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Major facelift for Fort Frances hotel

Bryce Campbell wants the Copper River Inn & Conference Centre to be the preferred place for meetings and conventions in the Rainy River district of northwestern Ontario.
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Bryce Campbell wants the Copper River Inn & Conference Centre to be the preferred place for meetings and conventions in the Rainy River district of northwestern Ontario.

“Without a doubt that’s our goal,” said Campbell, who acquired the former Adventure Inn in Fort Frances in February 2014. “When somebody comes to Fort Frances, we want to be the first place they think of.”

Located on Stewart Street, just off Highway 11 and close to the town’s restaurant strip, Campbell co-owns the 70-room property with his mother, Sheila.

In a year’s time, he estimates they’ve poured $3 million into extensive renovations throughout the building.

It’s their third hotel property, which includes the 18-room Walla Walla Inn, located in the nearby village of Rainy River.

The native of Reston, Man. happened upon the property while conducting a search for new opportunities.

“We always came to Fort Frances when we looking after the other hotel and really liked the area,” said Campbell. “We’d always drive by this one and kind of thought it had potential.”

He discovered that the owner wanted to retire and was looking for a successor.

“It was in rough shape and needed quite a bit of work,” said Campbell, “lots of delayed maintenance and a very dated
property.”

The first order of business was a complete update of guest rooms on the west side with new bathroom tiles, sinks and fixtures, beds, furniture, lighting and soundproofing.

The theme of the renovations is a tribute to northwestern Ontario, said Campbell.

“We really like the outdoors so tried to bring the outdoors in. All the rooms are defined after that.”

Guest rooms feature pine-looking floors and pictures of the Northern Lights adorn the earth tone walls.

Public areas have natural stone tile, reflecting the Canadian Shield, the walls are lined with decorative birch logs. The revamped dining room is highlighted with moose antler chandeliers and stone fireplaces.

“We went rustic, but chic so we can have a modern feeling.”

Under new ownership, room price points are slightly elevated, ranging between $119 and $149, but Campbell believes travellers will see good value. Once renovations to the east side are finished, more upscale rooms will be in the $169 range.

Improvements to the indoor pool and spa will be complete by mid-summer.

The hotel contains two restaurants and a lounge including the Bistro North dining room and the Aurora Bar & Grill. A hand-made 6,000-pound pizza oven was imported from California.

Campbell was awaiting word on his application for a franchise for his café area.

The Copper Inn contains 5,000 square feet of meeting space, divided into three rooms, including its 4,200-square foot ballroom, capable of accommodating 300.

Most of their bookings are corporate events with 70 per cent related to Aboriginal business.

“It’s been good event space for outside groups from Ottawa and Toronto to meet with First Nations.”

To improve the curb appeal, the building will receive an exterior facelift with new stone and siding that reflects the Voyageur history in their logo.

The investment and effort Campbell put into the property was recognized by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce in March, who recognized him as their Entrepreneur of the Year.

“It was kind of surprise, I didn’t expect something that soon. But it’s great to feel part of the community that way.”



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