If you’d had a conversation with Jayme Kennedy and Pete Kovanda half a year ago they may have had a good chuckle at the idea of owning a lodge. Well, a few things fell into place and here they are: the proud new owners of one Bella Coola’s most prominent hotels, the Bella Coola Mountain Lodge.
“Six months ago we didn’t even have the thought,” said Jayme. “We actually had a good laugh about it before the process got serious.”
Both Jayme and Pete are familiar with Bella Coola as they are long-time residents of Shearwater on the central coast. The couple spent over seven years in the community after making the decision to “escape” Vancouver prior to the 2010 Olympics.
“We both have tourism backgrounds and we decided we wanted a different lifestyle as the 2010 games approached,” said Pete. “We flew up to Shearwater and we really liked what we saw, so we went for it.”
Pete worked as a controller for Shearwater Marine Group, while Jayme took on a job as an education assistant for the school district, a job she has now transferred to SAMS. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed the community and said they had no intention of leaving until the opportunity to purchase the lodge came up. However, they had been bitten by what they described as the “Bella Coola bug.”
“It seems like a natural transition,” said Jayme. “We’re familiar with the community and I used to stay here often when I came in for conferences, and I loved it.”
Former owners Fraser Koroluk and Holly Willgress, who operated the lodge for over a decade, expressed their happiness and wished Jayme and Pete the very best.
“We are very happy that a like-minded energetic couple took on the business and are excited for them in the potential growth,” said Fraser. “Having been in tourism a number of years, we have seen lots of ups and downs, but really feel they are taking on the business at a time of unprecedented potential in Bella Coola and the Central Coast /West Chilcotin region and wish them our best!”
Jayme and Pete have already started expanding the business, especially the restaurant, offering catered dinners by reservation by talented Vancouver chef Christ Stafford. There are plans to open the restaurant on a more regular basis as of February 2017.
Stafford has previously worked at established restaurants such as Mission Kitsilano, which is well-known in the industry for its drive to source local and sustainable ingredients for its ever-changing menu. The restaurant was also recently shortlisted as one of the top new restaurants to open in Canada for 2016’s esteemed EnRoute list.
“I’m always cooking,” said Chris. “It’s something I have such a passion for, I’ll never stop creating new menus and working with local ingredients.”
Reviews from locals are already rolling in and they are outstanding. To book a night out for your party, just call the Lodge at 250 982 2298.
The couple also has several ideas in the works to showcase and incorporate more local talent and entertainment.
“I’d like to host local music nights, art nights, art openings, and paint nights as well,” said Jayme. “And of course the restaurant, which we plan to have open full-time by next summer.”
Having moved from one small community to another, the couple are keen to maintain and expand those local connections here in Bella Coola that offer that mutual support and growth.
“We’ve seen both the successes and the failures from living and working in a small community, so we understand the dynamics of supporting local,” said Pete. “Our vision for the business definitely includes that long-term community support.”