Review by Beth Ryan Aitken
Every now and then, here at The Meaford Independent, we are sent a book from a local author to consider for review. Such is the case with Welcome to Holly Cottage by Norma Collis. She and husband David owned and operated the Holly Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Woodford. Her book is a collection of sweet and funny reminiscences of their 15 years as innkeepers, sharing her experiences and insights to running such a unique and personal business.
The Collises had often thought about running a B&B as a segue into retirement. For years, during their own travels, they would quiz owners of places where they stayed about the intricacies of running the business. After several attempts at finding the right property, they purchased a stone farmhouse in Woodford which checked all their boxes. As they renovated and set up their business, Norma and David began to learn about their new hamlet and surrounding area.
Holly Cottage Bed and Breakfast became a busy business. On came the “hikers and bikers, waifs and wanderers” to stay at their lovely spot while exploring the local charms. Being so close to the Bruce Trail, the Collises became well informed of the unique character and requirements of hiking. Other guests were newlyweds or wedding parties preparing for the big day, visitors from Europe or the U.S., or old friends on a getaway weekend. The Collises proved themselves to be flexible, adaptable, and friendly hosts, ready for just about anything at a moment’s notice.
One of my favourite chapters is titled ‘Midnight Maneuvers’. Here Norma tells of the time soldiers from the 4th CDTD base nearby asked to “hide” two light armoured vehicles and 16 people in their yard for the night, while they conducted training exercises. She and David slept well that night, knowing their property was heavily guarded!
Norma makes it very clear that running a B&B is a lot of work, full time work for two people plus occasional helpers. The guests can be very demanding and the extra costs can add up very quickly. The hours are long and time off is elusive. However, both the author and her husband really enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and share their life with them. After 15 years, she says their knees and energy levels have had enough and it was time to move on, full of happy memories.
Welcome to Holly Cottage is available at the Meaford and Owen Sound libraries as well as for sale at Meaford Museum. If you are someone who has had an interest in this business or perhaps even visited Holly Cottage, you will definitely enjoy this light read.