He sees guests sipping tea by the fire, or strolling the gardens Mary Hugessen so lovingly nurtured. For him, the future will include sunny rooms and cozy corners where good food, fine wine and romance will find their place. "Green" architectural features and sustainable alternatives are definitely part of the picture, during renovations and as part of future operations.
Due to its distinctive patterned slate roof and its location overlooking the upper bridge crossing the Mississippi, Hugesson House is one of Almonte’s better-known homes. Since it was built in 1882 in the Italianate style, it has been the refuge of several prominent families, but also spent time empty and in use as the Almonte Armories from 1950-1966.
This single Dad’s young looks belie the years of training and experience in the hospitality sector he brings to the task of turning this heritage designated home into a showcase for local food, art and history. Educated at the University of Guelph and trained at destination locales like the Deerhurst, Millcroft Inn and the Elora Mill Inn, Rob has the business side of hospitality down cold. But like others in the sector he also has an innate yearning to create a place where people can decompress and breath a little deeper.
"The hospitality business finds you, you don’t find it, " he says, articulating his life-long interest in helping people find comfort and relaxation. Raised in Carp, Rob believes his mother’s early tutelage about organic gardening and small-town life is probably to blame. Since then he has done it all – night shifts, bellman, night audit, rooms manager, and most recently the Financial Controller job at Ottawa’s Radisson hotel – in some of the best inns in Ontario. And now all of that experience, along with his three-year old son, has arrived in Almonte.
It turns out it is not so simple to roll out the welcome mat, just because you want to. Rob is currently in the process of working out what’s possible with town planners and provincial regulators. Renovations, construction licenses, parking, sourcing staff and products – even finding a name for the Inn – all require time and planning. Still, Rob hopes to be open for business by this summer, even if that means he starts with a bed and breakfast operation, edging toward the Inn vision as best he can.
"I never want to promise something I can’t deliver," he says, so announcements about his detailed plans will have to wait until the time is right. He speaks of the incredible support he has experienced so far in Almonte – from neighbours, local businesses and Town officials – expressing an optimism that, one day soon, he will be able to fling open that wonderful front door and invite us all in.