When Michèle Lihrmann moved into her Victorian home in Alberton, she knew she had to open it to visitors.
“We couldn’t buy this house, close the door and live inside,” she says. “That’s not possible to live like this.”
That’s because Michèle and her husband, Hubert, had purchased an Alberton landmark with a history filled with community connections and fondly remembered gatherings. Built in the 1890s for Fred L. Rogers, the Rogers House has over the years provided a home for a member of parliament, David MacDonald; and a lodge for senior citizens.
Lihrmann chats in the parlour, where the upright piano promises to entertain, and the antique furniture begs a visitor to sit and stay awhile.
A retired teacher from France, Lihrmann fell in love with this house on one of her family’s summer visits to P.E.I. – visits in large part centred on helping four of the Lihrmanns’ five children sharpen their hockey skills at Andrews Hockey camps in Summerside. While on the Island, Michèle’s interest in the fox industry led her to the Alberton Museum. She soon spotted the gabled house for sale next door.
“When we visited, it’s just like when you come back home,” she says. “I was thinking this should be my home.”
The couple purchased the Rogers House in 2001, planning a bed and breakfast as both a business and a way of keeping the home open to visitors.
La Petite France B & B operates from June through September, and for bookings off-season. Since buying the property, the Lihrmanns have constructed an addition to expand to four rooms and offer a café and bakery.
“When we have money we invest, and when not, we keep,” she says.
Lihrmann says running a bed and breakfast makes it feasible to own a historic home that demands constant maintenance — whether a new roof, a new well or new stairs.
When asked what she likes about running the business, she’s quick to say the people. Talking to her early guests helped her learn more about Canada, and she has since had the chance to know visitors from places as far as Australia, Japan, Switzerland and Norway.
“You have a lot of exchange with the people,” she says. “I think it’s interesting to have people coming in and out – even if it’s work.”
Lihrmann says operating a rural business does pose challenges, like finding staff. The Lihrmanns have just one part-time employee between the inn and their Chez Cartier café. Hubert manages the café, while Michèle cares for the bed and breakfast – handling much of the perennial cleaning, laundry and cooking.
“You never have time to sit and say, ‘What can I do?’” she says with a laugh.
Now that her children have grown and live out of province or in Europe, Lihrmann does wish she had more chance to travel to see them and spend time with her grandchildren.
Still, she describes preparing for visitors as a healthy way to spend retirement.
“If you move all the time, you have in your mind to stay fit to be able to continue,” she says. “You have to care about yourself to be able to give to others.”