Brentwood on the Beach : Quilters and artists rule during the off season
Peter and Joan Karstens
By Katherine McIntyre
BLUEWATER, ON—Joan Karstens, never stops moving with the times. After ten years as a flight attendant, she took a right turn in life. She bought and opened Brentwood on the Beach, a nine bedroom inn on the south shores of Lake Huron.
During the twenty-three years she has been running the inn, she has married, and Peter Karstens is now a partner and efficient maintenance manager. But it is her imaginative methods of keeping a lakeside inn occupied during the off seasons, that makes Brentwood on the Beach unique.
In summer, owning an inn on an endless sandy beach, with a lookout to watch the sunset in a rosy red blaze, a major barbecue facility for guests’ use, extensive grounds, plus nine well appointed guest rooms with lakeside views, finding guests is no problem. But the scene changes in the off seasons.
To keep their inn profitable, the Brentwood team developed a series of hobby retreats which they hold, in the shoulder seasons from March to May and again in September to the end of November. Quilters, artists, scrap book collectors, and knitters return year after year to participate in these five day workshops—partly for companionship, partly for a holiday and partly for stimulation with like-minded hobbyists.
For a retreat, the inn provides bedrooms, a work room, two guest sitting rooms, a substantial breakfast and appetizing dinner. Hobbyists’ work space is a large bright room with excellent overhead lighting and 16 work tables, plus a kitchen where participants can make their own tea and coffee. Participants come with their gear, quilters with sewing machines, irons, ironing boards, and fabrics; artists with easels and canvases; and knitters with their skeins of colour.
Over the Christmas season it is corporate party time, while in the New Year, it is ‘escape the winter blahs’ with spa getaway packages. During each season, the inn gives personalized service for business retreats. Word comes back that “Retreats are successful because they are distraction free.”
Somehow Joan Karstens juggles these varied events while keeping the inn open 365 days a year.
Each guest is treated to a buffet breakfast that includes bacon, eggs, sausage and often home made breads or muffins. Eggs Benedict appear at Sunday brunch and there is a full evening dinner for retreat guests. All the nine bedrooms, complete with their own small fireplaces have private bathrooms and vistas of the ever changing waters of Lake Huron.
In early spring, birders view flocks of migrating tundra swans on their way to the Arctic. Come summer, the focus is the lake, barbecues, sunsets, outside amenities and the area’s natural beauty.
But the Karstens’ energies are not completely taken up running their inn. Joan has recently been part of a team that won a Governor General’s award for the development of a theatrical production depicting a slice of history of the St. Joseph area. They discuss and suggest local activities, on the south shore of Lake Huron that include hiking in Pinery Park, summer theatres and local museums.