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Killarney lodge owners celebrate 45 years: Maury and Annabelle East have been in business since 1962, and they have no intentions of slowing down now.

Two Northern Ontarians are gearing up for their 45th year in business with no intentions of backing down or retiring.

Maury and Annabelle East own Killarney Mountain Lodge and Outfitters located on Georgian Bay.

The lodge, which used to be owned by an American trucking company, has belonged to the East family since May 5, 1962.

When East first received a call from his partner asking him if he'd like to buy the Killarney lodge, he was already operating the Muskoka Sands Inn on Lake Muskoka; the Inn is now known as Taboo.

"We needed it like a hole in the head," says East.

However, he and his partner boarded a plane to Killarney.

Neither was sure where they were going.

After seeing the lodge and the scenery, they wasted no time getting to Detroit to close the deal.

He and his business partner were now the proud owners of a resort in a beautiful location--that no one had heard of. Luckily, the road into Killarney was built the same year that the lodge was purchased.

Nevertheless, Killarney had been isolated for 130 years with no access other than over the water from Little Current, Manitoulin Island. This made it difficult to pull in business.

"Worse, the lodge had been operated as a very private and exclusive corporate customer entertainment hideaway, so there was no guest list or clientele," says East.

So began the button campaign.

The partners began attending sports and travel shows. To "capitalize on the public reaction" a button that read "Where the hell is Killarney?" was designed and sold in the thousands.

Today, Killarney's geography makes East's resort like no other in Ontario.

The Killarney Mountain Lodge is open from May to October each year and hosts the perfect combination of adventure in the setting of a quiet getaway.

The beauty of Georgian Bay and Killarney Park lures tourists into the area and the East family welcomes them into their cabins where they can enjoy Canadian cuisine, a comfortable place to rest and first-class hospitality.

The staff, some of which have been there for three decades, are known for their friendly attitudes and going out of their way for guests.

The Easts hire about 25 university and college students each summer.

"We couldn't function without them despite the fact that our core staff are folks from the village of Killarney," says East.

The couple is proud of the growth of their business and is especially delighted about their corporate retreat. Organizations who would like a different way to meet can book the 46-foot sailing yacht, Stormy Night, and take their conference for a spin on the big water.

Back at the lodge, they can check their e-mail thanks to a wireless high-speed hotspot.

This spring will mark a new chapter for Stormy Night. Starting in May, the ship will sail weekly for the Georgian Bay Dinner Cruise. Late in the afternoon the cruise will begin with a sail before the dinner hour and in the evening the anchor will drop in a secluded cove for the meal.

Despite Killarney's desirable features, the lodge's competition will always be a short way away on a different geographical paradise.

"There are so many resorts, especially in Muskoka, Haliburton and the Kawarthas that offer more traditional summer resort opportunities that makes for a very fragmented market," says East.

In this, advertising is important and the East family works hard to get the word out there.

"Fortunately, my daughter, Jennifer, dragged me kicking and screaming into the website world when it first dawned in the early nineties," says East.

The website, which is updated regularly, entices online viewers to check out the lodge and all it has to offer. The Easts also rely on word of mouth to promote their rustic getaway.

They plan on getting through this summer and moving on to the next.

"We used to have more downtime in the winter," says East. "But with phone calls, e-mails and staff interviews, we're busy all year long."

Editor's note: If you are interested in visiting the lodge, be careful to use the website below. A Google search will turn up several hits, including at least one other resort in the region, with similar names.


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Article Details
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Author:Clarke, Marie
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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