she didn’t hesitate to book it for a night in August of last year on Hotels.com, where it claims “38 smoke-free guestrooms,” a restaurant with a bar, valet parking, a 24-hour front desk, conference space, a garden and even a hair salon.

After pulling up outside at 25 Hartford St., Saraiva said she and her husband immediately eyed it with surprise and skepticism despite its fluted limestone columns and obvious history.

It looked, she said, “like a flophouse.”

Saraiva walked through a front door propped open to the street to find a filthy lobby with no one at the desk, no phone and a buzzer that had been disconnected, she said.

The historic lobby of the Hotel Harris building in Rumford.

A sign by the desk said that potential customers should phone a particular number. She got a recording that told her to call back later.

A young man walked by and asked if they were looking to rent a room, Saraiva said. He then told them it wasn’t a real hotel, just a place where people could, if they had no better options, crash for a night or more. An intoxicated woman showed up to bolster the claim, Saraiva said.

The man told them the manager might be in his room upstairs, she said. Nobody answered his door.

Saraiva and her husband decided they’d be better off driving home, a couple of hours away.

“It’s clearly a scam,” she said. “They’re certainly not running a business.”

Saraiva, who managed to get Discover to refund the money she’d paid in advance for the room, said the place ought to be closed down.

There are dozens of scathing reviews online of the hotel, many of them calling the old photographs it uses online misleading and wondering how the hotel is allowed to operate.

On TripAdvisor, for example, someone wrote about two family members who stayed there last summer.

What they found was “no toilet paper. One towel. No soap. No wash cloth. The elevator was not working. The carpet in the room was filled with sand and dirt,” according to the anonymous reviewer. “It is very sad to see this historic old building disrespected, and in such disarray.”

Another reviewer complained he spent “five hours in the lobby going back and fourth with Expedia” trying to get help, with no luck. “I felt my life was in danger. Please do not stay in this hotel. it is a scam.”

The hotel’s website offers a memento that detractors would say doesn’t help the owner’s defense of his business: black T-shirts for $30 a pop that say in bold white letters “I Survived My Stay at the Hotel Harris.”

Jadin Hotels Marketing Director and owner Jim Adinolfi poses in one of the bedrooms of the business’s rental investment property at 455 High St. in Rumford called High Street Suites. The company also offers marketing services through its Jadin Promotions branch.

When he served as a disc jockey for an Auburn party for Carey’s unorthodox district attorney’s campaign just before Election Day, Adinolfi wore one of the shirts as he picked out party music.

Adinolfi said he sells quite a few of the shirts “because it’s really not as bad as a lot of people think.”

“So far, every guest has survived,” he joked.

HEADING FOR THE HOTEL

At first glance one recent morning before Christmas, the Harris Hotel looked pretty impressive. Its name appears in large letters in a rooftop display facing in two directions. Its facade is bold and interesting.

But a closer glance paints a different picture.

A piece of yellow police tape flags from a railing directly in front of the lobby doors. A Jadin Hotels sign in a front window sits behind cracked glass. The H on Hotel Harris on an overhang above the sidewalk is smashed and rotted away.

There are cigarette butts, dirt and debris in front of the doors that look to have been there a while.

Walk inside and the lobby remains striking.

No one is behind the old hotel desk and there’s not a seat to be seen in the lobby, but there are holiday displays, framed photos of the hotel in its heyday and enough history to fill at least some of the void.

At first, it is difficult to determine what guests are supposed to do once they arrive to claim the rooms they booked online.

Jim Adinolfi, marketing director and owner of Jadin Hotels, smooths out the bedding in one of the three rooms he says he offers in the Hotel Harris building.

A couple of signs around the desk list a phone number. Guests are supposed to phone it when they arrive, though there’s not a phone in sight. In addition, some online reviewers insist when they called, they merely got a message that a mailbox was full.

Employees at the spa next door — whose owner has pleaded unsuccessfully with Adinolfi to stop mentioning the spa online — said they often deal with confused and sometimes scared people who arrive for a room and can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do.

When the prospective guests manage to reach someone on the phone, there are some rooms that are set aside for the hotel. Adinolfi said he has three rooms along a second-floor hallway above Congress Street that make up the entirety of his hotel. At one point, he had seven rooms.

The rest of the four-story building’s rooms are rented out by New England Property Management to long-term tenants. The management company did not return phone calls.

There are a couple of pieces of paper hanging in the upstairs hallway warning it is for nightly hotel guests only.

The rooms are billed as possessing Simmons Beautyrest mattresses and pillows along with flat-screen televisions, high-speed internet and other amenities. One of the rooms appeared to match its description during a recent visit.

Adinolfi said he would like to do more to fix things up and clean, but the company that operates the building ordered him to steer clear of the common areas out of concern that he might create a liability problem for its insurer.

