“We bought a $1.4 million manor home in Welland and turned it into a bed and breakfast”

“We bought a $1.4 million manor home in Welland and turned it into a bed and breakfast”

Kristen and Kathryn Groom spent two months and $60,000 making the property guest-ready

Kathryn and Kristen in front of Rose Manor in the snow
Photo by Mel Groom

Sisters Kristen and Kathryn Groom sold their two-unit bungalow in Fonthill, Ontario, to buy a $1.4 million Tudor Revival–style manor home in Welland. They had two months to turn the house, which was originally built in 1906, into a functional bed and breakfast—a task made all the more challenging by their lack of hospitality experience. Here, they tell us how they pulled it off.

Kathryn: Even though we’re sisters, Kristen and I have been best friends our entire lives. There’s an age gap—I just turned 26, and Kristen is 34—so I’ve always looked up to her. We’ve been dreaming about opening a business together since I was a teenager.

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Kristen: We’ve talked about all kinds of ideas, including a boutique shop, a restaurant and a café.

Kathryn: We also thought about opening a Bulk Barn, a glamping-style cabin and a wedding venue. The idea of an inn came up in 2016. It was the first one our parents didn’t think was totally crazy.

Kristen: We were always keeping an eye out for potential properties, but mostly it was something we pictured as a retirement project. We both have other career ambitions. I’ve been working full time in human resources for about 13 years now.

Kathryn: I’m finishing up a master’s degree in national security and public safety, plus I work as a freelance social media manager.

Kristen: Then, in February of 2022, our mom saw a listing for a massive property in Welland. She asked if we wanted to go see it.

Kathryn: For our family, checking realtor websites is a bit of a hobby. This place was originally built in 1906 for the Rose family, who were very prominent in the area. At one point, they owned at least four properties. One used to be their tennis court. Now it’s a parking lot.

An archival photo of Rose Manor
Photo courtesy of the Welland Museum

Kristen: The listing stood out because it had been operated as a bed and breakfast before, so it would be easier to start it up again. We were also really familiar with the area. At the time, we were living in a two-unit bungalow that we owned in Fonthill, which is very close by. Also, our dad is from Welland, and that’s where our grandparents live. We scheduled a viewing, but there was a terrible snowstorm that day. We almost cancelled. But it’s only around the corner, so we decided to brave it. They had shovelled just enough for us to walk up the steps to the side door.

Kathryn: We toured the inside and were taken aback by how large the space was. It had eight bedrooms and six bathrooms.

Kristen: The previous owners had clearly spent some time fixing it up, so it didn’t appear to need major renovations. But, because of the snow, we couldn’t see the outside of the property at all. We had no idea what the porch or gardens looked like, which was a little daunting.

Kathryn: The place had good bones, though, and it felt like fate that we’d found a large property so close to where we lived. On the other hand, we knew it would be a big undertaking, and we didn’t have a ton of experience. Kristen had worked at the front desk of a hotel for a bit in university, but that was it. We’d both travelled a lot, though, so we figured we knew what we’d want as guests. It was just a matter of being the best possible hosts.

Kristen: The plan was always to live in the bed and breakfast as well, so we knew we’d be selling our bungalow in Fonthill. That would help with the cost. So we put in an offer of $1.4 million, and it was accepted. We got the keys in May of 2022 and set our opening weekend for July. The previous owners had called the property At Home Bed and Breakfast at the Rose Manor. We affectionately shortened it to Rose Manor.

Kristen: Before we officially moved in, we made a lot of cosmetic changes. We refinished the original hardwood flooring, retiled the fireplace and kitchen backsplash, and painted the entire house. The painting alone took our crew three full weeks.

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Kathryn: Then there were some unexpected costs. The same month we moved in, the AC went out and needed to be fixed. After that, some of the pipes from the original 1906 section burst and had to be replaced. Then one of our washers broke and the fridge needed to be updated. Another big expense was a new stove.

