Tourism businesses putting Twillingate on the map

Danette Dooley danette@nl.rogers.com
Published on April 19, 2016

Janet Denstedt and her husband Richard Wharton had no idea when they visited Twillingate 13 years ago that they’d eventually buy and fully restore eight salt box houses in this province to rent to others looking for the ideal vacation spot.

The Ontario natives own and operate Old Salt Box Co. They have three homes in Fogo, three in Twillingate, one in Musgrave Harbour and one in Greenspond.

They’ve also bought and restored a home for themselves on Fogo Island.

“Once we got working on our own home, we started to see the opportunities there… We found a few opportunities of places we could buy similar to what we’d done to our own place,” Denstedt said.

The couple will celebrate five years in business in July.

Denstedt said there are challenges with operating homes in various locations in rural Newfoundland, not the least of which are transportation issues.

“From our Fogo home over to our Greenspond home – when the ferry is working – it’s a four-hour trip from one house to the other. It takes a lot of organizing and a lot of trust in our staff who are absolutely amazing,” Denstedt said.

All eight homes are open year round, Denstedt said. Simply decorated, they are a combination of modern mixed with old.

 “We are keeping the Newfoundland history intact while adding an opportunity for visitors from all around the world to experience the old in a newer setting.”

Old Salt Box Co. won Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s Cal LeGrow Tourism Innovator of the Year Award during a gala awards ceremony held in St. John’s in March.

Denstedt said even though she already has eight homes as part of the business, Newfoundland and Labrador “is in her heart and soul.”

“I know when we have guests coming to visit they are just going to fall in love with this province, the feel and the atmosphere and the people. I get so excited about that. We  still have a few homes on the side ready to go. We haven’t stopped yet.”

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Deborah Bourden and Wilma Hartmann own Anchor Inn Hotel and Suites in Twillingate. Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador chose their business for its H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator of the Year Award.

Bourden is from Twillingate. Hartmann is from South Africa.

They bought the Anchor Inn five years ago.

The initiative is all about selling Twillingate as a tourism destination, Bourden said.

“Fishing is our history and our culture. It’s what makes this community what it is. And the community has built a tourism industry that is probably, in many ways, one of the first outport communities to focus on tourism,” Bourden said.

While the business offers comfort and great service, Bouden said, the bigger goal is to concentrate on the overall experience the visitor will have while in Twillingate.

“We focus on the (tourism) industry and on helping people have the experience that they’ve come here to have.”

People come to Twillingate for different reasons, Bourden said.

Whether it’s to hike Nanny’s Hole, listen to the Split Peas perform, explore family roots, experience a different culture, get Screeched in as an honourary Newfoundlander, or for a variety of other reasons, she said, her staff will help visitors enjoy the local experience.

“Whatever you’ve come here to experience, we try to make sure that it happens while you are here. If people take away those memories, then we’ve done our job.”

Anchor Inn is helping put Twillingate on the map – in this country and then some.

The news anchor and crew from “Australia Today” stayed at the inn several years ago and did a live broadcast from Twillingate to Australia.

Running a tourism-based business, particularly in rural areas of the province is not without its challenges, Bourden said.

Bringing in fresh produce at reasonable prices is challenge, she said.

“Human resources is also a challenge where we are a seasonal business. I would love to be able to give my employees more work. We’ve extended the season and people want to have as much employment as possible.”

While conquering challenges isn’t new, Bourden is optimistic that this year will also bring many tourists and visitors to Twillingate.

“You always look forward to every season and wonder how it’s going to unfold. But, for us, so far, every season has been better than the year before. So, we’re excited about that.”

danette@nl.rogers.com