MORRISBURG – A little over 20 years ago Micheal Burton and Ron Currie set out to find a property suitable to transform into a successful bed and breakfast and that search brought them to Morrisburg.
Now, just over 20 years later, they are winding down their Bistro and B&B getting ready for retirement.
Originally looking at the Perth area, Michael and Ron literally considered hundreds of properties before finding their dream home here in Morrisburg.
“We put all our search criteria into MLS and it landed 395 hits, at hit 393 we found this house,” explained Michael.
The three-storey, almost 8,000 square foot property, served as a group home for 40 years, but when Ron and Michael found it, it had been abandoned for two years and needed new windows, wiring, plumbing and more.
Ron said that the price of the house dropped to just $110,000.
“That price tag is what brought me here,” said Ron. “For me it was the house,” said Micheal, who saw the potential of what it could be.
For the first two years the couple worked tirelessly to renovate and get it ready to move in and open the B&B, which they did in 2004.
Ron recalls how different things were when they opened as a four room B&B.
As luck would have it one of their first guests was someone who knocked on the door and wanted to rent a room. It turns out, this guest, was a writer who published a paperback called the Best Places to B&B in Ontario. Michael and Ron’s beautiful accommodations and stellar hospitality earned them a great review in that publication and spurred their B&B to really take off.
“Our location, which is half way between Toronto and Quebec City, brings a lot of European tourists here. The Europeans are enchanted by the calmness and space that we have here,” said Ron.
The Bistro portion of the business opened to offer fine dining and facilitate longer stays for Manor guests.
As successful as the Bistro and B&B have been, Michael and Ron decided that now is the right time to retire. At 62 and 70, the two say they are simply retiring because of their age.
Retirement for them, does not include selling their home or the business. “We are staying in the community we call home,” said Michael.
Michael and Ron agree that so much of what makes a B&B successful is the attitude of the hosts. “It’s the people who make a B&B what it is, and you can’t sell that. We are the business,” said Ron.
Instead, they will maintain a personal residence within the building and convert the remaining space into two apartments for long term rental. “We are doing that for the community,” said Michael, adding that once they retire he hopes they can get back to doing community work.
When Ron and Michael announced their upcoming retirement people were generally disappointed, but less disappointed when they find that the two are going to remain part of this community.
“We didn’t know there was so much love and care in the community for us,” said Michael. “It’s great to be part of this community that welcomed us from the day we got here.”
Reflecting on his time at Russell Manor, Michael says that one of his greatest joys was to be able to save this house.
Additionally, “I think our presence in the community changed the makeup of the town because of who we are.”
In welcoming visitors from all over the world, Ron and Michael have consistently acted as great ambassadors for the community.
The two agree that once the doors close to the Bistro this weekend and to the B&B in October, they are going to miss the people most.
“I’m going to miss the interactions with all of the travellers,” said Ron.
“The people here made us part of their existence,” added Michael. “They depended on us to be there in times of need for things like weddings and funerals and more. That’s the kind of trust that people put in us. That’s the nicest thing about all of this. We made a difference in their lives. We’ve made friends for life.”