Death of prominent Margaretville businessman leaves many questions

Above: The Margaretville Motel, which was slated to receive $1.3 million from New York State after being developed into a Best Western hotel. Plans for the project are now uncertain. Photo by Julia Reischel.

Peter Molnar, a prominent local businessman who owned a financial consultancy and a set of properties and lodging businesses in the Delaware County village of Margaretville, was missing for days before his body was found in a room in one of his own motels on Saturday, March 21, police said.

Left: Peter Molnar, in a photo on his LinkedIn page. 

Molnar, 57, had told his family he was going on a business trip, and left home on Monday, March 16, according to State Police investigator Jeff Moore. Molnar stayed in touch with his family throughout the week.

But Molnar’s actual whereabouts from Monday until Saturday, when his body was found, are unknown, Moore said.

“He was supposed to have gone away on a business trip, but it appears that he didn’t do that,” Moore said.

Investigators are asking for information from anyone who knows where Peter Molnar was from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 20.

It is unclear whether Molnar’s death was accidental or suicidal, Moore said. Molnar appears to have died of an overdose of a drug or other substance, but the exact cause of his death is unclear pending the return of toxicology reports.

Molnar’s body was found in one of the rooms of the Margaretville Motel, which he owned. Although he was found late on Saturday afternoon, March 21, he had probably died hours earlier, perhaps on Friday night, March 20, Moore said.

Molnar did not have a known history of depression, and no note was recovered at the scene, according to investigators and family members.

According to his family and to his LinkedIn page, Molnar was a retired pilot with the United States Marine Corps who commanded KC-130 aircraft and saw action in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, during the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait. 

He moved to Margaretville in 1990.

“We loved each other and we loved the area”

Molnar leaves his wife, Carol Molnar, and three daughters. The couple had been planning to celebrate their 27-year marriage anniversary in May.

“We loved each other and we loved the area,” Carol Molnar said. “We loved the community. It was an all-around love affair. I’m going to miss him. It’s a loss. We loved each other very, very much.”

$1.3 million grant up in the air

State Police investigator Moore said that while the family had said that they were in some “financial difficulties,” there is no sign that finances played a role in Molnar’s death.

In 2013, Margaretville Lodging LLC, which Peter and Carol Molnar own, won a $1.3 million grant from New York State to develop the Margaretville Motel into a 62-room Best Western hotel.  

That grant was not paid up front. Like most New York State development grants, it was slated to be paid after the project was completed. 

“We don’t even get the grant until we open and are employing 25 people,” Carol Molnar said.

In the wake of Peter Molnar’s death, the future of the Best Western project is unclear. Carol Molnar is exploring ways to continue the project, she told the Watershed Post.

Peg Ellsworth, the executive director of the Roxbury-based MARK Project, serves on the committee that awarded the grant, New York State’s Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. Ellsworth said that if the Margaretville Motel project does not go forward, the $1.3 million grant could go to another project elsewhere in the region.

“It was quite a shock to hear of the passing of Peter Molnar and my heart goes to the family at this time of sadness,” Ellsworth said in an emailed statement.

“With regards to the Best Western Project, the need for additional lodging has been apparent for some time," Ellsworth wrote. "As for the funding, it is my understanding that it either needs to stay with that exact project or it will be redirected to another project in the Southern Tier that has already been approved for funding. We can only hope that if the family decides not to proceed, that we can find a qualified developer to take on the project as documented in the grant application.”

According to a spokesman for Empire State Development, the state's economic development agency, which issued the grant, as long as the Best Western project meets its goals by 2019, it will still qualify for the $1.3 million grant. 

Large local business portfolio

In addition to the Margareville Motel, Peter Molnar owned a large portfolio of other businesses in the village.

Margaretville Lodging LLC also owns the Margaretville Mountain Inn Bed & Breakfast and two lodging properties called Village Suites and Suites on Main.

Through a business entity called Quality Leap LLC, Molnar purchased (in an owner-financed lease-to-own agreement) the former Masonic Hall on Margaretville’s Main Street from the Catskill Development Foundation in 2014 and ran it as a business center. Through another business entity called Walnut Street LLC, Molnar leased land to a cell phone tower in Arkville that brought cell phone service to the village in 2013. 

Also in 2013, Molnar announced that he planned to open three new businesses in the G. Willikers factory building on Route 38 in Arvkille, which he also owned. 

Additionally, Molnar ran a financial consulting business, the Molnar Financial Group, and sold long-term care insurance as part of ACSIA Partners. He also wrote an e-book called "Quality Lifestyle LEAP," inspired by his family's move to the Catskills.

Molnar was a prodigious volunteer, serving on Margaretville’s New York Rising Committee and as part of the new the Business Association of Margaretville. He became an ordained preacher online and occasionally officiated at weddings for friends and guests, Carol Molnar said.

In the aftermath of Molnar’s death, his family will carry on his many endeavors, Carol Molnar said.

“We are still running our businesses,” she said from her office in the Margaretville Mountain Inn last week. “I have reservations, and people need lodging in the area. It’s business as usual.”

She thanked the community for its support after her husband’s death. When asked what community members can do to help, she said that she is urgently seeking a front-desk associate for the Margaretville Motel.

Correction: The job opening at the Margaretville Motel is for a part-time front desk associate, not for the manager position, as a previous version of this story stated.