Standing on the open, bare concrete of what will be the fourth floor of a new Holiday Inn Express, manager Sean Mackey adjusts his hardhat and looks out at the farmland and hilly ridges of the New Liskeard horizon.
“It’s going to be a really great view, and people staying here will know they’re in an upscale hotel,” says Mackey, who oversees operations for his family’s group of hotels in the area, including the next-door Quality Inn.
Construction of the $9-million project began in May in anticipation of opening the 69-room hotel in mid-December.
Once complete, the hotel will include a private pool and whirlpool, as well as a meeting room capable of accommodating 100 people and which can be split into two smaller rooms. This added space is emblematic of the hotel’s focus, as it will target the many business travelers passing through New Liskeard as part of a loop which stretches through North Bay and through to Timmins or Quebec.
Wandering through the jungle of concrete and steel that is the still-under-construction third floor, Mackey points to two of the spaces that will become business-oriented suites.
One space features an open meeting area at its entrance, with the bedroom to be built towards the back. This will allow travelling businesspeople to host clients on the road without worrying about “seeing their personal things all scattered all over the bed,” says Mackey.
Another nearby suite is destined to be more of a casual meeting space, with a sit-down bar, complete with stools.
With the additional accommodation spaces to be provided through the new Holiday Inn Express, Mackey says there may be some potential to build a larger convention space. At minimum, he expects the added room inventory will help draw in more events such as golf tournaments and other weekend happenings.
Despite the immediate proximity to the family’s Quality Inn and their Econolodge just down the road, Mackey says the niche focus on a more upscale offering will broaden the company’s share of the market, rather than narrow it.
He should know, as his family has thrived through three generations of hospitality in the region, beginning in 1971 with his grandparents’ construction of Breault’s Motor Hotel on the current site of the Quality Inn.
Through the years, this was handed down to Mackey’s parents, changing names to its current brand in 1998.
The family has since added other properties to its accommodations portfolio.
This includes the Waterfront Inn in New Liskeard, a popular motel just metres away from the shores of Lake Temiskaming, and built by the family in 1989. Also under the Mackey umbrella is Northern Shores, a small lodge-style motel space purchased in 2006.
This makes the new Holiday Inn Express the family’s fifth property in the area, something made possible by the relative stability of the area’s economy.
“There’s a lot of ups and downs in some of the local resource-dependent economies, but in Temiskaming Shores, we don’t tend to see that,” says Mackey. “It’s very, very stable and I think that’s what makes it a good place to invest since you know you’re not going to have that peak where when things get tough, they get really tough.”
This involvement in the family business wasn’t always in the cards for Mackey, however. After graduating with a four-year, marketing-focused business degree from Wilfred-Laurier University in Waterloo, he spent a year working for a downtown Toronto firm.
When his wife was presented with the opportunity to obtain employment in New Liskeard, Mackey leapt at the chance to return home, and joined the family team as operations manager.
As a true family business, Sean’s siblings have also since joined up. His brother, Ian, handles maintenance for the family’s various properties, while his sister Bryanne works as an accountant for the company.
“It was interesting growing up in a hotel-oriented family, because many of our conversations around the dinner table involved the hotel business,” says Mackey. “It didn’t come as a big surprise having to take over and manage the hotels, which was something discussed at the supper table and on weekends and all the time in our family.”
As part of a third generation of hospitality, there are some built-in advantages of taking some of the reins of a business with the prestige of a name built up over decades. However, it’s also something that carries no small amount of responsibility.
“There’s definitely a little bit of pressure to ensure that the family business does well,” says Mackey. “It’s not always easy, but there’s a lot of pride to be taken when you know that you’re working in a building that your grandparents established, and your parents expanded. There are two generations before me that did an absolutely amazing job.”