BARRY’S BAY – A quarter of a century can bring many changes to a small, local business.
On January 16, Spectacle Lake Lodge, located just outside of Barry’s Bay, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary and owner Sharon Mahussier admitted it has experienced many challenges and successes over the years.
In fact, when the Gazette interviewed her during the recent cold snap, she was dealing with frozen water lines in some of the cabins.
But, like the other obstacles she has experienced, she just laughed it off.
“There were lots of those over the 25 years,” she said.
She and her husband Maurice purchased the lodge in 1989 when it operated under the name of Spectacle Lake Rustic Lodge and Cabins.
“It was pretty rustic, trust me,” she admitted.
The roof sprung leaks and there was no soundproofing within the building.
“You could hear eachother breathing, never mind talking,” she explained. “When I think back on it, I ask myself why’d we ever do it? But we did.”
The Mahussiers were originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They moved to Aurora, Ontario in 1981, where Maurice worked as corporate chef for Nestle Foods and Sharon worked as a real estate agent.
Eventually, Maurice wanted a change of pace and the couple began looking to operate a campground or something similar.
“He had all of the knowledge and background as far as hospitality was concerned,” Sharon said. “And I came along for the ride.”
They searched all over Ontario and came to Spectacle Lake Lodge upon the advice of one of Sharon’s clients. They were immediately attracted to its close proximity to Algonquin Provincial Park.
“We stood out on the rock [at the lake] and we looked at each other and said this is what we have been looking for,” she said. “This is it.”
It was originally a summer destination when they first purchased it but the couple decided they wanted to transform it into a year-round resort.
All of the cottages were winterized and over the course of two years, the building was completely revamped.
In fact, Sharon’s favourite memories of the lodge happened during the spring of 1989. The roof sprung a few leaks and every time it would rain, someone would call out, “bucket brigade.”
“We would run like crazy and grab whatever bucket or pail,” Sharon said. “We soon began to know where they all were. It’s like someone punched holes in the roof. We knew what needed to be done but we were not expecting it to be that bad.”
The roof was fixed, along with many other things, she admitted.
They began attracting more and more snowmobilers to the lodge after the couple attended the Ontario Federation of Snowmobilers Club convention in the fall of 1989. The Mahussiers also attended the Ontario snowmobiler show that took place in Markham at the time.
“It’s the best thing we could have ever done,” Sharon said.
Winter tourism picked up and the lodge was operational year round.
Aside from the daily operations, the couple carved out time to create some unique partnerships with area business as well.
They linked up with a business from Haliburton and created a snowmobile package called Super Sledding, which had snowmobilers travel from one resort to the other – a 110-kilometre route.
“That was kind of unheard of; two tour operators partnering their businesses to make a snowmobiling package,” Sharon said.
The Globe and Mail had done an article on the partnership, further boosting the resorts’ reputations in the sledding community. Super Sledding expanded and more partnerships began sprouting up in Cloyne and Bancroft, too.
Read more in the January 8, 2014 issue of The Valley Gazette.