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Digby Pines becoming year-round destination with renovations

The Digby Pines, which opened 115 years ago, will undergo extensive renovations starting this fall to convert it into a year-round property.
The Digby Pines, which opened 115 years ago, will undergo extensive renovations starting this fall to convert it into a year-round property. - SaltWire Network

When the last of this season’s guests check out of the Digby Pines resort next month, the construction crews will move in.

The Pines normally shuts its doors on Thanksgiving, but between this fall and next spring, a multimillion-dollar renovation will make it a year-round property.

“This year we will close pretty much as usual; the one difference is we’ve decided the main hotel will close Thanksgiving weekend but we’re going to keep our cottages open through the month of October,” said general manager Paul Stackhouse, who took over in June.

“We’ve got a sense that there’s still some pent-up demand out there, particularly for golf, so the golf course will remain open until the end of October, as well.”

Stackhouse said the Pines can provide a holiday destination in the winter that he thinks will attract people. Being open all winter also allows for conference business, and the opportunity to work with the local arena and curling club when they host events.

“When the new owners were looking at buying the property, they saw the potential and the opportunity for this property to be open on a year-round basis,” he said.

“When you look at similar products out there, they’ve done fairly well in winter.”

The Pines, which opened in 1905 and displays several photos from when Babe Ruth stayed there, changed hands most recently in December.

Guests who stayed there this summer experienced restrictions at the pool and spa and in the dining room due to COVID, but Stackhouse said, all things considered, it was a pretty good season.

The Fundy Rose ferry, docked in Digby last month. - Bill Spurr
The Fundy Rose ferry, docked in Digby last month. - Bill Spurr

 

“And we think that’s largely due to two things: the resort product, remote resort product, I guess, and the fact we have 31 cottages that appeal to the market that was out there looking to travel,” he said.

“The other aspect that was relevant is the golf course. The Pines has always been fairly popular, but even more so this year. From everything we were hearing, the courses in and around metro were just overflowing, so that demand was forcing people to look outside metro.”

A normal contingent of employees in the summer would number about 120, but employment peaked at approximately 80 this year between the golf course and the hotel, due to restrictions on the food and beverage operations with the disappearance of wedding bookings and other group catering events.

“We were fortunate to staff up pretty much all locally. We do have staff residences so we had a dozen people in staff residence, but normally there would be 30 people in staff residence,” said Stackhouse, adding that things improved when the Atlantic bubble was put in place.

“We’ve got a history with Bay Ferries and the Fundy Rose, of getting a lot of travel from New Brunswick coming here for spa getaways and golf getaways. As soon as the bubble was expanded that kicked in pretty quickly for us.”

Both the main hotel building and the cottages will be winterized with the addition of insulation and individual heating and air conditioning units.

“It still has original windows that are single pane. So, we don’t have a full scope yet of what will have to be done but our expectation is that they’ll have to put an insulating skin on the exterior of the building, replace the windows, and then put in new heat pumps,” said Stackhouse, who hopes to keep on a few of his employees over the winter.

“There would be some projects that we would undertake ourselves, that would be outside the scope of the winterization. The building doesn’t have much heat so it’s hard to get much done inside.”

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