History of the building
The building that has become Brookside was a grocery store for between 100 and 150 years. It was Baird’s Red & White for many years, and local folks remember its history from long before that when it was a single two-story house, to when a small building was dragged over and added on the west side, to when another single-story portion was added on the back, and finally when a large single-story area was added to the east.
We, Tom & Jill Schultz, bought the property early in the summer of 2013 to relieve the previous owners of a heavy burden and to have a say in what happened to this property just across the road from our residence.
In early 2013 it became ours, but the immediate question was what to do with it. Keeping it a grocery was out since it had failed at least three times in the last decade. Most other retail options were also rejected because of the relatively little traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway–especially in the off-season. With about 2500 sq feet, subdividing into suites seemed a good option. We could partition anywhere from two apartments (with garages) to eight (single bedroom) rooms. In the end four suites seemed a good number since three suites could be 2-bedroom, ground-floor units, each with a kitchen and single bath, and the second floor could be the same with a single bedroom.
Should the suites be rented unfurnished, as by-the-month apartments? Checking with others who rent houses and apartments in the area yielded an overwhelming NO! There would be headaches due to occasional bad tenants, accentuated by the daily commute cost to most jobs (Charlottetown is about an hour’s drive) which would make the economic pressure too much on tenants in delicate financial situations. Possible rental rates might be $400/month.
The overwhelming advice was to focus on Summer rentals to tourists where a family on vacation could come and set up a base of operations to tour the Island with an emphasis on the South-East end which is rich in lighthouses and free beaches. A fine public-access beach is less than a mile away, and the property has a good-flowing, spring-fed stream. The mandatory buffer-zone takes up about half the property. A trail and a two bridges make the stream quite accessible.
In addition to the Points East attractions nearby, the Anne of Green Gables attractions are only a 1 1/2 hours drive. While daily commuting that far might be too expensive, day-trips on vacation should be easy, and fixing most meals at ‘home’ would save on costs. Comparable weekly cottage rents are about $1000, so Summer-only rental could return more than year-round use.
The conversion of the former grocery store to individual suites has taken 3 1/2 years, with most of the work being done by myself. I, Tom, have acquired general handyman skills from numerous house-remodellings over our almost 50 years of marriage. My wife, Jill, helped as she was able. Being retired, we had more time than money, so doing as much as possible ourselves was attractive. Here is a rough outline of what we have done:
The first year involved establishing an overall plan, beginning outside work, and stripping the inside wall and floor coverings. The highway department was quite happy to eliminate the dangerous front drive-by and provide culverts to new parking areas on both sides. Drivers now enter at right angles and can see both ways before they pull out.
Much work went into removing wallboard, laminate flooring, and interior walls, salvaging as much material as possible for our re-use including patio doors and windows. (The laminate salvage was not very sucessful). Tearing off interior walls was a bit like archaeology as we found old wallpaper patterns, evidence of old stairwells, And even a window, complete with glass, that had been just covered over on both sides as changes were made!
New openings were cut for the doors and windows that lined up with the planned separate suites and then both re-used and new doors and windows were installed. Once they were in place, the new and re-used vinyl siding went on.
Major utility changes involved replacing the hot-air furnace with a water boiler to provide separately zoned heating to each suite. In addition the entire sewage system had to be replaced, both because the previous system had been malfunctioning for years and also because of the higher anticipated load with 4 suites. With very poor soil and not much land area, a new Advantec system was used. It post-processes the effluent, reducing the necessary area of the septic field. Even so, four feet of ‘category 1’ soil had to be trucked in, making a noticeable raised plateau to the west of the parking area.
Flooring went down and interior wall studding went up. Under the umbrellas of a licensed plumbing contractor and a licensed electrical contractor the all-new plumbing and wiring went in and were approved.
Drywall and ‘mudding’ was done in suites 3 and 4 first . Trim went up and kitchen and bath counters and fixtures were installed. Over the Spring of 2016 suite 4 was furnished and inspected by tourism and licensed. By mid-Summer suite 3 was finished and licensed.
The decks and handicapped walkways were finished.
The bridges for the stream-crossing handicapped accessible trail were finished.
The gutters, fascia and soffit trim was finished. Work on suite 2 went on in the spring of 2017 and it is finished. Use of airbnb has proven successful and making the suites available for as little as one night has improved occupancy.
Wild rose bushes were put across the front to give a sense of separation from the highway. The office/utility area was set up and linen storage and a washer and dryer were set up for housekeeping. The back part of the trail was graded and seeded and benches were acquired. Over the winter Suite 1 was (is being) finished. It is hoped to find ways to market to folks looking for accessible rentals.