Hello from The New Baldwins

Orwell wrote that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

We believe that every hospitality business is unique but we feel we’re more unique than others and we’ll tell you why.

Norm, Rhona and Jessica Singer have been the owners of the New Baldwins Resort since the spring of 2017. Norm is an engineer who juggles finances, maintenance, golf, senior softball, reading the bridge column and bimonthly poker. Norm would brand us as a family resort-a smaller version of the Catskills where he grew up. We’re beside a public golf course, across from Lake Rosseau with a public beach and have a heated indoor pool. Other sports are conveniently nearby. His acronym for the venture is CIAO: challenge, investment, adventure and opportunity.

Rhona has a doctorate in exceptional education, is a portrait painter, laughter yoga instructor and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. Her vision for the resort is a Skill Skool, a learning retreat -paint a picture, write a book, compose with one of our many instruments, all surrounded by great landscaping, paintings, and branch and twig animal sculptures.

 Jessica, their daughter, lives on a farm in Georgia and has been instrumental in setting up our administrative and financial procedures. She has been a casting director and is into sustainable living. Her vision is a pet-friendly chill-out relaxed elegant place. Her billiards table is enjoyed every day.

 We all have the same priorities: a cheerful, caring, attentive staff, excellent food, updated clean accommodation and a great night’s sleep. Every staff member is a star-from Michael our amazing Chef, to Chris, our creative super Super, who can fix anything, to Amanda, another outstanding juggler who gracefully cleans, serves and takes reservations, to Laura, our Manager whose calm competence holds us together. and has the talent of a gifted artist. 

 What about our volunteers? They are a remarkable group of adventurers from all over the world-Germany, Japan, Belgium, France, Peru and Australia who have come to us for a working vacation and an opportunity to develop English language skills  and enjoy the intoxicating beauty and nature of Muskoka. They have exceeded all expectations. And what about Shane our knowledgeable blogging tutor, guiding us through the murky waters of the internet?

That’s why we think the New Baldwins Resort is unique. Visit us on line and in person and see if you agree. We’ll be open throughout the year.

 

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The Story of: The New Baldwins 

 

It started in the oncologist’s office last November:

”Well Mr. Singer, you’re 84. You look great. Keep doing what you’re doing. We can keep you going at least another 10 years.”

We left the office and spoke again and again about what’s important. Health, love and feeling productive. We didn’t want to sit and watch the clock ticking for the next 10 years.

Our daughter Jessica lives alone on a farm in Georgia, an hour from Atlanta. She had outgrown her job and was looking at new possibilities. At first we thought of getting a “little” business for her to run so we could see her more frequently in the summer where we stay at our little cottage in Muskoka. We see our son and his family every week We were ready to sell our Guest House in downtown Toronto which my husband Norman had managed for 21 years.

We received an email from an excellent realtor in Muskoka, cottage country about 2 hours north of Toronto, describing three properties. One caught our eye. We drove up the next day and made an offer which was accepted. It was called Baldwins Resort, a sorely neglected 5+ acres overlooking Lake Rosseau. It’s in the middle of a triangle of cute cottage towns, Port Carling, Bracebridge and Huntsville. There is a large lodge with 14 bedrooms, a huge dining room seating 65, with 8 other cottage/buildings, an indoor pool, sauna and hot tub. In total there are 39 bedrooms and the property borders on the 18th hole of an exclusive golf course. Hurray for Norman. I thought it would be a perfect retreat, a place to write, paint, teach ESL, painting, memoir writing and run a bed and breakfast.

We thought it would be an easy straight forward closing and thought our Guest House was sold. It wasn’t. So the hunt went on for bridge financing in order to get possession of the resort at the end of March. We sold our winter home in California. We had 8 offers on the Guest House which all fell through because it was hard to get money for a commercial property. Finally it sold after we had taken possession of the resort.

