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They were mortgage free for just 12 days in 2006.
Then Phyllis and Dave Evely of Clarke’s Beach noticed a business for sale in Clarenville.
They already had some experience in business and personal care. The couple was operating a bed and breakfast in Clarke’s Beach and had spent 14 years as foster parents.
Within a month of paying off their Clarke’s Beach home, they took out another mortgage to become the owners of Cozy Quarters Personal Care Home.
“When we bought the place, every cent we had went into it,” said Phyllis. “We’d have to take Dave’s salary to help pay the staff.”
At the time her husband was just about to retire from his job as an engineer in the marine industry.
There were just 18 residents in the 30-bed facility when they bought it.
Their challenge was not only to increase the number of clients, but to give the place a bit of a makeover.
Their first fix-ups were one room at a time.
A renovation followed a few years later.
Now the Evelys are undertaking the biggest build of their business or personal life.
Construction has started on a 44-room expansion to the home.
The costs of comfort
When the new build is complete it will offer something many personal care homes do not offer. Each one of those new rooms will be private.
Newfoundland and Labrador regulations do not stipulate private rooms must be provided in privately-run facilities. And most personal care homes operate with semi-private rooms, two beds and a shared bathroom in each room. That’s been the formula for economic feasibility of privately-run facilities for decades.
The Evelys, however, decided to buck the older trends.
It wasn’t a simple decision.
Private rooms with single beds are a little less feasible to operate and cost more to build — more bathrooms to add to the plan, for one thing.
Their idea even created some debate between them and their architect.
“I had to argue with him to have all private rooms,” Dave said, smiling. “He wanted to go with semi-private rooms.”
The Evelys, however, were convinced that private rooms was the route to take, to meet the requirements to provide advanced-level care.
They could never have known when they were planning this build early last year how much their instincts would prove to be right.
While their planning didn’t account for a pandemic, the arrival of COVID-19 has created broad debate about senior care in private facilities.
Going with 44 private rooms as the Evelys did makes it easier to maintain the health care protocols required to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and ensure the safety of residents.
The Evelys won’t say how much his build is costing, but it is “in the millions” said Phyllis.
To begin, the couple bought two residential lots and demolished the houses on those sites to create the space for this new structure.
Once again, the risk is all their own. This is not a ‘public-private’ partnership and the Evelys have not received any funding from government to help with the build.
They are the only ones who have to worry about paying back this mortgage.
Yet they are matter-of-fact about taking on something this big.
“We like it,” Dave says, of the work involved in running a private care home, adding with a laugh, “I tried retiring once and it didn’t work.”
The project is also creating a bit of a boost for the local construction industry.
Bill’s Construction of nearby Random Island is the main contractor on the site. It’s meant work, as well, for local plumbing and electrical contractors and sales for local building supply stores.
Consider the final touches of furniture, fittings and appliances to be added, and the local economy is getting a bit of a reprieve in a year that has seen major impacts on sales and service.
It will also mean new jobs for the area. The Evelys expect they will be hiring up to 20 more Personal Care Attendants as the number of clients increases.
The Evelys say the new addition will be ready for occupancy by December this year.
And the rooms will be filled quickly.
There’s already a waiting list of clients who hope to move in.