Nfld. & Labrador·UNDECIDED

Small business, small town: Finding opportunity in rural N.L.

They're making a go of it out around the bay because they're determined to live in the places they love.
After 18 years in the city, Jennifer Sutton-Walsh, left, moved home to Bay de Verde to help her mother, Pauline Sutton, run a bed and breakfast. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Pauline Sutton was 50 and she needed a change.

She'd been working at the crab plant in Bay de Verde for 33 years — since she was a teenager. It was strenuous work that had her on her feet most of the day, and it was taking a toll on her health.

Still, she wasn't ready to retire. For her next act, Sutton looked out at her own yard and came up with an idea.

Jimmy's place. The neighbour's old house, which she and her husband bought some years ago. It wasn't in very good shape and had only been used to store fishing gear.

"I said to [my husband] one night, 'We're going to clean up Jimmy's house,'" she told CBC's election series, Undecided, "'and we're going to turn it into a bed and breakfast.'"

What does it take to start a new business? Watch the latest episode of Undecided:

That was in 2012. The Suttons started in on renovations and opened Jimmy's Place B & B the next summer. Since then, Sutton's daughter, Jennifer Sutton-Walsh, who lived in the St. John's area for 18 years, has moved home and the business continues to grow.

The mother-daughter duo are keen to collaborate with other small business owners, like Courtney and Terrence Howell, who own Grates Cove Studio, a short drive away,

Bay de Verde, above, and Grates Cove are along a stretch of highway called the Baccalieu Trail. (CBC)

The Howells serve Cajun fusion-style food at their school-house-turned-restaurant-and-studio. They also rent vacation homes and offer workshops in cooking and art.

When guests in Grates Cove want traditional fish and chips, the Howells send them to Jimmy's Place. When Sutton and Sutton-Walsh host a guest who wants a non-traditional meal, they send them to Grates Cove.

Taking a chance on tourism

All over Newfoundland and Labrador, small business owners with passion for their places are investing and attracting tourists to their corners and coves.

Bonavista. Burlington. Battle Harbour.

Courtney Howell prepares a meal at Grates Cove Studio, the business she owns with her husband, Terrence Howell. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Bay de Verde and Grates Cove are along a stretch of highway dubbed the Baccalieu Trail, which runs through Conception Bay and Trinity Bay, just a couple hours' drive from St. John's.

The Howells, the Suttons and others are working together to market their region as a must-do tourism experience.

It's just something that's in us.- Courtney Howell

It hasn't been easy to get to this point. Sutton said when she first dreamt up her plan, even friends and family were skeptical.

"They thought we were off our heads," she laughed.

With no background in business, it was a learning experience. Permits, permissions, bylaws and legislation were all new to her. She and Courtney Howell agree that it was hard to know who to turn to for advice when they were just starting out.

Courtney and Terrence Howell converted an old two-room school house into a restaurant and studio. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"Maybe it was out there and I didn't know," Howell said.

"But not everyone who's interested in business knows about that, especially if you're interested in small business."

Howell said she and her husband braced themselves for a tough couple of years in the beginning, and things are getting easier.

"It's just something that's in us," she said.

"It is such hard work but it is so rewarding."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Bailey White

CBC News

Bailey White is the producer of the St. John's Morning Show, on CBC Radio One.


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