Article written by Denise Davy
There are a million and one reasons why Niagara-on-the-Lake is called the prettiest town in Canada. From the horse-drawn carriages to the beautiful gardens, art galleries and historic homes, it’s a destination that lives up to the compliment. Niagara-on-the-Lake is also home to the Shaw Festival, antique shops, boutiques, golf courses and wineries, so there’s plenty to see and do.
That’s precisely why David Jones chose the town as the location for his first hotel, The Victorian Villas Hotel and Spa. The 28 high-end villas located on the main street offer accommodations for people looking for something different, says general manager Corey Stirrett, who has worked at various inns in town for 12 years. When Stirrett was front office manager at The Queen’s Landing, he heard from customers repeatedly that they wished there was another style of place to stay. “There are a lot of great B&B’s and a lot of great motels here, but people were also looking for something more contemporary and more modern,” says Stirrett. “We knew people wanted a condo feel that was also luxurious for (those) who are into the finer things in life”.
Jones, a successful software entrepreneur originally from Niagara-on-the-Lake, paid his way through university by working at various inns and at The Shaw Festival. Because his work now requires him to travel extensively, he became knowledgeable about what works and doesn’t work at hotels and knew what he wanted in terms of comfort.
Jones applied that knowledge to the villas. Last June, they opened 17 villas on Queen Street, and now have a total of 28. They range from single bedrooms to three-bedroom suites that include a kitchen with granite countertops, and a dining/living room with a stone fireplace.
“We don’t have 150 rooms. We have 28, and that allows us to do it right,” says Stirrett. Since many clients admired the decor, they had spec sheets made up, including details on paint shades, the flooring and where the furniture was sourced from. The type of clientele ranges from those wanting weekend getaways (wedding guests and bachelorette parties), as well as vacationers with more time on their hands, like the family from Italy who stayed for two months.
The villa also has a spacious fitness centre and day spa. With Starbucks and Value Mart next door, clients can buy their own groceries and prepare meals in the suites that come with kitchens if they wish.
For those who prefer to eat out, the hotel has partnered with Treadwell Restaurant, owned by British-born chef Stephen Treadwell, who pioneered the Farm-to-Table Cuisine movement. The concept involves chefs working with local farmers and basing their menus on their seasonal produce, such as the local sheep’s milk which is used to make feta cheese, for example.
Stirrett says that with tourism thriving in the area, more people see Niagara-on-the-Lake as a place to come year round and not just in the warmer months. “People come in the off seasons because they enjoy the quiet in town. There’s still the ice wine festival and candlelight stroll and a lot of other festivals.” And now that it’s fall, you can enjoy the scenery on the drive there and back again – and you will want to go back, again and again.