Harbour Grace innkeeper hopes GoFundMe will help keep historic inn open

·4 min read

The Rose Manor Inn is a place for souls.

Whether they be weary, happy or lonely, the people who those souls belong to find something within the walls of the historic Harbour Grace bed and breakfast.

At least, that is how owner Erika Pardy describes the 149-year-old building that once belonged to the province’s first minister of justice, Thomas Bennett.

Now, the owner of the inn is taking a drastic approach to help keep things going ahead of the 2021 tourism season.

She recently started a GoFundMe to raise money to help pay for a variety of things, some of which include maintenance on the manor, installation of a heat pump and the hiring of staff to help plan for the new season.

“It is a very precarious situation that we are in,” Pardy said of her $100,000 goal. “My GoFundMe was an attempt to at least maintain the building.”

The money raised will also go toward bill payments, the alteration of a business plan and to maintain the grounds.

The manor’s garden is in high demand for wedding pictures.

“There is a lot of drive-by appeal,” said Pardy. “It draws a lot of people into Harbour Grace.”

Rose Manor is located in Harbour Grace’s historic district. The building was built in 1872, was restored in the early 2000s and officially became an inn in 2003.

The building has five suites and large garden space, and is steps from the ocean.

Pardy has operated the manor for the last six years, and 2021 was to be the year she figured she would break even on her investment.

Fate threw some obstacles in her way. In 2020, Pardy did just 10 per cent of her usual business because of regulations around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, along with bookings, Pardy fills the space with murder-mystery nights, high teas and oceanside lobster boils.

Some of those things happened last summer, but not as much as originally planned.

“COVID just bottomed us out,” she said.

Now Pardy and other tourism operators like her are staring down the barrel of another staycation summer.

While vaccination rollouts are occurring around the country, there is no indication if this province will open to the rest of the country any time soon.

With that in mind, Pardy started the GoFundMe fundraising route to ensure she can carry things through this season and into the next.

“I hope it will give us the momentum to carry on,” she said.

In a normal year, the months leading into spring and summer would be when businesses start having conversations with prospective employees about hours and what is needed from them.

With the pandemic still affecting travel and the tourism industry, the subject of those conversations should be shifting to how the provincial government may be able to help tourism operators.

However, the continued election is holding up that conversation and it has other tourism operators waiting for that to change.

“A lot of operators need to see a plan in place from both our provincial government and our federal government of continuing to help until at least 2022,” said Marieke Gow, co-owner of the Artisan Inn and Twine Loft in Trinity with her mother, Tineke.

Her business was able to make it through the summer by opening one building at a time — they operate nine properties in town — and leaning on their 30 years of experience.

They also leaned on the funding programs available, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.

“Our size, in our particular case, worked in our favour,” said Gow.

Even if the province starts to open up this summer, there needs to be something in place to help with that transition. Some tourism operators will have not been open for a year-and-a-half at that point.

Gow is finding that Newfoundlanders are already booking for this season, and that is a positive.

“We feel a little bit more confident that we can make it through to the end,” she said. “Despite all of the hard work of last season, our business still lost money in the end … but what we were able to do was keep our employees on and give them enough financial security to make it through the season.”

Getting to the next season is what Pardy is trying to accomplish with the GoFundMe account.

It is also a step Pardy felt she had to take if she wants to make it to the manor’s 150th birthday.

That will come in 2022.

“It is the heart we have to keep,” said Pardy.

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice