Travel

Welcome to Somewhere Inn, A New, Nature-Inspired Retreat in the Ottawa Valley

Last year seemed like a bad year to pivot into hospitality. But for Joel Greaves and Devon Vaillancourt, the husband and wife founders of the brand new Somewhere Inn Calabogie, the timing couldn’t have been better.

After 12 years in the corporate grind, sweating it out at big telecom companies, Greaves was ready for a radical change. His dream was to be an entrepreneur— to own and operate a hotel.

“Timing is so funny,” says Greaves. “I was looking to leave my job, I had some interested investors, I had a great business plan in place. That was early 2020. Then March rolled around and the hospitality industry was just completely devastated.”

But that was only part of the story. Greaves and Vaillancourt noticed that, while urban luxury hotels couldn’t give rooms away, resorts, and designer rentals outside the city were booked solid.

Greaves and Vaillancourt, who runs the Toronto-based luxury concierge service Zebrano, decided it was the perfect time to make their hotelier dreams a reality. They started the search for old Ontario motels that they could renovate into something special. Initially, they were looking at the usual hotspots for Toronto getaways: Niagara, Muskoka, Prince Edward County. But the real estate in those markets had crested, and they seemed saturated with new, hip places to stay. So they set their sites further afield, all the way to the Ottawa Valley.

“It’s a relatively unknown commodity for most people from Toronto, but it’s really well-known for people who live in Ottawa,” says Greaves. “It has tons of rivers and lakes, and rolling hills like you don’t see anywhere else in Ontario. It’s great for hiking. It’s an adventurers paradise. And it’s grown this little community of young people and entrepreneurs opening breweries and guide companies and now a motel.”

The revamped 11-room motel is designed to emphasize the outdoors. Greaves and Vallaincourt worked with the interior design firm Westgrove, run by two of their good friends and now business partners, to turn the outdated building into a luxurious country getaway. The rooms each feature fireplaces and comfortable lounge areas decked out in relaxing earth-tones. There are no televisions—a deliberate choice to get guests out into nature.

But after a long hike or a day of snowshoeing, there are thoughtful touches to return to throughout the property. The lobby doubles as a bottle shop, curated by the natural wine and craft beer experts at Collingwood’s Gibson & Co. There are two fire pit lounges on the grounds, which will run every evening. And there is a food truck program in the works, with restaurateurs from Ottawa and The Valley setting up shop on a rotating basis. Greaves and Vallaincourt are also quick to note that the property is dog-friendly.

Even before officially opening its doors, the positive energy at Somewhere Inn Calabogie is palpable. Probably because from its very inception, this has been a labour of love for its two founders. “This has been life-changing,” says Greaves. “I’m energized by problems and challenges that I haven’t been in a long time.”

“And it’s so awesome and powerful that I’ve got Devon with me on this journey. We’re business partners and life partners, so I get to do the thing I love with the person I love most.”

Somewhere Inn is open for booking now on somewhereinn.ca.