‘Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut out of the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz. It seems the directors and editors argued about taking the famous song out of the movie because it slowed the pace of the film. Clearly they decided to keep it. Good thing too. Because had it been cut, maybe husband and wife team Joel Greaves and Devon Vaillancourt may not have had the inspiration to buy a motel and totally transform it into the Somewhere Inn Calabogie.
For many hospitality businesses, the pandemic has been devastating. Without tourism, moteliers were hurting and many have struggled to survive. But Joel and Devon saw it as an opportunity to fulfill their dream. They found the eleven room property in Calabogie, Ontario and are transforming it into a luxury motel called Somewhere Inn Calabogie.
Calabogie is a small community located in the heart of Ontario’s Ottawa Valley. It is 297 km northeast of Toronto and 100 km west of Ottawa. And it is a bit of a motorcyclists mecca. Welcoming motorcyclists, the local tourism authority has a website called Ride The Highlands complete with GPX files to download. It is in Calabogie where all the great roads meet. Country Road 511 and Tatlock Road are just two that are fun for riders of all ability levels, with tons of twists that offer incredible scenery to boot!
If that doesn’t convince you, there is also Calabogie Motorsport Park. This beautiful track facility is located minutes up the road from the Somewhere Inn Calabogie. If you have never experienced a track day before I can’t speak enough about the experience – it will make you a better rider. Pro 6 Cycle offers great packages to get you on the track, teach you advanced riding techniques and give you the confidence to ride anywhere. If the track, the eccentric artsy community of Calabogie itself, and the incredible roads aren’t enough to convince you, there is another motel in town called the Calabogie Motor Inn that is owned in partnership with the local Yamaha dealer.
But this story is about dreams and transformation. And like most great transformations the Somewhere Inn Calabogie is like the phoenix that rises from the ashes. As my wife Amanda pointed out, despite having the best franchise name ever, Somewhere Inn insert destination name here, this retro motel truly fits into the description as a destination experience motel.
Like many moteliers I meet, Joel and Devon dreamt of creating a hospitality experience inspired by the retro roadside motel. The couple got the bug back in 2017 when they dabbled in the hospitality industry by buying, completely renovating and now managing the rental of a luxury cabin in the Muskokas. When the pandemic hit, and most hospitality businesses were seeing red, Joel and Devon saw an opportunity. They recognized a need for people to still travel but stay close to home. After securing an angel investment for their dream, they signed a deal in the fall of 2020 to buy the roadside motel portion of Jocko’s Beach Resort and Motel. Earlier this year, Joel left his corporate job in Toronto and moved to Calabogie to get to work.
Devon and Joel elicited the help of their friends Keri MacLellan and Andrea Pierre. The pair are the design team of Westgrove. It was they who were behind the retrofitting of The June Motel in Prince Edward County. So with the same attention to detail, they wanted to give guests a similar incredible experience but with style that fits the destination. And what the group has come up with looks truly amazing.
Nestled in lush surroundings with views of the lake, the motel aims to offer an almost scandanvian experience – paying homage to the all seasons destination that Calabogie is. The first item of business for the group was the exterior transformation. The ‘I’ shaped motel was originally built in brown brick. The group painted the exterior all black – a relatively inexpensive touch that adds a real modern feel. While parking is still in front of your room, on the grounds out front, there are firepits and lawn games to enjoy overlooking the lake. And guests have access to a small beach just across the road.
The eleven rooms inside are beautifully appointed and each feature a gas fireplace, kitchenette and lounge seating area. Another unique feature is that the rooms each have windows on the front and back giving them lot’s of natural light. There are seven king bedded guest rooms (three with a freestanding soaker tub), three queen bedded rooms and a suite called the Calabogie Suite that offers a king bed and bunk bed with a double on the bottom and twin on top.
For food and beverage, the group has made arrangements with a locally owned artisan bistro called Oh-el-la Café. You can order from a selection of breakfast options and have them delivered right to your door. On the premises, there is a Bottle Shop curated by Gibson & Co. where you can get craft beers, wines and snacks. Of course just in town you can stop by the Redneck Bistro or Calabogie Brewing Co., both popular with motorcyclists, for an excellent selection of food and drink.
Somewhere Inn Calabogie is taking advance reservations and offering a 20% discount now for their soft opening in August. Devon, Joel, Keri and Andrea plan for the grand opening in September. I look forward to a more in-depth follow up and review once it is open. But for now it seems all the right pieces are in place. And in talking with Joel it is clear that the Somewhere Inn Calabogie is their place over the rainbow because I can hear Judy Garland’s voice now singing “…bluebirds fly, and the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.”