Justin and Alicia Doucette - new owners of the landmark McCauley’s Motel at Havilland Bay on Highway 17 North - are enjoying the opportunity to welcome back regular visitors as well as new ones.
The couple - originally from the Sault - recently moved back to the area from Toronto in March 2021 and purchased the motel in the fall, reopening its doors to visitors in February and welcoming Leanne Martineau as co-owner of the adjoining Havilland Shores Kitchen and Bar.
The kitchen and bar, with a patio, opened July 1.
As reported earlier, the Doucettes felt the time was right to return home from Toronto, Justin having worked in construction, Alicia with a mortgage lending company.
“We always planned to come back, it was just a matter of when. I think COVID sped that up. You start to re-evaluate your life, the time you want to spend with loved ones,” Alicia said, speaking to SooToday over the weekend.
“We’re getting to spend more time with our family and the location is amazing,” Alicia said. The Doucettes are now living on site at the motel.
After purchasing the motel, the couple went into a business partnership with Leanne Martineau, co-owner of the Havilland Shores Kitchen and Bar.
“I recently moved back from Toronto as well, just like Justin and Alicia. I’m originally from Sault Ste. Marie and my family have lived on Havilland Shores Drive since 1999. When COVID hit I took a break and I immediately came home. I had extra time to reflect on what’s important … it was the perfect time,” Martineau said.
“This place has meant a lot to me. I’ve spent lots of time here with my kids who are both working in the restaurant now part time.”
“When the opportunity came to meet with Justin and Alicia, they were looking for a potential partnership to open the restaurant. That’s where my experience lies. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for over 25 years. I’ve owned and operated my own restaurants in Toronto and I’ve been wanting to come home and this opportunity came about. It happened very quickly and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out and we’re really excited to see how the business unfolds in the fall and winter months,” Martineau said.
“It’s been very well received with lots of positive feedback. We’ve served just over 2,600 people already in the first three weeks. The staff have been remarkable, the support from the local community has been phenomenal and the motel guests are very happy to be able to have a restaurant on the property.”
The Doucettes laboured to bring the motel - with nine rooms - up to their specifications.
“It’s been an achievement,” Justin said, adding the couple is exploring their options on reopening the former general store on the property.
The restaurant, which will be open year round, has a lunch menu from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., a dinner menu from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and an extensive drink menu with a wine list.
The Doucettes and Martineau said the restaurant is committed to buying food from local farms and fisheries as well as stocking beverages from local breweries.
“We’re looking forward to getting snowmobilers in the winter,” Alicia said, already looking ahead, adding she wants to see some live music at the restaurant.
There are approximately 20 staff members working at the motel and restaurant.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” Justin said when asked about purchasing a business in the COVID-ravaged tourism sector during the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the Doucettes forged ahead, confident the lockdowns would end and that life would return to a degree of normalcy.
“It was scary but exciting. We just hoped. We know this area is so amazing. There’s so much to do, like hiking, beaches, ice fishing, snowmobiling. We were confident. We felt it was worth the risk,” Alicia said.
The business was launched by Howard and Mary McCauley in the 1930s.
Carole Cartier and Geraldine Sarff, Howard and Mary’s daughters, helped their parents run the establishment in its early days when the two were in their teens.
“There were lots of good times and I’m so happy these guys are doing a good job,” Cartier said of the new owners, confident the business is in good hands.
“They’re amazing. They’re wonderful people. We’ve met a lot of people from the McCauley family,” said Alicia Doucette.
“We welcome people to come out and spend the day. Go hiking and come for lunch, spend the day at the beach and come for dinner.”