Screaming Eagles Ventures, the company formed a couple of years ago to look after the golf course, is focusing their efforts for 2017.
Just over a year ago, the company took over management of Trend Mountain Hotel, but, according to co-owner Wendy Trueit, they were spreading themselves too thin by looking after the Golf Course, the Western Steakhouse and the Trend Mountain Hotel, so they have handed over the hotel to a new manager, and have focused their energies on the Steakhouse. “We started out managing both ends, the hotel and the steakhouse,” says Trueit. “We’ve had an amazing year. Terry [Vandenbosch, the other co-owner] has worked hard at promoting the hotel, which is one of the big factors for the hotel doing so much better. But we’ve been spread a little thin managing the golf course as well, so we’ve decided to take a step back and tender our resignation from hotel management.”
Instead of managing the Steakhouse, the company will be leasing the space, which, says Trueit, will allow them to work on upping their Steakhouse game. “We’re looking to bring the Steakhouse theme back: more steaks, bigger menu, better selection and a focus on service and quality.”
During the week, the Steakhouse will be open from 5pm and open on Saturdays and Sundays for breakfast, which they started a few weeks ago. “We’re here for the breakfast crowd because all this month there is hockey tournaments in town, and to establish that, it’s better to just open the doors and keep them open. We’re going to start out strong and hopefully there’s the need for that.”
Trueit says while the business is hoping to capitalize on their proximity to the Trend Mountain Hotel for bringing in tourists and other visitors, they also want to do what they can to spread the love around. “We’ve hired all locals,” she says. “When we came on board, all the food came from Sysco and Wrights. Now we have an active account at Shop Easy, and we’re spending a little bit more in town every day. I wish I could with everything here, but some things just aren’t available.”
With Trueit and Vandenbosch taking over the Steakhouse, that left a space for a new manager at the hotel. Before Screaming Eagles, the hotel had seen a spate of temporary and short term managers, but found some stability when Screaming Eagles took over managing the property.
Instead of bringing in someone from out of town, Trend Mountain has hired from within, and, starting earlier this year, the hotel is being run by Jessi Hurley, a local who has been working almost since it opened. “Jess has been an integral part of the management here for seven, almost eight years,” says Vandenbosch. “She’s gone through a few managers in her time here, and we recommended to the owners that she’s quite capable of taking over, and we look forward to working with her.”
That local understanding, says Trueit, is one of the things that made Screaming Eagles’ time at the hotel so successful. “Terry and Jess know the people from out of town,” says Trueit. “As soon as someone walks in from out of town, they would approach them and talk to them. Find out why they are here. Before, the interim managers didn’t know a local from a tourist. That’s one of the biggest factors in why we’ve seen such a change.”
And the hotel is doing much better than it was a few years ago. “Things are looking up,” says Vandenbosch. “There’s more traffic coming into town. We’ve noticed quite a large increase in revenue. You can attribute that not only to the new mine opening, which is an asset for us and once it expands into Wolverine, we’re going to see an even bigger influx. But we’ve also had a lot of the snow this year, which has increased revenue from snowmobilers coming from out of town. There’s also been a lot of tourists. People from outside of town are showing up and booking.”
Hurley says last year business went up by nearly 50 percent, and about half the people who showed up were tourists. “When we got the Geopark, that made a big difference,” she says. “We’d get a lot of people who’d come in for a few days, and they still wanted to see more trails, so they’d stay an extra day or two.”
Still, the hotel is nowhere near the heady days of a few years ago, during the construction of the Wind Project. Vandenbosch says that the hotel needs people staying there to make is sustainable. “Since the mines closed, it’s been very difficult,” he says. “In the future, we’d like to see more mines open up. Get back to where we were four years ago, five years ago. That brings suppliers in, contractors in, it brings all these streams of revenue.”
And what’s good for the hotel is good for the town. “That’s needed to encourage people to start small businesses. A lot of people have a lot of great ideas, but once you look at the cost of renting, staffing and gas and hydro and all that, there isn’t a lot left over for yourself. Because if the revenue just isn’t there, it’s not feasible. In order to make small businesses come to Tumbler Ridge, they need to be supported by the locals. When people come to town and stay at the hotel and eat at the steakhouse, they may also go to the dollar store to buy a few things, or pick up some sporting goods from Ace Hardware. The more people who come here, the bigger the slice of pie for everyone.”
Screaming Eagles got its start looking after the golf course. Recently, the town decided it wanted to put managing the course out for an RFP, rather than renew their contract with Screaming Eagles for a third year. Vandenbosch says they’re still interested in looking after the golf course.