Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by TINA HENNIGAR
Photo by Ian Selig
If you find yourself enjoying the homemade seafood chowder or the Cape LaHave chicken at The Old Fish Factory overlooking Lunenburg harbour, you might enjoy it even more knowing that your meal may have been created by a kitchen team who have one less stress this summer.
Housing in Lunenburg is tough, especially for seasonal workers who need accommodations in the busy UNESCO town during its busiest months. Restaurant owner Mike Mawhinney knew if he wanted to attract chefs he needed to create a way to offer them a solution to this problem.
“Last year we had four individuals coming, two from Ontario, one from the Bahamas and the other from Halifax. So that’s four people coming who are unable to find adequate housing,” Mike said, recalling the challenge before him. He decided to look for a house, purchase it and offer staff housing in the 4-bedroom split entry home he found. Mike managed to secure the funding and ensure that his housing alternative was allowed under the regulations of the town. He felt confident that what he was doing was the right thing to do. Still, what Mike did to help secure housing for members of his team came at great personal risk. As a year round resident he wasn’t sure how his idea would be met in the community.
“They’re representing their schools so they know to be respectful of the neighbours. Sure, they partied a bit, but they should. We want them to enjoy the summer, while at the same time, be mindful that they live in a residential neighbourhood,” Mike said after his first year being a landlord.
“They enjoyed where they worked. They enjoyed the accommodations. They fell in love with Nova Scotia and the whole way of life.” Mike explained that people working in the hospitality business work long, hard hours, and that it’s important for them to enjoy what we have in their limited leisure time. “I encourage them to enjoy our beaches, the food, the wine, and especially the people.”
Mike notes that two of the four are returning this summer to work at The Old Fish Factory. “We try to hire locally first, but when that doesn’t meet the demand, we have to look elsewhere. Gone are the days of putting an ad on social media. We’ve gone to certain culinary schools and pitched our property and sold them on coming to Lunenburg.”
Buying a staff house might not be possible for all small business owners, but the move to solve the housing burden for these seasonal workers has proven to give The Old Fish Factory a bit of a competitive advantage.
And even that can’t match the extraordinary Lunenburg view, the fun atmosphere where you work among friends, and in some cases, roommates.