LISCOMB – The likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might never darken its doorstep, but that’s not stopping one of Nova Scotia’s iconic country resorts from putting on the ritz.
Barely two months after Dartmouth hotelier Mike Melenchuk bought Liscombe Lodge from the provincial government for $450,000, he’s setting aside four times that amount, and then some, to transform the aging, 68-room hotel into the “crown jewel” of the Eastern Shore.
“I’m probably looking at another $2 million or more over the next year or so,” he says.
“The grounds have been let go over a period of time. So, there is a lot of work to be done. But it’s worth it. It’s a beautiful property. It’s a gem.”
All of which tracks with his statement to The Journal in August when he said, “We’re in it for the long-haul, because it’s the whole package that is, in my opinion, important. I think that Liscombe should and could be the jewel of the Eastern shore. I’m well into my 70s, but I have enough plans to last as long as I live.”
Today, he says, “We are working on the cottages and chalets, replacing the roofs and starting to paint probably the first of this week. We want to get a lot of this done before the winter sets in.”
When the frigid weather finally arrives, he says, “We expect to do a lot of work on the inside of the chalets. We’ll replace bathrooms, fireplaces, hearths. We’re also going to be working on the trails and opening them up more. We’re starting to get ready to put in a couple of ponds, some flower beds.”
None of which will be easy. In addition to its guestrooms, chalets and cottages, Liscombe has meeting space for as many as 100 people, two restaurants, hiking trails and river tours – all of which makes it an important tourism anchor, providing crucial layover amenities to travelers visiting destinations along Highway 7 between Sheet Harbour and Historic Sherbrooke Village. In other words, the pressure is on and Melenchuk knows it.
“Today’s traveller needs a little bit more convenience,” he says. “They need a little bit more of the modern stuff, like little kitchenettes and modernized bathrooms. That said, we’re going to maintain the natural look and all the natural feeling and add to it...You have to have a picture of the entire thing when you are finished to get there.”
That’s as good a statement of purpose for Liscombe’s makeover as Melenchuk – who grew up on a farm – is likely to offer.
“We are trying to maintain nature in everything that we do,” he says. “Even our WiFi password is ‘nature for you’ and that’ll be a big draw for guests who want to come and relax and connect with nature. We’ll have some fish in the ponds. Maybe we’ll have some chickens so that kids from the city will be able to observe a little bit of nature’s own.’
And even if Liscombe does attract the likes of Ginger Rogers to its bucolic doorstep, that’s okay too – as long as she’s prepared to trade in her dancing shoes for a pair of hikers.