By Jim Barber
One is a nationally-recognized, high-end hotel brand, another is a unique new enterprise run by a hard-working, design-minded young couple, while the third is a brave and bold move by a mom and grandmother to fulfill the dream of running a small business to serve the women of her small, tight knit community.
What the Drake Devonshire in Wellington, Quinte Design Centre in Belleville and Deseronto’s Peytan’s Place Boutique have in common is that they are all new businesses, striving to become long-lasting, successful and impactful components of their local communities, while adding to the health and vibrancy of the Bay of Quinte region’s economy.
All three businesses are driven by the passion, creativity and acumen of their creators, all of whom share a desire to enjoy the fruits of their labour as part of a burgeoning regional economy but also to add something of note and value to their community, not just business-wise but also to its quality of life.
Quinte Design Centre:
Growing up in the building industry, Ryan Bax had a pretty good idea that he would be entering that business at some point.
But rather that follow directly in the footsteps of either his father or sister and brother-in-law as home builders in Belleville and Orangeville respectively, he and wife Jocelyn chose to create a business that would serve Bay of Quinte area builders and their clients.
“My sister and brother-in-law build about 300 houses a year so they’re a pretty big outfit and they started one of these design centres for themselves in Orangeville and it worked out really well for them. But we saw in this area that there weren’t any builders here of that size who could justify opening one of their own,” he said.
“We thought why don’t we get together with all the companies that the builders are already using, like Carpet One and Dulux Paint and others, and try to bring them all into one spot? So we call ourselves a total home design facility. We are going after builders, contractors and renovators.”
It’s a simple and effective concept, but one that hadn’t really been tried in the area before the Quinte Design Centre opened its doors in September, 2014 at 45 Dundas St. in Belleville.
“Right now, these builders take their customers over to the flooring store to pick the flooring, then they go over to the kitchen store, to the paint store, the plumbing store and then the lighting store. So they are jumping all around town. Basically, we brought all those companies together to the table and said ‘why don’t you guys put your product into one location and we’ll organize it all,’” Bax said.
“Now the builders can bring their customers into the Quinte Design Centre and they can pick all those options under one roof – they can see everything laid out on the table before them. They can see how the cabinets work with the flooring, how the plumbing fixtures are going to work with the paint on the walls and the countertop – it’s all under one roof and they can compare right on the spot.”
It might come as some surprise to note that there was no opposition from the various retailers and vendors with which Bax and the Quinte Design Centre wanted to partner, as they recognized the opportunity for new business and possible new revenue streams offered through this unique arrangement.
“Someone may come in just looking for a kitchen reno and then all of a sudden they see all the flooring samples and decide they want to change to hardwood. Now there’s a customer for that product who wasn’t likely going to be a customer for that until they walked into our place,” Bax said.
The biggest challenge for Ryan and Jocelyn was the actual building they chose to house the Quinte Design Centre.
“Finding a spot was tough. There are a few vacant places in Belleville and we wanted to be close to the downtown. We could have been on North Front and had a similar amount of traffic but paying a lot more rent. But once we finished our research we realized we are the busiest road in Belleville so it worked out. The building itself is old and was pretty decrepit. The first time we walked in I thought there’s no way this is salvageable. But we ran our numbers and realized that it was worth putting some money into the building event though you don’t own it to save on rent. And it turns out that it worked out great. It’s an excellent location and the building suits our business well,” he said.
And Bax does admit that the couple’s relative youth could be seen as a hindrance by some.
“The clientele we have had so far are mostly younger couples and families because they are not spending $50,000 or $60,000 on a kitchen, they are spending maybe $12,000 to $15,000. That’s really the market we want to serve at this point in our business,” Bax said, noting that he and Jocelyn are both in their late 20s.
But by being professional, thorough and coming up with a realistic business plan, which includes knowing who their customers are has already reaped tangible rewards for the Quinte Design Centre.
“We are young in this business and we don’t want to get in over our heads. We don’t claim to be something we’re not. We want to make sure that we get into the market where its business that we can manage effectively.”
Bax also said the Quinte Design Centre will also work to build relationships with area real estate agents to try and tap into that market.
For more information, visit their showroom, the Quinte Design Centre page on Facebook or http://quintedesigncentre.ca.
