B & B looks for happy ending

DELISLE, Sask. Ñ The 1916 Eaton’s catalogue house was an abandoned, grey boarded-up building on the north end of Delisle’s First Street for many years.

Then a man with carpentry skills bought, renovated and sold it 18 months ago to a young couple who live on an acreage between Delisle and Vanscoy.

It is now a sparkling white mansion and the owners, Lorraine Wolff and Perry Whiting, are hoping Back Inn Time takes off this year.

The 2,600 sq. foot bed and breakfast has three bedrooms and a third storey loft decorated in Victorian style. The setting comes through with dark wood, burgundy tablecloths and bed covers, tall plants and china wash sets. Wolff did the interior decoration, picking out appropriate linens, paint, cutlery and antiques to reflect the sophisticated experience she wants her guest to have.

She is also the self-taught chef of fine dining by reservation. The menu offers personalized entrees such as chicken breast baked in maple-soaked birch bark, ribs cooked with a whisky barbecue sauce, appetizers and her trademark cheesecake desserts.

A whirlpool tub in the second floor bathroom and a six-seat hot tub on the main floor overlooking the back yard update the house’s attractions.

So with all this going for it, you would think this B&B is a winner.

Not quite, Wolff said.

In fact she has given herself until October to see her fortunes turn around. Otherwise, she may have to cut back on the business and return to work in the health-care field in Saskatoon.

The first hint of problems was the six months it took to get a liquor licence. She said the province’s liquor and gaming commission is not accommodating to business. Other red tape was caused by the lack of co-ordinated rules for B&Bs, public health approvals for the dining room and the three-day pool course Whiting had to take.

While the B&B is listed with Tourism Saskatchewan and the provincial B&B association and has drawn out-of-town tourists off the highway, Wolff is concerned about the lack of support in the community. She has only had three local couples book a supper.

“It’s human nature to feel if you drive 50 miles (80 kilometres) it’ll be something special rather than walk across the street.”

The gift certificates she has given away as door prizes for community events have never been used.

She thinks the lack of local support is partly caused by suspicion of anyone new to the community. Wolff has lived in small towns in the province all her life and said rural attitudes must change or towns will “fold up one by one.”

Wolff knows that everyone in a rural community must pull together.

“I support the fellow from the bakery. … I’ve sent guests to the antique store and dress shop. If they fill up with gas on the way out of town, we all benefit.”

A reflexologist comes to the house on a weekly basis and for a while there was a flurry of business with elderly ladies who came for tea and a foot massage. But with bills of $1,400 a month pressing, she is now trying to draw in a new customer base Ñ women’s retreats. A dozen women recently came from Outlook, Sask., for supper, reflexology treatment, a hot tub, sleepover and breakfast. The cost worked out to $70 each, a reasonable price for pampering compared to prices in nearby Saskatoon. Wolff wants to convince women to spend money on themselves.

“People are of the mindset that it’s almost a sin to self-indulge. …. We can’t just keep running and running. We need to take time to refuel…. When I hear that laughter from the dining room, it’s so satisfying. My payoff comes from reading the guest book,” which include comments such as “a gem in rural Saskatchewan,” “down to earth and friendly hosts” and “excellent food.”

Whatever happens with the business, Wolff said she heeds her sister’s words: it is better to have tried to fulfil your dream than to sit on the sideline.

To contact Back Inn Time, call 306-493-8278 or 306-493-2217.

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