Now fully booked in its new owners’ first season, Echo Lake Resort is a Community Futures North Okanagan success story.
The fishing resort south of Cherryville is a place to take in the sound of laughing children splashing in the water, or reel in a shimmering rainbow trout.
The nearly 80-year-old resort was built in 1943 and has played host to generations of families. New owners Sara Spearman and John Elley say seeing people enjoying the space and connecting with nature has made months of hard work and uncertainty worthwhile.
“Everyone who comes here says it’s their special place. They’re able to overlook the small quirks that come with simple living,” said Spearman.
“What actually matters is that people can come together.”
The couple form the Lower Mainland purchased the resort at the start of 2022, leaving behind careers as investigators for the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.
With an interest in real estate and a passion for the outdoors, Elley and Spearman decided it was the right time for a change.
But buying the resort wasn’t without its challenges. The fishing resort was outside the traditional commercial mortgage structure of hospitality and tourism businesses.
For Spearman and Elley, that would have meant unrealistic interest rates and unattainable loans from traditional lenders.
They needed to find a different path if they wanted to realize their dream, which is when good friend Debra Neufeld recommended Community Futures.
“We were in the right place to meet the right people and the right lender at the right time,” said Spearman. “Community Futures helped our fantasy become a reality.”
They started their search for properties north of Kamloops but with little luck there, they were eventually led to the Okanagan to find a resort that fit their business plan. They found Echo Lake online and by Halloween they had an accepted offer.
“There were a lot of risk points that needed to be mitigated, and Community Futures helped guide us through the process,” said Spearman, noting the need for special insurance policies and transferring the BC Park Use Permit to operate the resort.
“The timeline was tight. We had to make a lot of things happen with a lot of balls in the air. It was very challenging.”
Having taken possession on April 2, it was time to move from the Lower Mainland and get to work. They were only a weeks away from the start of the season in May and needed to turn over campsites and make improvements.
“It was overwhelming. After the first week, I said to my best friends who came to help that even my fat hurts. I was so not ready for this,” said Elley. “But you just have to be able to roll with the punches.”
Spearman and Elley are on the right path with a fully booked summer which started their first year in business and next year already 80 per cent booked. But the real highlights have been teaching a group of young kids to fish and seeing families connect and recharge offline. “The year of start-up trials and tribulations was all worth it,” said Spearman.
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