Peytan’s Place Boutique:
After more than 20 years as a hairdresser working out of her home in Deseronto, Melinda Turriff began selling a few pieces of jewelry and other fashion accessories as a little side business called Peytan’s Place.
After four years working out of her humble abode, Turriff took a huge leap of faith and decided to invest in a proper retail establishment, with an expansive space to showcase her expanding product line and to create a fun, homey shopping environment.
This new Peytan’s Place opened its doors at 501 Dundas St., in Deseronto in September of 2014, taking the upper floor of the impressive structure located a few metres from the intersection with Deseronto Road. On the ground floor is another popular business, Karen Brown’s Antiques and Collectibles.
And Payten’s Place has thrived since opening its new locale, which came about due to a serendipitous mix of family circumstances and good timing, allowing Turriff to achieve a dream she had harboured for many years.
“A family member recently moved in with us. She’s a senior and couldn’t really go up and down stairs and mom’s salon and store was on the ground floor so we had to think about what our options were. Mom was thinking about expanding before but now she decided she definitely wanted to be outside the home and in a place with more space. And we happened to learn that this place was available,” said Turriff’s daughter Morgan, who works at the store.
“The time was great because as soon as we walked in here we knew this was the right place. The atmosphere was great and when we moved in and got set up we just loved the whole feel of the place. It took a lot of work, but I think it has a home-like feeling and you can’t just make that happen.”
Payten’s Place, named for Melinda’s granddaughter, focuses primarily on items that would be of interest to female shoppers, or those shopping for women.
“We sell handbags, jewelry, accessories – mostly for women. We have gift ideas and home décor. My mom has multiple vendors that she deals with but we also have a number of local artisans that we deal with. We have a lot of Made in Canada items here,” said the younger Turriff, speaking on behalf of her mom.
The benefit of being a beloved local hairdresser in a small community for more than 20 years is that you know everyone. So advertising the business locally hasn’t been a problem. Attracting out of town visitors has definitely been more of a challenge.
“My mom still has the salon here but it’s just for regulars, but there are still a lot of people coming through here for that and they tell everyone they know about this place. And we have access to Karen’s downstairs through a stairway so we are getting a lot of people coming back and forth between the two places. Word of mouth is the biggest thing for us, and now we have translated that into having a good social media presence as well,” she said.
“We’re also getting into other types of locally-based advertising, and the Town of Deseronto is also including us and other local businesses in their own radio ads. We’re really lucky the Town wanted to do that for us. It was a big bonus. We’re also making new signs to pull in people off the road. So we’re hoping all of that helps drive visitors through our doors.”
That being said, Peytan’s Place has already experienced a good number of out-of-town traffic through its door, including customers come from Kingston in the east through to Brighton and beyond in the west, as well as folks passing through from other parts of the province.
The biggest challenge, much like for Ryan and Jocelyn Bax, was the building itself.
“We had to do a lot. We took out some walls and added new ones, put in a bathroom and other new plumbing. We needed all new electrical wiring and lighting and a new entrance. So we had to revamp the entire space that we chose to rent, including refinishing the hardwood floor,” Morgan said.
“And that’s always a challenge because you’re dealing with building and fire codes, permits and inspectors, but we got through it.”
What Turriff said that she her mom like best is that they can live and work in the same small, tight-knit, cozy community – a place where they have lived their whole lives.
“My mom has always loved Deseronto and has been here pretty much her entire life. And I have been here for my entire life. It’s great because you know everybody already when you open a new business, and it’s nice to see people you know come through the door. But it’s also been nice to see a lot of fresh faces coming in – tourists who have been directed here or just see our sign and come in,” she said.
“And this store is like an extension of home . For me there’s such a good feeling in this building. And the town itself is quiet and friendly. And all the local businesses support one another which is great. We like to go to the local restaurants and the local vendors and stores. It’s about supporting your own community and that’s what we love about Deseronto.”
For more information, visit Payten’s Place Boutique on Facebook or at www.paytensplace.com
The proprietor of Toronto’s most chic, most hip, most happening downtown boutique hotel wanted to have a little place in the country. The Drake Devonshire, at 24 Wharf St., in Wellington in Prince Edward County is the magnificent result of this desire.
Toronto’s Drake Hotel was built a decade ago by successful former computer/online entrepreneur Jeff Stober and quickly set itself apart for the way it melds culture, art, food and an exceptional accommodation facility into something that is more of an experience than simply a nice place to lay your head at night.
