Hills, the new bike repair shop and accommodations on Berry Street in Meaford, has been an adventure in the fullest sense of the word for business partners Eric Baldwin and Pete Lilly.
When they took ownership of the former Hill’s Dairy building in December 2020, they had in mind a bike shop at street level and apartments above. Sometime between then and Hills’ grand opening on July 28, plans changed, partly due to changes in circumstances, partly in response to newfound opportunities and appreciation for Meaford, according to Eric.
“Initially, upon purchasing the building, I had in mind a multi-residential building with a small bike shop at the front where Paul Bishop would do mostly repairs and some rentals,” he explained. “Our working name became Hills Adventure Company. Talk about an adventure! I personally was on an adventure. I didn’t know where the venture was going or where it would lead me. I did know that I wanted to create a destination, a place of good vibes, a place that would be fun for both employees and guests.”
As Eric got to know Meaford better, he came to view Meaford as a special place that he describes as “a safe haven of old values, traditions, and culture, a place where people can come and be rejuvenated and their spirit uplifted.”
Today, Hills offers a bike repair service and rentals on the main floor and four Airbnb suites designed to accommodate a mix of clientele, be they couples, friends’ groups, families, cyclists, hikers, kayakers, skiers, gallery and concert goers, tourists who come to explore the area – adventurists of all kinds, according to Hills Accommodation Manager Kylie O’Donnell.
Hills has been receiving guests since the July long weekend. Bookings are done through Kylie on the Airbnb platform. Beginning in February, Kylie had the added task of choosing decor and purchasing furnishings and supplies for the four suites.
“We receive a mix of people,” she said. “It’s all about relaxing at the end of the day. I ask myself: What are the things I would want to come back to, things such as comfy furniture; lots of pillows; a kitchen fully stocked with the basics such as oil, spices, butter, coffee, tea; a fully equipped kitchen with every kitchen appliance you can imagine; neutral-coloured furniture; calming things – everything to take the stress away after being out all day.”
Hills has partnered with local businesses to provide its guests with a taste of Meaford. The suites showcase artwork from the Craig Gallery collection featuring area artists. Adventure tours are organized through Free Spirit Tours. Cleaning supplies and complimentary shampoos and soaps are products of Keep Refillery. Gift baskets include samples of what businesses such as Grandma Lambe’s, McGinty’s, Sheardown’s, and L’Apothicaire Boutique offer. “My approach to Airbnb is to bring in people to live like a local, to promote where we are,” Kylie said. “I want our guests to go out into the town as much as possible and to experience everything the area can provide.”
Accommodations and bike specific services are but the first phase of Hills business plan. In time, Eric envisions a concierge type of service. “I have travelled all over the world,” he said. “Wherever I travel, I always appreciate having someone local to break down the barriers, offer maps, and make recommendations.
“I would like a youth hostel feel to this place, a feeling of community, a safe place where guests spill out of their rooms and share stories about their adventures. We have purchased a 10-passenger bus and, if guests want to enjoy the spirits the area offers, we will responsibly get them there and back.”
The building housed Hill’s Dairy from the 1930s to the early 2000s. Descendants of owner Norman Reginald Hill are pleased with the way new owners Kylie, Mark Brown of AM Contracting, and designer Claire Reyes have honoured the Hill family legacy and preserved the building’s historical integrity. “My parents would be over the moon,” said Joanne Hill, who attended the grand opening with her siblings Janice Hill Lennox and Jeff Hill.
For more information, business hours, and services go to hillsmeaford.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.