If you’ve visited the beautiful Bonavista Peninsula and surrounding areas, you might be familiar with Fishers’ Loft Inn. Located in the small community of Port Rexton in Trinity Bight, nestled among rolling green hills and surrounded by sweeping ocean vistas (and at the doorstep of the world-renowned Skerwink coastal hiking trail), the property exudes a fairytale-like quality. It’s easy to see why this cozy piece of paradise attracts visitors from near and far.
It all started in 1997, when John and Peggy Fisher (who met in Toronto in the late ‘70s while converting an 1852 courthouse into a theatre complex) added a four-room B&B onto an extension of their home. The couple, who were previously living in Ontario with their two young sons, purchased a summer home in Port Rexton in 1989; but it wasn’t long before the charm of the place won them over and they decided to become permanent residents.
From its humble beginnings, Fishers’ Loft today boasts 33 rooms and suites, as well as a kitchen and dining room, bar, library and state-of-the-art conference centre spread across six buildings reflecting the traditional architecture of Trinity Bay. On site is also a garden and greenhouse where the family grows fresh vegetables, which are transformed into delicious meals by their kitchen staff (Trinity Bight locals).
The Fishers took a leap of faith when they left their home on the mainland to start a new life in a tiny Newfoundland town that they knew next to nothing about. It’s a move that literally changed their lives and a quarter of a century later, it’s clear they’ve made their mark in their beloved coastal community.
The Fishers share their story in their new book Taking a Chance: The First 25 Years of Fishers’ Loft Inn (with Roger Pickavance, a cook and cookbook author who’s worked with the inn’s kitchen staff).
Published in April by Port Rexton Publishing Company (a division of Fishers’ Loft Inn Inc.), the 260-page hard cover book is a love letter to this place and those people who have made an impact in the Fishers’ lives and features beautiful colour photography; over 80 recipes from the inn, including handy techniques and tidbits; some of the lessons that the Fishers learned along the way; and profiles of family members, friends, neighbours and artists. (The foreword was written by Dame Judi Dench, who stayed at the inn while filming the 2001 movie The Shipping News.)
At Fishers’ Loft Inn, the arts are a vital ingredient in their recipe for success. It’s something that they embrace fully as entrepreneurs and individuals, detailing these efforts in a section of their book titled “The Inn’s Commitment to the Arts.”
“Fishers’ Loft Inn over the years has evolved into the archetype of a business that engages and supports the arts,” says John Fisher, who previously managed a professional theatre company in Toronto and “dabbled” in documentary filmmaking. (His wife Peggy has a degree in Art History and a background in art gallery and project management.)
Fisher says while he and his wife “are from a predominantly arts background and understand why the arts are important to the world,” they have also discovered that having a relationship with the arts also makes good business sense.
“The success of Fishers’ Loft Inn is hugely a consequence of what we do with, and for the arts,” he says.
It’s easy to see why the couple received ArtsNL’s Patron of the Arts award in 2013. Look all around Fishers’ Loft Inn and you’ll find paintings and photographs by local artists – much of which is for sale, with all of the proceeds going to the artists. The inn also hosts an annual artists’ exhibit at the inn’s conference centre, an artist-in-residence program, a reading series featuring local writers, and in-room libraries to promote and support the work of local writers and publishers (the books are also available for purchase at the inn’s book and craft shop). The furniture around the inn is also handcrafted by a local artisan, Mike Paterson.
In addition to embracing local arts on their walls and in their halls, Fishers’ Loft has been instrumental in building the local arts community in several important ways. In addition to helping fund and organize the start-up of Riddle Fence, the province’s literary journal, in 2008, they also secured a lawyer (pro bono) to incorporate the journal and secure charitable status, and recruited a board of directors. Fishers’ Loft also founded Business & Arts NL (with the help of a group of St. John’s business leaders) and initiated the organization’s public piano program, “about which we are especially delighted” Fisher says.
“We look to identify and support initiatives that don’t but should exist and others in their infancy.”
Fishers’ Loft also makes contributions to local arts organizations such as the Bonavista Biennale (as founding sponsor) and Perchance Theatre at Cupids (by helping stabilize and increase funding from the private sector). They have also sponsored events to support Opera On The Avalon and the Garrick Theatre in Bonavista.
The Fishers’ dedication to the arts rings through loud and clear in Taking a Chance.
“Selfishly, we really couldn’t see ourselves living without the arts and artists close to hand, and so we incorporated them at the heart of the Inn,” they write.
“Thank goodness we did — the success of our business owes much to this commitment.”
You can find “Taking a Chance: The First 25 Years of Fishers’ Loft Inn” at local bookstores.