All roads lead to June – Our House Magazine
What do you do when you’re tired of the 9-5 daily grind and want to strike out
on your own? For gal pals April Brown and Sarah Sklash, it was obvious – buy an
aging motel in the country and renovate it. If it sounds like a business plan
that could never work, these two Millennials would prove you wrong.
“We were looking for a creative outlet and thought about doing something
entrepreneurial for five years, but the timing was never right,” Brown told Our
House Magazine. Welcome to the June Motel.
Brown and Sklash, who worked in public and relations and the government of
Ontario in Toronto respectively, had frequently visited Prince Edward County. A
day’s drive from Toronto or Ottawa, the pair started noticing the area was
quickly becoming a food and wine destination. They’d been looking for a creative
outlet for years but the timing was never right.
But at the start of 2016, the friends decided it would be the year they make
some changes and venture out on their own. They brainstormed a bunch of ideas
until an old 16-room motel called the Sportsman Motel came up for sale.
“We should buy that motel, it’s one of those lightbulb moments,” Brown recalled.
However, the two 33 year-olds had no interest in running the same motel. They
had much bigger plans.
Having spent time south of the border in places like Florida and Palm Springs,
they fell in love with the retro-looking motels they came across in their
travels. This would be their inspiration.
“Really our idea was we wanted to reinvent the motel experience. We travelled to
so many places that had done this so well,” Brown said.
The pair went all-in on the concept.
After running the 50-year-old motel as the Sportsman for a season, they spent
the winter getting their hands dirty on a total remodel. As Sklash explained,
they started with a tropical palm wallpaper design they liked, and the rest of
the renovation took off from there.
The women designed the guest rooms themselves, but worked with interior designer
Keri MacLellan of Four Walls Interior on the lobby. After months of sweat
equity, the motel was completely remade and had a new name to fit the retro
vibe. The June Motel.
Sklash noted the idea was to design the motel for “photo moments,” from the pink
doors greeting guests as they drive up to the neon signs in the lobby.
“We wanted the whole design to be a place that people would want to share with
social media,” she said, adding 90 per cent of guests discovered the motel
And that bit of strategy paid off. As soon the June Motel opened its doors,
guests were sharing their experiences with the world. The motel got a ton of
buzz and attention from major publications like Vogue and the Toronto Star.
The first year as the June Motel was a smashing success. And as Brown and Sklash
get ready for their second full season, the motel is already booked full for
With one success under their belts, the entrepreneurs now have their sights on
expanding their brand. They’re looking for property and new opportunities.
“There’s such and appetite for unique accommodations within that millennial
market, we figure why stop at one?”
Motel inspired? Before taking the leap, be sure to talk to a professional
April Brown and Sarah Sklash struck gold when they decided to buy an old motel
and convert it into the June Motel in Ontario.
But the pair didn’t jump into the idea without coming up with a solid business
plan. Besides doing their market research, they had to consider financing.
Brown and Sklash explained along with a bit of their own capital, they decided
to do a vendor takeback mortgage, in which the seller finances the remaining
amount owed on the property. They turned to local economic development agencies
to help with the costs of the renovation. While the pair note buying a motel in
the country costs less than an average home in Toronto, they recommend doing the
research and coming up with a strong business plan.
That’s where Dominion Lending Centres Commercial can help out. David Beckingham,
the president of DLC Commercial Capital Inc., noted commercial mortgages aren’t
easy and can be a long process. He pointed out commercial brokers can help the
buyer through the process, including the appraisal, environmental issues,
accounting and presenting a deal to the lender they understand.
He suggested in a situation like the June Motel, DLC Commercial would offer new
financing at more favourable terms that would repay the vendor takeback mortgage
and provide new money to repay the equity the new owners have already put in.
“You need a commercial guy to look at it in a business way that can isolate and
stabilize the issues,” he said, adding it’s important to have a professional who
understands the market place and the nuances of the lenders.
Call Shoren Konstantin or text her directly at: 416-218-0512. You will be pleasantly surprised!