Our story begins with the sitcom "Newhart" which originally aired from October 25, 1982 through September 8, 1990. Bob Newhart played Dick Loudon, a writer of how-to books who buys the Vermont Stratford Inn, with his wife Joanna. Leslie Vanderkellen was the priviliged maid working her way through college, and George Utley was the somewhat dim-witted but loveable handyman.
This was Dieter's inspiration for the B&B. Travelling to Vermont almost every Autumn to see the fall colours only romanticised the idea even more. That dream - on a smaller scale - galvanized over the years and was realized in 1997 as Birds of a Feather B&B.
In August 1996 we made an exploratory trip to the sunshine coast through Gibson's and Seschelt and on to Powell River and over to Vancouver Island at Courtenay / Comox, and then south to Victoria. Years later this very road trip would be officially known as the Coastal Circle Route Tour. We were researching where we might like to live with the intention of opening or purchasing a B&B. We knew we wanted to live on the coast and that one criteria was waterfront.
Upon arriving in Victoria it didn't take us long to make up our mind that this is where we would like to move. In fact each of us had been here before, however, the road trip now behind us we felt we had a good comparison to other coastal places.
Wishing to avoid the typical pressures Realtors are sometimes known for we literally started driving along Victoria's waterfront looking for properties for sale. As the day wore on we didn't find anything except a sign on a downtown waterfront property which referenced what is now our property. We called the phone number and left a message.
What happened next would solidify and fuel our belief that a B&B business was viable. We had arrived in Victoria without a reservation. After two hours of phone calls we finally found an opening at a hotel, albeit an expensive one.
A few days after we arrived back home on the mainland we received a call from the owners of this property. It was a private sale and we didn't have much to go on except our conversation with the owners and a black and white photo they had faxed us.
The following week we came back to Victoria to look at the property. The owners had long since moved out to their new home. We loved the location, however, quickly realized the house would need some work. We returned to the mainland and shortly decided we would try to buy this place. After receiving written confirmation from the city that we could indeed legally operate a B&B at this location we came to an agreement in October 1996. On January 2, 1997 we took possession.
The house was built in the 1970's as a 3-bedroom ranch style. Keeping one for ourselves we opened with 2 guestrooms in March 1997. In February we had published a small web site, one of only a few Victoria B&Bs to do so that year. Months earlier we had taken a B&B course and were not expecting any bookings until Easter which typically marks the start of the tourist season. In March we received our 1st reservation for the following week. We scrambled to get one room up and running.
|The house before we bought 1997||After the 1st renovations|
We went on to operate a 2-room B&B for a short while before adding a 3rd small room. What was then and today is again the master bedroom was known as the "Fancy Feathers" room offered at $120.00 per night. With a queen bed, a day bed and the occassional use of a cot this room was comfortable for 3 persons but would accommodate 4 in a pinch.
The Just Nesting room with queen bed was $95.00 and is today used for family and friends as is the Bird House room which used to be offered at $85.00. The finish and decor in both of these rooms remains today as it was then. What is today our living room was then the common area for our guests.
After the first two seasons we began to float ideas to purpose-rebuild the house as a 2-storey B&B. Six more years would pass before we would secure a building permit in June 2005. The season already being well underway we continued to operate the B&B until after the Labour Day long weekend in September 2005.
As the last guest was driving off we were loading all of our belongings in to a semi-trailer parked across the street at our neighbour. Everything that is, except a bed, couch, TV and our clothes which we moved in to the master beroom. We would live there the next seven months under a tarp during the rainy winter. While security of the property was a consideration we also wanted to co-manage the project with our contractor, Richard Hinchcliff.
Richard was both a home designer and a contractor. We recognized the value in him being able to not only draw and design from our "stick-man" sketches of our project, but also carry those designs through to construction. We were doubly fortunate when Richard selected John Thomas and his crew from Cambria construction to custom build our house. John and Paul are true craftsman. Mike who apprenticed with them was learning from the masters and it showed in his work too. No detail was overlooked and no expense sparred.
2" x 12" floors sheathed in 3/4" plywood, coated with 2" of concrete to accommodate in-floor radiant heating and insulated with sound bat the floors are sound-proof. The walls were off-set 2" x 6" studding with 5/8" drywall mounted on rebar and insulated with sound bat. Strategic placement of back-to-back washrooms and closets further ensured the privacy of each of the new rooms.
On April 28, 2006 we opened these 3 new waterfront suites with vaulted ceilings, unobstructed oceanfront views, private entrances, roof-top terraces, fireplaces, kitchenettes, and many modern conveniences including LCD widescreen high-def TV's, and internet access directly in the rooms. As before guests also have use of our private dock with courtesy canoes and kayaks, and our courtesy bicycles.
We at long last had our own space back - the entire 1st floor - and our guests have absolute privacy.
Many of our past and prospective guests had been watching the construction progress through our on-line photo journal. We typically have a significant number of advance reservations. Many of our Spring and Summer 2006 new guests had only our construction photos to base their reservation upon. It was exciting to listen to many of them tell stories of them having monitored the construction as their check-in dates neared.
Today Birds of a Feather is a 5-star B&B often booked out over the summer months and even the winter months. In the off-season an ever increasing number of people have discovered the weekly and monthly vacation rental to escape the harsh winters in the rest of Canada. Victoria on average receives only 33% of the rain Vancouver does. Late Fall and winter brings the perfect weather for the seriously relaxing spectator sport of storm-watching and being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the pounding surf. Storm season is off-season and a perfect time to enjoy Victoria with the locals and without the crowds.
Others come to experience Victoria's raw nature. Hundreds of ducks and other waterbirds arrive from the far north to winter in our back yard, the Esquimalt Lagoon. Minutes away in Goldstream Park salmon spawn in late October through early November and Bald Eagles arrive in the hundreds from December through March to feast on the salmon carcasses. Seasons in most other parts of Canada are more obviously defined by significant changes in temperature and of course winter snow. We have come to appreciate what at first we percieved as more subtle distinctions between the seasons. Having lived here now since 1997 the change in seasons, albeit entirely different, have become every bit as profound to us as the first snow storm is to others.
We love living on Vancouver Island. We are both well traveled and always look forward to returning home to our little piece of paradise in Victoria. The best part is we get to share that with our guests!
Living the Coastal Life!