Patrick Wallace, ’12 (AXP-11), wasn’t quite sure what he was getting into when he and his wife, Pamela Wallace, drove down a long dirt road with miles of forest on either side in the heart of the Nova Scotia wilderness. When they finally emerged at Trout Point Lodge, however, the property was a revelation. “It is this incredible log structure where otherwise there would be nothing,” Wallace said. Around the lodge itself stretched 125 acres of densely forested landscape with only the chirping of birds and the rushing course of the Tusket River to break the silence. “It was an island of luxury in the middle of the wilderness.”
The Wallaces were so swayed by this property that they left at the height of their careers to take on new jobs as luxury wilderness innkeepers. “This was not a retirement project at all,” Wallace said. “We just fell in love with the place.”
Wallace, who grew up in Montreal, is no stranger to taking risks. Starting out his career in the late 1990s in marketing and sales in the semiconductor business, he took a two-year contract in Singapore that turned into twelve.
Since then, his work has taken him to Hong Kong and Korea as he added financial management duties to his portfolio and worked with most of the world’s largest semiconductor companies. He entered the Booth Executive MBA Program in Asia to bolster his financial bona fides. “It teaches you to question your assumptions and be as quantitative as you can when you are dealing with valuing a business or understanding its potential,” he said.
That analytical background came in handy in assessing the opportunity to buy Trout Point Lodge. Wallace moved back to Montreal in 2012 with Pamela, whom he had met in Singapore and who has a background in hospitality. They heard about the sale in early 2017 from the previous owners, and began doing due diligence to see if it might make sense to embark on a new chapter.
It wasn’t until they visited as guests in July 2017, however, that they were seduced by the property’s unusual combination of high luxury and high adventure. “The one thing we really liked about Trout Point Lodge was the totally unique quality of this hotel,” he said. Trout Point has arguably one of the finest restaurants in Atlantic Canada, thanks to a culinary team that boasts significant experience in Michelin-starred venues in Germany and Austria. Its menu features dishes such as swordfish tataki with New Brunswick caviar, and panfried halibut with pickled egg yolk and brown-butter foam. At the same time, the lodge has views of some of the darkest skies in North America, a quality that has led to its being named the first “Starlight Hotel.”
“You enjoy a wonderful four-course dinner, an award-winning wine selection, and then instead of going to bed, you go out onto this stargazing platform made specifically for this purpose,” said Wallace. “As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you see an absolute panorama of starlight.” Guests can clearly see the Milky Way stretching across the sky overhead, and—with the help of high-powered telescopes and a staff astronomer—more unique phenomena such as the rings of Saturn. Other distinctive experiences include treks into the glacially carved Tobeatic Wilderness, and “forest bathing,” a guided combination of hiking and meditation.
For all that the lodge has going for it, however, Wallace said that they still think “there are many more things we plan to do to put this on the map.” Since moving to the property in February, Patrick spends his mornings using his Booth financial tool kit to shave operations costs and increase average daily expense from guests, while Pamela uses her hospitality experience to open new marketing channels and increase bookings, particularly from Asia.
Both of them spend their afternoons at the lodge, meeting guests from around the world. In future years they hope to expand the property with a more rustic second lodge, and possibly a culinary school. Wallace is also hoping to increase corporate retreats, melding his past life in business with his current life in the wild. “Imagine a day focused on strategy and business innovation, and then an evening where you can look up at the stars and dream,” he said. “If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what could.”
—By Michael Blanding