In 2019, Joel Greaves, a Toronto marketing executive, and his wife, Devon Vaillancourt, who owns a concierge service for luxury homeowners, decided to leave corporate life behind to become motel renovators. After a year of searching the more established parts of rural Ontario, they landed on a property in Calabogie, Ontario, in the relatively hipster-free Ottawa Valley. Here, they thought, they could pioneer the next local tourist hotspot. They pooled their own savings, investment dollars from Balsam Venture Capital, and a loan from a business development council to pay $ 695,000 for a 1970s motel, formerly part of Jocko’s Beach Resort.
The couple recruited Keri MacLellan and Andrea Pierre from the design firm. Westgrove, who destroyed all 11 rooms on the property, installing a white-on-neutral cabin vibe. Meanwhile, the owners went to work in partnerships with nearby businesses. They brought Oh-the-coffee, which opened in 2020, to provide breakfast service to guests, and a rotation of local food trucks to offer lunch and dinner options on the weekends. They stocked the lobby bottle shop with artisan selections from Ontario’s breweries and wineries.
Somewhere Inn Calabogie Officially opened in September, the latest in a national trend of endlessly reserved motels catering to a young and nostalgic cohort. There’s the casual Penny’s Motel in Cali near Georgian Bay, the pink-hued June Motel in Prince Edward County, and Sauble Beach (the theme of From Netflix Motel makeover), the elegant and nautical Lighthouse in Bridgewater, NS, modern chalet-themed Lamphouse in Canmore, Alta., and the motor lodge pop-arty Hotel Zed, which has three locations in BC
Calabogie is a promising company. It is the epicenter of the Ottawa Valley, full of potential for a year-round tourism business, with rafting, fishing and hiking in the summer, and snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. “There’s a wave of young entrepreneurs opening cafes, adventure vendors, and craft breweries here,” Greaves says. “It’s been really cool to be a part of that.” Plus, he says, the partnership model with local artisans and businesses is scalable. “We would love to take the concept to other communities in Ontario and beyond in the future.”
- Modern touch
Keri MacLellan and Andrea Pierre of design firm Westgrove upgraded the inn’s 11 rooms with hardwood floors and propane fireplaces. The Scandinavian cottage vibe is complemented by contemporary sculptural fixtures, mosaic bathrooms, and white pine paneled walls.
- Safe haven
Opening a motel during a pandemic meant finding ways to minimize the time between staff and guests. In addition to contactless check-in, the owners introduced a text messaging system that allows guests to request room service or reservations for off-site dining.
- VIP guests
Dogs are welcomed at Somewhere Inn with the gift of a canine bandana and receive an unlimited supply of treats during their stay. “For many people, getting away from it all and spending quality time with those who matter most includes their dogs,” Greaves says.