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Business boost for Qualicum Beach

The Qualicum Beach Inn opens for business on Friday across the Island Highway from the ocean, on the corner of Memorial Drive. Above, from left, are owners Ken Schley, John Briuolo and Noel Hayward.  - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
The Qualicum Beach Inn opens for business on Friday across the Island Highway from the ocean, on the corner of Memorial Drive. Above, from left, are owners Ken Schley, John Briuolo and Noel Hayward.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

The word 'renovation' doesn't do justice to the transformation of what's now called the Qualicum Beach Inn, a full-service, beachfront hotel that opens to the public on Friday.

"How about re-invent?" general contractor Chris Doyle said Tuesday during a reception for the tradespeople who worked on the 18-month-long project.

"How about re-create?" said Chris' son and partner, Matt.

What's certain is people who remember the Old Dutch Inn might recognize the outside shape of the circular dining room, but not much else. This was a total re-build, an aggressive and extensive project lead by its owners, the Quality Foods triumvirate of Ken Schley, John Briuolo and Noel Hayward, who bought the property about three years ago.

Schley, the lead member of the trio when it came to the day-to-day development of this property, said he believes "business brings business" and the Qualicum Beach Inn could be the start of a re-birth of sorts for the town.

"We're saying there's more opportunity (in Qualicum Beach) than meets the eye," said Schley.

"This is another example of what you can do, not what you can't do. When we started our grocery business, we didn't think about having 11 stores."

While the owners talk about the town moving forward, they have also honoured the past with the rebuild.

There was a time when the stars of screen and stage came to Qualicum Beach for leisure time, big names like John Wayne, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Schley said he believes the decidedly-upscale, 32-room boutique hotel they have created across the street from the ocean could kick-start a return to those days.

"Let's get everyone back," said Schley. "Let's bring the romance back. Forty years ago we were the destination and that's the vision we had — to re-instate Qualicum Beach. Once this place opens, it will be a different Qualicum Beach."

“We certainly didn’t just put lipstick on it,” said Hayward.

Briuolo has certainly embraced the romance. He took a reporter on a bit of a tour of what’s being displayed on the walls of the hotel and restaurant. They include authenticated, signed photos of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Marilyn Munroe, and a trumpet signed by Miles Davis.

That stated, 32-year-old Matt Doyle, the general contractor, said this facility is going to be popular with his age group.

“My friends are all excited,” he said. “We’re thinking great, we have somewhere to go for dinner, we’ve got somewhere we can go for a few drinks, we’ve got a great patio — I mean look at the view.”

The CA design team of Jeremy and John Larsen spoke about the responsibility they felt working on this “strategic location” in their hometown. They took what they had with the Old Dutch — a mid-century modern structure — and ran with it.

“We talked about about embracing what it was,” said John Larsen. “It had cool lines, cool form — we tried to pick up on that and run with it. But from the inside perspective, people will see it’s really different.”

There were at least a couple of recurring themes Tuesday night when the owners hosted the contractors for a reception (another reception for municipal and business leaders was held Wednesday night). One was the admiration from contractors about the vision and dedication of the owners.

“Our clients were awesome in going with us on this journey,” said Jeremy Larsen.

“You’ve never met guys who are more invested in their community than these guys,” said John Larsen. “They are pretty cool guys, they have style, they have individuality.”

The general contractor agreed.

“There hasn’t been a go-to spot in Qualicum for quite some time,” said Chris Doyle. “I can’t credit the owners enough for such great vision. I think we now have a spot that will draw interest from outside our community.”

Tuesday night was also about the other recurring theme, the locals. The Doyles said about 200 people worked on the project, 95 per cent of them local. That was not a fluke.

“Whenever we build, we try to bring on as many locals as possible,” said Schley. “We are about local. It’s the right thing to do. We can’t very well ask them to support our businesses if we aren’t bringing locals on our projects.”

David Johnstone is one of those locals. He’s been in Qualicum Beach since he was 12 years old. He did about 2,000 square feet of rock work on the new Qualicum Beach Inn.

“It was really neat to work on a building where I knew the history,” said Johnstone. “You felt what you were doing was really valued and what a great place to come to work every day. Qualicum really needed something like this. I can’t wait to come here and have a beer on the patio and bring my guests here when they visit.”

Schley, Briuolo and Hayward said they were appreciative of the work done by Doyle, CA Design and all the contractors. They also say they are proud of what they’ve done here with this site. Moving forward, they have hired key people in four hotel/food and beverage positions who have more than 100 years of combined experience.

Schley was asked what the total price was for this re-build.

“Worth every penny,” he said.

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