He said he sometimes cleans up the rooms himself, but he also has people doing housekeeping for him, though he’s occasionally short of help.

OPEN THE MINI-FRIDGE DOOR: $86

The complaints lodged by many reviewers often include mention of the hotel’s untraditional fees.

The hotel’s cancellation policy is unusually strict. It says it will refund 50 percent of the costs until six months before someone’s scheduled arrival. After that, there are no refunds.

“We only have so many rooms,” Adinolfi said, and can’t afford to lose out on a chance to rent them out. “There are no cancellations, no refunds.”

The company also charges $49 per person for any extra guests and warns it may charge “for an additional night if you check out late.”

The policy at the High Street Suites location is even tougher. It offers no refund within six months of a booked date, and also requires guests “to take the property in its ‘as is’ condition.”

Moreover, it says to prospective guests: “You shall be charged for an additional night if you check out late, leave without locking the door to your room, forget to leave key in room, or do anything else to prevent another guest from staying.”

The policy continues: “You shall be charged an additional $86 restocking fee for opening the mini fridge door inside the room” and $249 if the smoke detector goes off, even for a vaporizer, the policy states.

It adds, “You shall be charged an additional automatic $49 per occurrence for walking past the big red square that says ‘take your shoes off’ with your shoes on.”

Adinolfi said he hasn’t actually charged anybody for opening the refrigerator or violating the no-shoes policy.

HOTEL HARRIS HISTORY

Constructed in 1906, the Strathglass Building originally housed department stores, initially the E. K. Day Co. and the G. A. Peabody Co.

Years later, after a devastating fire on a miserably cold winter night in 1931, the building got a new fourth floor and a fancy lobby when it was converted into the Hotel Harris, with stores still on the first floor and rooms available on the upper floors.

For decades, it has apparently been solely used for low-income housing, attracting some transients and some troubled souls, but also many solid folks who don’t have much of an income.

The building was overhauled starting in 2002 to create about 35 updated apartments. Until the recession hit in 2008, it had steadily improved.

What has happened to it since is unclear. Town records show the actual building known as Hotel Harris is owned by Maine Coon Management LLC of Boston, which has no relation to Adinolfi.

Adinolfi, as Jadin Hotels, rents from Maine Coon Management the three rooms that he markets as Hotel Harris. The rest of the space is owned and managed by MCM.

Adinolfi entered the picture in the summer of 2017, a few years after he moved to Maine from Connecticut in search of a good investment. When he saw the Hotel Harris, he said, he figured he had found it.

Adinolfi said he saw lots of opportunity in Rumford, which has never recovered from cutbacks at the paper mills. There are quite a few empty storefronts downtown.

Despite the obvious economic struggles, the town sits in an area increasingly desirable for outsiders looking to hike, ski and get out into the woods or onto the lakes and rivers of western Maine.

Adinolfi said he could sense the possibility of growth and decided to help sell the community to the outside world.

He said he felt that “with my skills and background, I could improve these people’s lives” by attracting tourists.

Adinolfi said that boosting Rumford is more than just a business to him. It’s become a mission, he said, a way to make a positive mark in a struggling place.

It hasn’t always been easy, he added, claiming the police have stopped him a dozen times or more to quiz him about what he’s doing. Adinolfi said that sort of interrogation of outsiders doesn’t make for the kind of welcoming atmosphere the town needs.

“I’m really trying,” he said. “I didn’t come here to make a quick buck.”

HOTEL HARRIS REVIEWS

Adinolfi said he reads the many reviews posted online about the Hotel Harris and his other businesses.

“I want people to love it when they come here. I want people to be happy here,” he said.

Adinolfi said that “sometimes people make up stories,” but acknowledged there may have been lapses in cleaning, the sorts of things he says that can happen at any hotel.

“I don’t think the negative reviews do us any justice,” Adinolfi said. “A lot of them are unfair.”

Despite many negative reviews online, the Hotel Harris recently had a 4.2-star rating on Google based on recent reviews. With its claim to have a restaurant, a bar, “a cozy lobby lounge,” a spa, an airport shuttle, room service and a free breakfast, the hotel has every appearance of being something special, a little gem of a hotel in an unlikely spot.

However, there is no room service, no free breakfast, no bar, no restaurant and if there’s a shuttle, it’s Adinolfi offering a ride, which he said he’s happy to do. The spa is completely separate from the hotel — and not on good terms with Adinolfi.

The recent Google rating notwithstanding, overall reviews online follow a steady pattern. They’re almost all either one-star reviews — of which there are many — or five stars.

Averaged out, the hotel recently carried a 1.5 rating on TripAdvisor that included one headlined “Horror at Hotel Harris” review, a 2.5 rating on Yelp, a 1.5 rating on Orbitz, a 2.9 rating on Expedia and a 4.4 rating on Facebook.