Kristen: The stove that was there when we moved in was a 30-inch temporary stove in a spot that was meant for a 48-inch oven. We saw it as an investment in our guests’ experience to replace it with a larger six-burner stove and griddle. When all was said and done, the unexpected repairs brought our initial renovation cost to $60,000.

Kathryn: During that period, we also started searching Facebook Marketplace and antique shops for furniture and décor.

A photo of the Rose Room, the manor's bridal suite
Photo by Sandra Letourneau

Kristen: Luckily, we love thrifting. As we told more people what we were working on, we also started getting a lot of recommendations.

Kathryn: One woman brought us to her garage. It was set up like a little store. We ended up buying tons of stuff from her, including a hanging swing that we’ve put on one of our magnolia trees out front.

Kristen: Our friends and family also started grabbing things for us. We’ve been gifted tea sets with roses on them, antique artwork and vases.

Kathryn: We’ve tried to merge the old and new. In addition to the things we thrifted, we brought in a few pieces from Structube and Urban Barn.

Kristen: It was a race to be ready in time for our opening date in July. We started getting bookings in June, while we were still arranging the space, and then they just kept coming. Those last few weeks were an all-hands-on-deck operation. Our parents, brother and friends were all coming in to help us finish up.

Kristen: We turned four of the bedrooms into rentals. One of those rooms has two queen beds, so we can accommodate 10 guests in total. Each room is named after a member of the original Rose family–Birdie, Alexander and Jennie—plus we have a bridal suite called the Rose Room. We did some local market research to establish our rates. These days, we charge between $260 and $370 a night, depending on the room and the day of the week.

Kathryn: We’ve rented one of the other rooms to a local aesthetician who runs a spa out of it. The other bedrooms are reserved for our personal use.

Kathryn: Our first guests were coming on July 1. We were super nervous.

Kristen: We thought we’d have only one set of guests that first weekend, so we’d be able to ease into things. Then three rooms were booked up right away. We panicked—we didn’t even know if we could pull off serving breakfast to three couples. In the end, they all wanted to eat at different times, so it was manageable. Kathryn did all the cooking, and I served.

Kathryn: These days, we can confidently run things even when we’re fully booked. Everything has felt daunting on the first try, but every new guest helps us improve. We’ve even started hosting weddings.

Kristen: It’s been a big task, but we’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished.

A photo of the Birdie room
Photo by Caeden Moore

Kathryn: It helps that we have other jobs too. Kristen still works full time as a human resources director, and I still do social media management. Our profits from Rose Manor cover our living expenses and house maintenance, and any additional income is reinvested back into the business.

Kristen: The arrangement does have its downsides. When I’m at work, Kathryn has to pick up the slack. We try to keep things balanced. For example, I’ll help more during early morning or evening shifts.

Kathryn: The end goal is for both of us to be able to do this full time.

Kristen: We love that the business helps us promote Welland as a destination. The Welland Canal is basically in our front yard, so there’s lots of water sports plus nearby hiking and cycling trails. Another perk is that we think there’s a ghost on the property. The neighbours told us it was Birdie, one of the original members of the Rose family.

Kathryn: She’s very nice, though. She’s often in my room, since it’s in the older part of the house. Sometimes, I’ll just be standing there and a drawer will open. Then I’ll close it and walk away, but suddenly it’ll open again.

Kristen: In July of 2023, we hit a huge milestone—a group of cyclists booked all the rooms, so we were sold out for a whole week. Since then, that’s happened regularly. We actually have some guests who are already booked in for 2025.

Kathryn: We still have a long wish list of changes we’d like to make. For example, we’re in the process of building a micro greenhouse with reclaimed vintage windows. We just work on it a little bit every week. Our dad is a huge help. He’s basically our personal handyman.

Kristen: It’s been an amazing journey. We’re both super happy with our decision to buy this place, and we’re excited to see where it goes from here.

Kathryn: It’s a real passion project, and it’s especially rewarding to be doing it with my sister.