Back to their roots

Community Featured

The unforgettable smell of the salt air and a picturesque downtown have lured an Ontario couple to town.

Chris Sereda and Stephanie Mann recently purchased the former Pictou Puffin Bed and Breakfast on Front Street. They spent the past few months renovating top to bottom — all three floors of the circa 1855 house — and have turned the stately abode into a boutique bed and breakfast they’ve renamed Heritage Quay Bed & Breakfast.

After living in Ontario for a number of years, the couple felt called back to their East Coast roots and hand selected Pictou as their new home.

“I grew up just outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Chris’ mom is from P.E.I. so he spent all of his summers there,” said Mann. “I’ve always been looking for a place to come back after I raised my family. This was really important to me. We wanted to get back to our roots and were looking for what a small town brings.”

They found it in Pictou.

They bought the former bed and breakfast sight-unseen, by doing nothing more than a virtual tour of the stately property.

“We looked at lots of towns and we hand picked this one because of the colours on the waterfront, that it was beside a baseball field and downtown was within walking distance. We chose it because it’s small and we can plug in and be a part of the family here.”

Purchasing a property that needed renovations in the middle of a worldwide health pandemic was not ideal, but the couple have been impressed with the talents they’ve encountered in tradespeople and the hospitality of the area.

It’s been a bit of a ‘welcome home’ feeling for the two former East Coasters.

Sereda chuckled, “When you get directions on the East Coast you’re not going to get an exit or a road, you’re going to get “the red house when you turn where the bridge makes noise…” We’re both familiar with that.”

They have spent the past few months getting involved in and plugging into the community here — and that’s not just because of their new business. It’s who they are.

“If we bought the house next door and just lived in it we’d still have the same community involvement,” said Sereda.

For Sereda, that involvement revolved largely around sports and for Mann, it’s her experience in detailed, task-oriented businesses that focus on creating experiences. Both backgrounds are perfect fits for their new adventure.

For the past 10 years in Ontario, Sereda worked with a program called the Toronto Mets Baseball Club. Its basic goal was to take high school aged kids, train them all year round, then they play on age specific teams in a league called the Canadian Premier Baseball League. This saw him travelling throughout Canada and the U.S. with the team and other coaches. This experience has armed him well for operating a B&B.

“We weren’t a hugely funded group from outside investors. So facility maintenance and all of that stuff that’s involved in taking care of a building and running a program will be applicable. And one of the biggest things I learned is that because my summers are spent on the road in hotels from place to place you get the feel ‘what are the things I remember?’ And the importance of good concierge service.” This will help them to create a memorable experience at the new B&B.

Mann has extensive skills in the event / experience planning field and is looking forward to bringing these skills to the B&B. She says they want to be more than an accommodation destination for guests. “We want to create entire experiences for them.”

The Heritage Quay Bed and Breakfast’s first public event is a series of afternoon Victorian teas, an opportunity for people to beat the winter blues amid the backdrop of their festively decorated B&B. “A Heritage Christmas” runs every Saturday and Sunday for the month of January with several seatings for small groups each day. Each tea includes a selection of homemade Victorian sandwiches, scones, preserves, sweets, tea, cider and more,

Within an hour of posting the notice to social media, Mann says the spots were already 25 per cent booked and now, days before the first event, it has completely sold out.

This support and hospitality is exactly what the couple was hoping for in coming back to the East Coast and opening a boutique accommodations destination where guests can experience what the couple is calling an “elevated East Coast experience.”

The couple feel like they’ve come “home.”

Now, they are enjoying life on the East Coast in their dream home that’s across the street from Sereda’s ‘field of dreams’ — baseball field — and where Mann is once again, just a stone’s throw away from the ocean she grew up loving.

Stephanie Mann and Chris Sereda with their greyhound Daisy are ready to offer East Coast hospitality at their Pictou bed and breakfast, Heritage Quay. (Jardine photo)