One interesting feature of the reviews: Many more of the five-star ratings come from people with Cyrillic names (often denoting Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and other Slavic languages), as well as Adinolfi and his businesses.

And a person with a more common name, Jean Douglas, added this top-rated ranking after Christmas. “Not a bad place to stay at all. The guy in charge is very hard-working.”

Adinolfi said he feels bad when he sees negative reviews because, he insisted, he’s working hard to make the properties he runs consistently good.

“I’m pretty ethical,” Adinolfi said, adding that he is proud of what he’s achieved so far.

JADIN’S GROWING PRESENCE IN RUMFORD

In addition to the hotel and High Street Suites, Jadin also operates an advertising firm, Jadin Promotions, a travel firm, a parking lot, a deejay service and more.

The company has already opened what it calls High Street Suites, calling it “thoughtfully designed by Jadin Hotels for your comfort,” with every detail “chosen to calm your nights and refresh your days.”

Including flat-screen televisions, “fully stocked mini-fridges and modern furniture,” the High Streets Suites website calls itself “a whole new take on high-class, local accommodations.”

Adinolfi said he considers it a five-star location compared to what he views as a three-star rating for the Hotel Harris.

The two suites are in a little house owned by Carey. He bought the property at a 2016 tax sale with the requirement that he make a number of improvements. The town’s Board of Selectpersons voted in July to take back the deed because Carey failed to follow through, but he retains ownership while he appeals that ruling.

While the outside of the house might give some pause, it’s pretty nice inside. A couple of guests said they liked it.

One indication that Adinolfi isn’t worried about what guests might say are a few signs on the suites’ walls encouraging people to write online reviews about their stay.

Jadin plans to add another property co-owned by Carey, an old house at 21 Main Ave., that suddenly attracted a spate of glowing online reviews for something billed as Maine Suites despite having had no customers yet.

One recent day it had furniture sitting on a front porch, with a Carey campaign sign tucked beside it, and more things covered in snow and leaning against the outside wall. There was nothing to indicate it was part of the Jadin network and nothing that would let a potential guest know to go inside.

Adinolfi said he’s getting it ready to accept guests soon. He offered no explanation for the rave reviews other than pointing out he can’t control what people say online.

(A Portland discount beverage business owner in 2015 publicly alleged that Adinolfi, who he hired to build a website and handle social media, had gone rogue and was targeting his Portland competitors with negative Facebook reviews. Adinolfi, operating as Jadin Promotions Inc., denied the allegations, said he would not break Facebook rules and said he would never provide any work for a client without the client being fully aware.)

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RATINGS

The Google ratings for Jadin Hotels’ new High Street Suites in Rumford included 23 reviews as of Dec. 26, each of them for five stars, the maximum.

That means that someone looking at the property on Google would see it as a five-star location, nothing that would raise any alarm bells.

But a closer look at those 23 ratings shows that four came from Adinolfi or one of his businesses. Another came from Carey, who owns the property.

Ten came from people whose names appear in Cyrillic script.

One of them wrote, “This small but spacious property is kept way too clean. The owner is a freak who keeps everything spotless! The mountain views are ineradicable here.”

That same person offered five-star reviews for three other properties. One of them was the Hotel Harris, which he called a “top notch hotel hidden in a small downtown area in the mountains of Maine” and insisted “there are tons of great people to greet you.”

Another reviewer was Roman Keramenkov, who has handed out five-star reviews to a total of five businesses, each of them owned by Adinolfi, including his Rumford Parking.

“Jadin Hotels does such a great job in the area!!” he wrote.

Anton Selihov rated four businesses in all on Google, each of them again owned by Adinolfi. He called High Street Suites “Rumford’s best” and praised the Hotel Harris as “the only real hotel in Rumford and quite nice to say the least.”

Nineteen of the 23 reviews for the High Street Suites were written within 24 hours, starting on Christmas Day.

The other four ratings, offered a month earlier, were from either Carey or Adinolfi.

DRIVING AROUND WITH ADINOLFI

Standing on a bridge recently with a close-up view of the raging waters at Rumford Falls, Adinolfi kept up a steady stream of superlatives for the many tourism and business opportunities he sees in the area.

The impression he gives is that he loves the place.

He said he feels bad that his honesty has been called into question, but is determined to keep plunging ahead, convinced the more that people see what he can bring to Rumford, the more they’ll recognize that he’s onto something good.

His promotional efforts in particular, Adinolfi said, are “very powerful” and can harness the vast power of the internet to put Rumford on the map, to make it a destination and begin to restore its economy.

Though Jadin’s lodgings remain “a work in progress,” he said, they maintain a high standard.

“I’m trying to do the best job I could,” Adinolfi said. “This is how I’m really going to become a part of Maine.”

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