By Andrea Arnold

The Kirby family, Natasha, Georgina and Will, (Chris not pictured) are ready for their new adventure as owners of the Bell Mountain Motel. / SUBMITTED

James Stoltz and Lyn Smith lived in Dome Creek four years ago, when they decided to move into McBride. They purchased the Bell Mountain Motel in June 2012. During their ownership the couple took pride in the facility and maintained a tidy and welcoming environment.

Mid-March, this adventure came to a close. They handed over the keys on March 9, 2019, and moved to the home they have maintained in Dome Creek.

The duo will miss some aspects of motel life. They’ve enjoyed interactions and call return guests friends, specifically, the CN guys and sledders. A stream of guests is good for business, but Smith admits to missing her privacy. “We have only had about 7 days off since 2012,” Smith said. She is excited about sleeping, not answering the phone and focusing on her bees. Stoltz is looking forward to being able to get back to fishing and hunting.

They both are looking forward to, “only having one bathroom to clean instead of 16!”

The new owners visited the motel a few years ago. “It seemed like they would be a good fit for the motel and for our community,” said Smith.

Georgina and Chris Kirby’s journey began with an innocent internet search about 20 years ago.

“We worked for a company that produced cell bases,” Georgina Kirby said.”  “As the industry became saturated, work was distributed outside of the UK and the company began making redundancies.” Morale within the company dropped. On a break, Georgina went online and landed on a site that listed properties for sale in Canada. Idyllic photos with mountains and peaceful surroundings brought her a feeling of healing, peace, and a glimmer of her childhood. She bookmarked the page, as the doom and gloom settled in at work, she went back to it several times. She decided to email the owner. A few days later he called. “It was a Canadian voice,” she said. “I was surprised and didn’t know what to say. Good thing my battery was low and my phone went dead.” He called back a few days later. Correspondence continued until Georgina went on maternity leave. During her leave, she was unable to access the information on her work computer. It was stressful wondering if they’d missed out on an opportunity. When she returned to work, she contacted the seller again. The home hadn’t sold, and just after Christmas 2001, the family visited the valley. They loved the area and the house.”  In 2003, their offer on the home on Mountainview was accepted and possibility of immigration became tangible.

To make the move, one of them needed to have a full-time job waiting in Canada. In 2009 she began an accommodation management business that proved to be the ticket.

In 2013, they returned to see what local business they could purchase. In 2016, she narrowed it down to eight businesses between McBride and Valemount. The Bell Mountain Motel met their criteria.

“It’s a good size, has beautiful curb appeal, and is a well-established business” Georgina said.

She began the application process for the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program in late 2016.

On March 4th, 2019, she arrived in Canada ready to work. Husband Chris will join her when things get settled back in England.

Kirby’s business plan has to be complete and approved within 18 months. She plans to build an eatery/common space in front of the motel. The common space will have comfortable seating and a large fireplace.

Having a background in hospitality in the UK, Kirby believes she can create holiday packages that appeal to everyone. She wants to establish relationships with local services, and allow guests to “choose their own adventure.” Kirby wants to establish a shuttle service to pick guests up in Prince George and transportation to activities around the valley. The business plan includes the commitment to employ at least five locals. Kirby hopes to have the building constructed, functional and fully staffed by the end of 2019.

She said she is already feeling the effects of living in a small town. “It’s important to get everything done, as citizenship is the goal,” she said. “But, since arriving, I feel less pressure,” she said. Having grown up in a similar setting, she knows that there will be challenges to rural life. “Chris and I both grew up in small towns,” said Kirby. “We want our kids to have the opportunity to experience the trust and values that come with small town life.”

The Kirby’s are looking forward to getting settled and becoming a part of the community.