It wasn't uncommon to meet fellow Northerners in the lobby, or share a taxi to the airport, the way it's done in Iqaluit. 

For decades, Ottawa's Southway Inn has been a popular spot for Nunavummiut visiting Ottawa. Now, the popular hotel is getting ready to close its doors, so it can reopen as a retirement residence. 

Peter and Theresia Zlepnig opened the doors on the Southway in 1958. It was then a small, seven-unit motel at the corner of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road. They've kept the business in the family for 40 years. 

"I believe it's in our family value to provide hospitality and service," said the couple's grandson, Fred Zlepnig, who now runs the business with his brother Stephen and son Adam. 

Peter Zlepnig and Fred Zlepnig break ground on the Southway Inn

In 1958, Peter Zlepnig (left) and his grandson, Fred Zlepnig broke ground on the Southway Inn at the corner of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road in Ottawa. Now Fred Zlepnig is helping to transform the Southway into the Waterford Retirement Residence. (Submitted by the Southway Inn)

Over the years, the Southway has grown, ballooning to a 170-room hotel with a restaurant, but the goal of the business has stayed the same: "Providing a service to people and making them happy."

It all started at a trade show

One short plane-ride away, the nation's capital is a common destination for Nunavummiut and others living in the Baffin region, and the Southway's proximity to the airport, and a shopping mall, has made it a popular spot.

But it wasn't always that way.

Fred Zlepnig says it all started with a visit to a trade show in Iqaluit, 25 years ago, when the family sold its vision of a "home away from home" to a Northern audience. 

Since then the Zlepnigs have felt a close connection to the territory. 

Starting in January, Nunavummiut will need to find a different place to hang their hat when they're shopping for their next sealift or visiting some southern relatives. 

That's when the Zlepnigs plan to change the hotel into the Waterford Retirement Residence.

"The idea came about in casual conversation," said Zlepnig. "Wouldn't Southway make a great retirement home?" 

Over time, that idea took shape and now the Zlepnigs are excited to complete the transformation on the building they practically grew up in.

"It's a business that we also thoroughly enjoy."

Do you have memory of the Southway Inn that you want to share? Contact CBC Nunavut on our Talkback line at 1 (888) 896-3135.