Story and photo by DAVID SORCHER
We met with Ronnie Hatt as he was working to complete a summer cottage on Ponhook Lake for a German client. He is getting more and more work from people who are either moving here permanently or looking to own a cottage they can rent out when they aren’t vacationing here themselves. “One of the big things is that the money is here”, he says. “People are coming from away seeking a lifestyle change.”
Ronnie is no stranger to South Shore living. He was born and raised here and his family has deep roots in the area. Still, he moved to Halifax in 1999 to ply his trade there as a carpenter. He married Nicole Knickle-Hatt in 2003 and they remained in Halifax for a few more years, but when their first-born was on the way they, knew it was time to return to Lunenburg County. “We wanted to be closer to the family for the kids and live in a less hectic environment”, he says. They moved to Bridgewater and now have three children, ages 5, 9 and 11. It just seemed a common sense move for a couple planning a family that they live closer to relatives and better recreational opportunities.
“You don’t have to leave early in the morning for the beach or fight the traffic to get there. We are less than a half hour to the ocean or a lake. And if you want to go to the city it’s just an hour and a half away.” We also spoke about the strong sense of community to be found here, citing the recent battle to save the Petite Rivière Elementary School by locals determined to assure good, accessible education for their children. “People stand by their communities around here. They are going to fight every day to save that school.”
Ronnie founded Ronnic Complete Builders when he moved back in 2008 and began re-establishing himself as a tradesman in Lunenburg County. Interestingly enough, much of his work is still being contracted out from people he worked for in Halifax. Now they are building more homes and cottages for people on
the South Shore. “This level of work did not really exist out here a decade ago”,
Ronnie is a Certified Red Seal Journeyman Carpenter, a particular point of pride for him. He points out that there are so many uncertified handymen doing carpentry that you can never be sure of the quality of work you will receive. Carpentry is one of the few trades that don’t require certification, but Ronnie pushes all his employees to go for an apprenticeship. Currently he would like to find at least two more qualified employees to join his crew.
“Right now I am turning down work because I just don’t have enough reliable manpower to fill all the requests.” Ultimately Ronnie would love to see the trades make a strong return to the region. By offering apprenticeships to qualified candidates he may be able to help someone make the same transition to the Lunenburg lifestyle.