HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. — When Erika Pardy bought Harbour Grace’s historic Rose Manor property, she knew there was potential to bring more people inside its doors, and the kitchen was part of her plan. Fortunately, she did not have to look far for help.
Tanner Coombs, her son, was a trained chef working in the food industry in London, Ontario.
“We didn’t have the luxury for it to be a seasonal operation, so we had to turn it into a full-time job, a full-time business, so we had to come up with some pretty interesting things to get people through the door,” Pardy said.
Pardy is now entering her third summer running Rose Manor Inn, having taken ownership of the property June 1, 2016. A former economic development officer for the Town of Harbour Grace, it was through that job that she first became familiar with the house, which Kevin and Lucy Haire operated as a seasonal bed and breakfast.
“They wanted to retire, so they put a retirement plan in place, and I said to them, ‘Don’t do anything until you talk to me.’”
By then, Pardy had moved to Fogo Island for another job, though she kept a house in Harbour Grace and continued to come back.
“When this opportunity came up, we jumped at it.”
Thomas R. Bennett was the original owner of Rose Manor, which was built in 1878 and turned 140 this year. It has had a number of owners over the years and at one point was in a state of disrepair prior to undergoing several renovations over the course of the last three decades.
“It has the most incredibly positive, phenomenal, lovely energy that I’ve ever experienced,” said Pardy, who is from Fogo Island and has always maintained a fondness for heritage homes.
Coombs, a 25-year-old who grew up on the mainland, sensed the potential locked in Rose Manor.
“I guess the biggest thing for me was opportunity,” he told The Compass. “Obviously Harbour Grace, it’s such a small town, but there’s all this opportunity to build all these communities. And that’s one of the things that drew me here.”
Coombs went on to highlight the example of what’s happened in Bonavista, where dozens of historic properties have been bought and renovated, with many of those buildings now housing businesses operated by younger people. He would love to see something similar happen in Harbour Grace.
“We’ve got Carbonear and Bay Roberts, and they’re developing in such a different way that Harbour Grace has an opportunity to stay somewhat unique,” Pardy later noted.
Coombs admitted to having some business ideas up his sleeve, though he’s keeping them close to his chest for the time being.
For Rose Manor, afternoon tea has been a successful business feature dating back to when the Haires owned it. Pardy said its popularity continues to grow.
“We’ve taken it up a few notches, because having a chef on hand, we’re able to offer more selections. We do a full hot and cold buffet for the teas.”
The introduction of murder mystery themed event for groups — Pardy said the dress-up element has proven popular — served the business well for getting people to experience Rose Manor’s fine dining service. Rose Manor also offers a foraging experience that allows people to bring the goods collected back and make jams.
Pardy estimates 90 per cent of Rose Manor’s business comes from word of mouth. She has also amped up the use of social media as a tool to attract attention. Its Facebook page, which had only 200 followers from Pardy purchased the home, now has over 9,000.
“A lot of that was community engagement. We did a lot of contests. We gave things away. Anything to encourage people to view it.”