As the husband-and-wife rookie hoteliers of Stratford’s Hotel Julie, Paula McFarlane and Jake Tayler share many similarities. The duo both grew up in Lambton County in southwestern Ontario, were born in the same year, and, until recently, were paramedics before jumping head first in the hotel world.
“We started with one short-term rental and grew to nine over the next year,” says Tayler. “We had seen the hotel for sale during the pandemic, but it wasn’t the right time for us. After realizing how much we enjoyed hospitality, we reached out to the owner to see if they were still interested in selling, and they were.”
According to Tayler, “We had always admired the building. The opportunity to purchase it came about in early 2022 so we took a chance. The bones were good; it just needed to be updated. We renovated all nine suites as well as the exterior in 10 months.”
The 18th-century inn is the couple’s first foray into hotels, but they instantly fell in love “interacting with the guests and sharing our story and the history of the building with them. We really do have a great story,” says McFarlane.
The chic, theatre-inspired destination officially opened its doors this past spring and already it’s been the focal point of a new CTVseries called Staying Inn: Hotel Julie. “It’s unique in many ways,” says McFarlane. “Every suite is different in terms of size, layout and design. You could stay nine different times in nine different rooms and get nine different experiences.” The hotel is situated in what was originally a set of row houses built in 1890. “Sometime in the 1930s, it was converted into the nine suites that exist today.” Due to the unique layout of the hotel, there’s no front desk or lobby area — guests go directly to their suites and have the assistance of a 24/7 Digital Concierge service.
As a small hotel, the pair operate with a lean crew. “We outsource cleaning and have one laundry attendant, one virtual assistant and myself on the team,” explains McFarlane. “We have software and as much automation as possible. We automate our locks, check-in/check-out communication and use AI technology for our pricing strategy.”
The hotel’s ADR is $420 with RevPAR at $294. Running their first hotel in a post-pandemic environment is not for the faint of heart. But the couple is keen to continue to share and promote the Hotel Julie experience along with tourism in Stratford. “It’s a charming little city with a vibrant downtown and an amazing food scene,” says Tayler.
As if being first-time hoteliers isn’t challenging enough, recently, the couple purchased the house next door to the hotel in order to improve the inn’s parking facilities. “The house has the same zoning as the hotel, so over the winter it will be renovated into three more amazing suites,” explains Tayler.
As first-time hoteliers, the husband-and-wife team and parents of four children, are eager to keep learning while implementing new systems to ensure a smoother future.