By Grace Oborne
John and Holly McDonald, previous owners of Lakeview Motel give thanks to the Haliburton community as they prepare to retire.
After 19 years of owning and operating the motel, the McDonalds have made countless memories. Though the couple look forward to retirement, they feel it’s hard to let go of something they’ve put sweat and tears into rebuilding over the years.
“We rebuilt a rundown place to what it is now over the years, and it’s been lot of fun, but now it is time,” Holly said.
There were five owners before John and Holly took it over in 2002. Since then, the couple have devoted their time into making the motel better for the people of Haliburton. “We added fridges and microwaves to the rooms, we added coffee makers, new TVs, and the pot tops,” said Holly.
“We also converted the garage to a rental facility with a full kitchen capability in it. This whole property can run on its own, in terms, of electrical power. If we lose power off the highway, the generator starts up and everything’s back up and running. Including the hot tubs if people are using them,” added John.
To go above and beyond, the couple also maintained their landscape and created a snowmobile trail for the community.
After a year of trying to sell the motel, the McDonalds received an offer from a family that they couldn’t turn down.
“The opportunity opened up to this family, and they’re very nice. If I had my choices as to who’d be running the motel, I would choose these people again and again,” said John.
While not actively involved in running the motel anymore, the McDonalds will make themselves available in other ways to help the new owners settle into their new role.
Since announcing their retirement, concern has spread across the community about potential changes that could be made under new ownership. John and Holly received many questions about whether or not Lakeview was going to remain a motel.
“Many didn’t like the possibility that it was going to be a low-income housing development [had a sale gone through to Places 4 People]. Now that someone else bought the motel, we’ve made certain that it is going to be run as a motel,” said John.
The McDonalds look back on their relationship with Haliburton County and recount only fond memories.
“We were fortunate to earn the respect of the community. Anybody that was looking for a place to stay, would come to us and would recommend us. That made us feel good. We want to say thank you to Haliburton Highlands. We like Haliburton so much that we’re not leaving. Hopefully that says something.”
As a family, Harsha Manani, Hansa Chotalia, Manmit Shrimali, Bharti Shrimali, and Jagdish Shrimali are thrilled to be the new owners of Lakeview Motel. They purchased the motel because of its location.
“We like the life of Haliburton a lot. The things around here, the people around here. I think the people of Haliburton were our biggest deciding factor because we are going to work with the families over here. We also think that what Haliburton offers, is very unique. It has so many things that are very special,” said Manmit.
“We come from a small town back home in England, so we understand the importance of living in a small, unique village or a town where everybody knows one another. This was one of the attributes that we liked about Haliburton for ourselves. We are a family and we want to become a part of the Haliburton Highlands family,” said sisters, Harsha and Hansa.
The family also respect John and Holly as owners, and like the way they maintained the motel.
“The previous owners really care for their customers, and we found this within the motel. When we met John and Holly, we felt like these were the people who we wanted to really engage with. It’s like buying the house, sometimes you just get a feeling,” expressed Manmit.
Though the new owners want to keep most of Holly and John’s work the same, there are many new ideas that they want to incorporate into the motel.
“We hope to have events here for sure. To bring in the residents of Haliburton into our motel. There are other different types of events we’d like to do, and if anyone within the community would like to hold the events, we can certainly do that as well,” said Harsha.
“We’re thinking about building a treehouse or something really unique for the kids as well. We also want to create experiences that people have not seen before and will come to Haliburton just for that. Muskoka is very well known, but there is a lot in Haliburton, and we want people to see that,” said Manmit.
We want to create community experiences where local people can come here. We want to start some yoga or meditation classes. Something that allows the local people to also access some of the amenities, as well as create some unique experience for tourists,” he added.
As a family, the new owners want to give back to Haliburton because it is their home now. They want to get involved in the community and meet as many people as possible.
On top of wanting to create a relationship with the Haliburton community, their relationship with the McDonalds is family-like.
“We would not have been where we are today without them. They’ve been a godsend for us that helped us in every step of the way, they’ve gone above and beyond what we expected,” said Hansa.
“This is their second home. That’s how we’ve placed it in their minds, and they know, the door is always open whenever they would like to come here. The door is open because we’re family. The door is never closed when it is family,” added Harsha.
With excitement, they embark on their new adventure as owners of Lakeview Motel, and look to the community for support.
“We are still learning the ropes, so we are always willing to get more feedback. If anybody has some ideas to make this place even better, we are always happy to hear them. We aim to make the motel one of the best places to stay. John and Holly have done a great job and we want to take that even further while also contributing to the local and regional economy,” concluded Manmit.