ARICHAT: The 17-unit Clairestone Inn is now taking bookings and is planning an official opening some time in June.
Owner Shauna Landry recalled that she finalized the purchase of the former L’Auberge Acadienne Inn in February. The founder of City Girl Cakes in Halifax said the move was prompted by a desire to return home after the death of her mother Claire, after whom the inn has been named.
“I felt it was time to move back home,” Landry recalled. “Mom died and that was really different. It changed the dynamics of our life. So I started to feel like I wanted to be closer to my family.
“In the city you don’t have that same little community feel and I think I was really missing it. So it was definitely a personal decision, more than a business one. But I knew that if I moved home, I would have to be my own boss, I would have to be an entrepreneur. I couldn’t move home and work for someone else. Being an entrepreneur was where I needed to be.”
Landry said each time she returned home, she was struck with the condition of the inn. At first, she toyed with the idea of buying it, then became more serious as time went on.
“I had always driven by this place and it was always dark and abandoned, the last few years anyway,” Landry explained. “It needed love and I couldn’t understand why it was like that because it was such a beautiful building. It’s been part of our community for so long and it’s an important piece in our community, if we want to promote tourism and places for people to stay.”
Since purchasing the property, Landry said she and her band of volunteers – including father Clarence, uncle Greg and aunt Annette Kehoe – have been busy. In addition to installing new windows and doors, and giving it a new coat of paint, Molloy Steel (owned by former Isle Madame resident John Molloy) is putting on a new steel roof.
“We painted every room except for one so far,” Landry said. “We’ve replaced all of the bedding, towels, updated some flooring in a couple of the rooms, all new windows, brand new doors… and the roof.”
The new owner expects to have all rooms open by mid-July. Guests will have the option of a hot breakfast or a continental breakfast.
Landry said because she is still learning the ropes in the hospitality scene, she is unsure whether she will open the restaurant this year. She would like to lease the restaurant to a chef or cook and allow them to run that section of the business.
“I don’t have any immediate plans for the restaurant yet,” Landry said. “I’m not saying I’m not opening it, I just don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
Landry is in the process of obtaining the liquor licence for the bar, and she plans to open it with a pub-style menu.
The new owner noted that one demographic she wants to specifically market the Clairestone Inn towards are motorcycle riders.
“I want this to be a place where people feel relaxed and at home,” Landry said. “If you want to socialize you can, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. I’d like to put a fire pit in the back.
“Of course, I’ll be doing some marketing directly towards motorcycle riders because I am one. We are a great bunch and I think there’s a lot of potential in tourism through motorcycle riders.”
Although the branding, the name and the look of the inn has changed, Landry was quick to point out that it will still use the area’s natural advantages.
“We have an advantage because we’re bilingual,” Landry said, pointing to the high number of visitors from Quebec who frequent the area. “So we need to get those people down here.
“It’s our culture so if there’s a menu, it will be local, Acadian-themed items in there. We still will cater to someone who wants to go fishing, we try to make that happen.”
Apart from a unique culture, another advantage of the area lies in its natural beauty, which Landry added she now appreciates much more at this stage of her life.
“I look at Isle Madame and I see an amazing place for kayaking, bicycling, motorcycle riding, getting away from the chaos of everyday life,” the new owner stated. “It’s so quiet, people are friendly. We have places to eat. There’s lots to do.”