From forestry to hospitality: Family-owned contracting firm branches out with hotel, brewery

Cherie Wheeler/CBC

Two generations ago, the Majors were a family of foresters. Now the family business is branching out into something new: a hotel and a brewery.

Hew & Draw, Corner Brook's first new hotel in decades, gets its name from the biblical phrase "hewers of wood and drawers of water," once disparagingly used to describe Canada's economic dependence on natural resources. One of the owners of Major's Contracting says they've chosen to embrace it instead.

"[Those occupations] were tough and dangerous," said Dean Major. "We want … the hotel to reflect that identity as well as celebrate the refinement and modernization of those careers which still make up the backbone of our economy."

Submitted by Hew & Draw

With the family construction and engineering company growing and looking to diversify, the first idea was a microbrewery. But when Major's bought the former Bargain Shop department store on West Street, they had to come up with a plan for all that extra space.

"We had to wrap around the business plan of what best accompanies a microbrewery," he said. "[The hotel] wasn't the first idea that was floated but after a couple of iterations, it just made sense."

Even with a half-dozen hotels and motels in the small city, including one right across the street, Major says there's a strong business case for the 36-room boutique hotel, which features a tap room and restaurant run by local chef David Vatcher. (Full disclosure: both Major and Vatcher have partners who work at CBC Corner Brook.) 

Bringing the outside in

Whether you're sitting in front of the lobby fireplace or walking through the halls to your hotel room, you'll find nods to the heritage and the beauty of western Newfoundland throughout the hotel.

Cherie Wheeler/CBC

The walls are covered with custom-ordered wallpaper featuring Newfoundland motifs like pine martens and caribou. The headboards are made from warm, cosy plaid that director of operations Autumn Gale says is reminiscent of the plaid coats commonly worn in the forestry industry.

Gale says her favourite feature is not one people notice right away.

"We wanted to be a little different so we've taken our beds and face them out of the window so that when you come into your rooms you're not looking at a TV. You're looking at Corner Brook," she said.

"We want people engaged in our community and make sure they're experiencing as much as possible."

Sustainability was also a big part of the hotel's design.

There are water bottle-filling stations throughout the hallways and each room is equipped with a french press, a kettle and locally roasted coffee measured into refillable metal tins. In the bathrooms you'll find refillable containers of Newfoundland-made soap and shampoo instead of single-use plastic shampoo bottles. 

Cherie Wheeler/CBC

Brew and a bite to eat

While the hotel isn't accepting guests until March 1, the brewery — Boomstick Brewing — and its retail shop are up and running. 

The brewery, named after the large logs used to create booms where pulpwood collected after rolling down the Humber River, has seven different beers on offer. With names like the Webber, Half Marathon and Lone Flamingo, each can shares the folklore behind each brew. 

Those same old boomsticks have been reclaimed to make the tables in the tap room and restaurant.

Cherie Wheeler/CBC

There are still a lot of boxes to be checked and double-checked before the Hew & Draw's grand opening but Major and his family are excited to share it with the public. Between the hotel, the beer and the food, he hopes they've tapped into something people are craving.

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