Then reality. Norm grew up in the Catskills. He and Jessica wanted to revitalize the property and have a real full-functioning resort. In early April, after Norm’s brother Ted’s wedding (first marriage at 70-just beautiful!) we, Norm, Jessica and I drove to Muskoka. We had inspection reports which would frighten the bravest. The 3 of us and 3 dogs (two the size of Shetland ponies) were snuggled into a small 2 bedroom 2 bath cabin about half the size of our place in California. We had electric heat and water but Muskoka was freezing. We hit the ground running as we had ordered 2 furnaces and air conditioners for the 3,000 square foot main floor of the lodge beside us (8,000 sq. ft in the building). 

Nine of us enjoyed Passover up there but the only water was from a hose outside our cottage. The rest of the family were all in the only other functioning rooms which were above the pool. In the commercial kitchen, I was able to make a big pot of chicken soup with water from the hose!) and cook the briskets in a slow cooker. The gas ovens worked well and we had a great time. 

Then the real fun began…We knew in the first months that the property would be a money pit. The gas company said we needed new gas lines for the kitchen and laundry.

We divided our time between the resort and Toronto. Each week we leave Toronto on Monday afternoon as Norm’s senior softball games are Tuesday and Thursday mornings and we return up north after the game. Norm is the eldest of the Toronto league, plays first base.

Norm is an engineer who oversees the maintenance of the property and takes care of the finances. Jessica runs the office and I hire and fire (hate that), and act as the purchasing agent (love that) and am also the gardener.

We have a lovely full time housekeeper, Laura, now the operations manager. “Don’t you have to tell her what to do?” Norm asked me the first week. “Tell her?” I replied. “She’ll tell me!” And she has. We ordered 19 new beds, all new bedding-mattress pads, pillows, linens, towels, duvets and toiletries. I bought lovely throw pillows and matching comforters serving as bed runners/ extra blankets. We also have a new large commercial dryer.

Our live-in chef Michael has owned his own restaurant. To make a long story shorter, he’s opening a restaurant here. Our dining room can seat 65 and we have a large patio. He cooks all our meals, Now that is an experience. His apple fritters are outstanding. My pants are too tight! All my clothes have shrunk! We passed health inspection and received our liquor license.

We have 2 live-in kitchen/housekeeping helpers. We also have a student from Germany who is on a week by week exchange program WWOOF. We received another helper from Japan who was with us for a month and two others start this week. Live-in staff are on the third floor of the lodge.

There are two full-time maintenance men who have greatly enhanced the property. We have a tractor, tiller, golf cart and incredible machinery and tools.

The two ponds have a couple of families of ducks. The lily pads are beautiful and I have hanging baskets of flowers everywhere. We hope to bring fish back to the ponds.

Jessica’s pool table was moved from our old cottage rec hall and we got a ping pong table. The pool is open and the volleyball/badminton shuffleboard courts are ready.

I am now the recipient of the Peter Principle Prize. I have risen to the level of my incompetence. I have spoken to the gas company regarding filling the propane tanks on 5 sites, did all the interviewing, checking references and hiring, and arranged for the floor to be sanded in the lodge- Norm said it was unnecessary but it looks great. I bought the furniture for the library (great buy) and lounge (overpaid) and arranged for 2 moves from California and our cottage. I’m really enjoying the landscaping. Our greenhouse is up and ready to grow our organic vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.

Jessica and Norman are working beautifully together. Last week she moved into one of the little cottages-there are 8 buildings for guests. She loves Muskoka.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to see the oncologist again for Norm's biannual visit. He had lost some weight. For the next hour, sitting in that waiting room, I was trying to calm my shaking hands and prepare myself for the “Get your affairs in order speech.”The resident looked at the file. He spoke before the primary care physician came in."Mr. Singer, are you receiving any treatment?”

“No.” 

"Well your numbers have gone down.”  

“Do you have the right file?”

“Yes.”

NUMBERS HAVE GONE DOWN!! For the past 8 of the 13 years, the numbers have steadily risen.

I said we bought the resort for Jessica. Norman said we bought it for me. We really bought it for Norman. He’s radiant!

Come and visit us at the New Baldwins Resort!