By Darren Lum
Scott and Kate-lynn Boesveld of Cambridge came to the area to fulfill a dream of running their own business.
Last year on Oct. 29, they officially took ownership of Ray’s Place, which is set against a rugged backdrop of Minden Hills, and includes 131 acres, a 14 kilometre trail for offroad vehicles, 60 campsites and 13 motel rooms, located a few kilometres from downtown Minden off of Hwy 121.
Their path to buying the well-known property among offroad enthusiasts actually started from a visit.
“We came here once and joked about buying the place,” said Kate-lynn. “We thought about it more as COVID was happening. We like to work together as a family and be together.”
Married for nine years, the high school sweethearts had always talked about having a business they could call their own such as a campground or a garden centre.
“Pretty much when we got married we wanted a campground,” she said. “That was the talk, but then this came up.”
Kate-lynn believes there was divine intervention related to how everything worked out for them.
“This is where God wanted us to be,” Kate-lynn said.
They said it was ideal timing, as they were ready to buy and its previous owner of seven years, Ray Gervais was intent on selling.
Both of them know about small businesses first hand.
Kate-lynn’s parents ran a green house centre where she last worked while Scott’s mom ran a boarding kennel. They learned about the long work days and the sacrifice it takes to run a small business, but also saw the benefits.
“You can’t leave the business as much. It’s been instilled in us,” she said. “Working together and that’s what grows your marriage too I find. Instead of having separate jobs, I find we can share things together and have plans to do it together.”
Scott has enjoyed his work days, which include going out before breakfast, and then returning to join his family for coffee before going out again to work. Since moving to the area, his family of Kate and two-year-old daughter Taylr Jane has seen the addition of a son, Hunter Paul.
“It’s nice. It’s not like I’m gone for eight to 10 hours a day, everyday,” he said.
With a background as an electrician and a project manager for 12 years, Scott said he’s transferred those skills to the new business, which include renovations and interpersonal relations.
After several months of ownership, the couple feel like they have transitioned to their new lives as business owners.
Owning an established business with a reputation among offroad enthusiasts for being the place to stay at when visiting the Highlands has been a bonus.
“As soon as we took over people have been booking non-stop. We’ve been very lucky in that sense. We’re not starting from scratch. It’s good to have a base [of customers],” said Kate-lynn.
Scott expects a busy summer. They’re nearly all booked for the May 24 long weekend, he said.
Long-time guests don’t need to worry about drastic changes, but the young business owners are intent on bringing the business in to the 21st century by establishing a way for online booking to be carried out by smart phone users for both major platforms, including working out how to provide followers with notifications related to the business.
“We want it so people can book it in instead of having to deal with us if we’re busy. We don’t need to be by the phone. It’s nice to provide that freedom to people,” said Kate-lynn.
Scott said he was set to welcome sledders to stay with them, even going so far as creating his own two kilometre snowmobile trail from their property to the B112 snowmobile trail, but provincial measures related to the pandemic disallowed any bookings for short-term stays. Currently, there are a few long-term renters on site, who have helped the business during the winter.
Although the recent provincial restrictions prevented bookings for January, one benefit was it provided more time to work on upgrades and repairs in the rented rooms, but also to caring for Hunter Paul, who has required greater care with his diagnosis of Hirschsprung’s disease, as reported last week by the Minden Times.
The couple credit friends and family with helping them through their challenges.
The new business owners are excited to contribute to the community however they can. They believe there is potential to draw new guests to their place during the winter when it is typically quieter by adding Nordic trails and maybe a skating track.
“We want to draw people from different areas too. Not just for offroading,” said Kate-lynn.
Her husband said the concept of an “adventure park” appeals to him. It would be part of an effort to make their business more of a family oriented place. This could include adding a play structure and possibly bringing the on-site swimming pool back to a state of operation, depending on costs.
Although it is not expected to open until May, the couple are very complimentary about Val’s Soul Food led by a mother and daughter team of Val Braithwaite and Layla Johnson, who had operated from a food truck in front of Ray’s Place starting this past autumn. From the Val’s Soul Food website, they describe soul food as a blend of “Southern, Caribbean, and Canadian, blends of dishes.”
Scott said Val’s was very popular and they both recommend the food. If permitted, he would love to convert his garage space into a kitchen so Val and Layla can have a bigger operation to work from, which could enable greater capacity, including offering room service to their guests.
In addition to taking on the challenge of running a business for the first time, Scott and Kate-lynn said moving from home was a difficult aspect of the process, but was made easier with where they were going and how they feel about it.
“It was hard to leave friends and family. That was our No. 1. It’s beautiful out here. It’s totally a different environment. We love it out here. We do love it,” said Kate-lynn.