For a number of years Stober wanted to bring a similar sensibility to a more serene, rural setting. And Prince Edward County was at the top of his list for locations.
“He grew up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec so he loves that kind of place. And he drove through this area quite a bit as a kid so he developed an affinity for it. He likes the feel along the Loyalist Parkway and he sees Wellington as what I call a burgeoning destination, but a place that’s not really on the map in a big way yet. I think Jeff really loves the remoteness of the area and the peacefulness of it. And of course the landscape and the water are just beautiful,” said Drake Devonshire general manager Chris Loane.
“He remembers this area from his childhood and he always wanted to come out here and start something. We had close ties already to a few of the wineries out here which he has come and visited in the past. I think Jeff just had this great vision of what he wanted as his first outpost out of the city.”
Loane said besides unique, comfortable accommodations and a great restaurant, creating and promoting special cultural and artistic amenities is part and parcel with Stober’s vision.
“Jeff’s properties are as much culture driven as they are income driven. He spends as much time on programs and curation as he does working on his business plan. I feel like that dedication to art and culture is so welcome in areas where they might need it a bit. So we have music events, and art events, and try to participate in anything going on in the community,” Loane explained.
But it wasn’t easy. Stober and his team faced two significant challenges along the way. The first was taking what was a venerable, but ramshackle and dilapidated structure and turning into something befitting the Drake style and vibe.
The second was to convince the folks living in and around Wellington to buy into the Drake concept and come to understand that Stober wanted to be part of the community and enhance the community, not someone trying to impose ‘big city’ values to the well-established, quiet, pastoral lifestyle of The County.
“We thought we were going to be doing a simple renovation on an inn that we purchased, When we did a little more delving into the building we found that structurally it was really rough because it was beside a stream and the stream sort of eroded away some of the older, more poorly done renovations. It took us a while to come to grips with the fact that we weren’t going to be able to use the building in the format that we wanted. We actually had to take down quite a bit of it a build it back up … so the only think that we left standing, which was the only thing of any historic value, was the old foundry building, which is from the 1890s,” Loane explained.
“And the renovations were challenging because we had no pre-existing relationship with the County and its staff, as well as the local suppliers and tradespeople. In Toronto Jeff was more comfortable because he had companies that he had worked with for years. It takes time to forge those relationships and keep them going well. But we now have those great relationships here.”
The community buy-in has come, but it took time, which was expected.
“A few weeks in they realized that it’s a very unassuming, comfortable place. But before it opened people were a little leery. They just didn’t know what was going to happen and that feeling was palpable. They wondered what was going to happen with this big city place coming to their community,” Loane said.
“But we had a community opening party. Jeff basically opened up the inn and we had free wine and a charcuterie spread, seafood platters and other food and people came in here, walked around to get a feel for the place. And they realized it wasn’t what they expected. So it was just a matter of changing people’s mentality and their preconceived notions and showing them what we were all about.”
Loane said the Drake Devonshire wants to help promote all the events and activities, amenities and facilities within the County and help bring more visitors, more residents and more visitors to the area.
“We are trying to enhance what is already here. Jeff is trying to put the big Tolkien eye [a Lord of the Rings reference, ed.] on us for a little while and showcase the area and put it out there. He is very good at that. The culture is integral to our spot; there’s art in every corner and antiques from the area,” he said.
“We are like the County concierge. We try to promote community events and not only that but all the wineries that are around here and the Millennium Trail, Sandbanks … all if it.”
And the numbers don’t lie. According to Loane, from their opening on Sept. 15 to Oct. 14, 10,000 people came through the door, a lot of them locals making repeat visits.
Sailing on uncharted business waters, the Drake Devonshire’s leadership team is willing to try a few cool, innovated ideas to help interest going, even though the dead of a County winter.
“We want to use this winter and take stock of what’s been going on. Our chef Matt DeMille is a pretty interactive bloke, so he will probably be doing some cooking classes. We have a great games room with a ping pong table and we might do weekly or monthly ping pong tournaments, that sort of thing,” he said.
“And we are open every day. I know a lot of places do close up over the colder months but we’re not going to do that. We are open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and we will be open all through January. I think people will appreciate that.”
For more information, visit www.drakedevonshire.ca.