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Mike and Anne Emmett are officially enjoying retirement after selling the Braeside Inn to Linda Qian, centre. Qian has opened the inn for accommodations, but is planning its official opening in July and will include dining room service.
©SUEANN MUSICK/THE NEWS
PICTOU – There is a new face behind the desk of the Braeside Inn.
Linda Qian, of Gatineau, Que., has purchased the historic inn that overlooks Pictou Harbour from its former owners Mike and Anne Emmett.
“We spent two years searching for the right one (hotel) that would be suitable for our family,” said Qian who made contact with the Emmetts this past fall and finalized the sale this month.
The Emmetts, who came to Canada from England shortly after they were married, purchased the Braeside in 1991 after working in the service industry for 20 years.
With years of experience behind them, they fully opened the inn’s accommodations and dining rooms while hosting conferences, weddings and bus tours as a full service operation.
“We slowed down a lot in the last few years to make it manageable,” said Mike. “We really wanted to retire but it was impossible. To make it work for us we decided to open from May 15 to October 15 instead of running year-round. We closed the dining room for evening meals, lunch and Sunday brunches so Anne and I could manage and keep it going. You could never close a place like this down, it would never make sense.”
The couple had the inn listed for years and had people interested, but when it came to getting financial backing for the potential buyers, the deals never came through.
So when Qian contacted them in the fall, they were cautiously optimistic something might happen.
Qian, on the other hand, believes it was meant to be.
She had been previously looking at purchasing a bed and breakfast in the Annapolis Valley, but near the end of the negotiations, the deal fell through.
“I talked to my husband and said, ‘We can search again.’ Just then I saw a broker advertisement for the inn. It said 18 rooms and I am Chinese and the number eight is our lucky number.”
The quiet setting and harbour view piqued her interest so she contacted the Emmetts and visited the area in October, but she believes it is fate that made the sale happen.
“It was hard but we made it,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t know if I am making the right decision or not but I pray every night. We leave everything to God and if this was God’s decision to lead us here, then it should be smooth. If it is wrong, it should close a door.”
Qian has officially moved to the area and has been working with Mike for the past few weeks to learn the ins and outs of running a hotel since she has never been in this business.
She, her husband and two teenage children moved to Gatineau five years ago from China because they wanted to see what Canada was like.
Upon their arrival, they successfully opened a mid-size convenience store, but it took a lot of time away from her family life. In addition to the store, she also worked with Ottawa’s education board as a Chinese representative to get Chinese students here and prepare English teachers who were going to work in China.
She had operated her own language institution in China that allowed her to write and publish books for her business. She also wrote during her time in Gatineau about her experiences and life in Canada.
“That is something I am really proud of,” she said. “Some people never heard of Gatineau and now more people are coming there because they have read my story. They say, ‘Because I am reading your story, I know what it looks like. I don’t know if I can make it happen again here.”
Qian said she will now concentrate on operating the inn, which has its rooms open. She had her first guests who gave rave reviews on her service.
“Last two weeks I have been training with Mike,” she said. “He is very patient with me. I keep forgetting and I write many notes, but I don’t have time to go through them.”
Her husband and daughter recently left for Gatineau which means she will be handling things on her own for the next month or more. She hopes to open the dining room by July 1 so the public and her guests can try traditional Chinese meals.
Mike said he and Anne put their own mark on the Braeside when they purchased it 25 years ago so now it is time for Qian to do her own things.
“Rather than me telling her what to do, I let her tell me what was on her mind,” said Mike. “That seemed to work best. What I was trying to do was not influence her in any way. This becomes her inn. Let her follow her own instinct.”
As for the Emmetts, they are looking forward to a long-awaited retirement, but they admit they will miss the inn they called home.
Anne said they still remember the first wedding they ever hosted as new owners, guests who have returned over the years and watching families grow up around them. They loved the fact that every day was different in the hotel world, yet you were part of a community that supported them.
“It is hard to walk away,” said Anne. “It really is. I really don't want to be here because all I can do is remember. There are lots of changes. It is difficult.”