Space to grow at Fox Harb’r

By Kristen Smith

WALLACE, N.S. — Under the direction of president Kevin Toth,
expansion is underway at Fox Harb’r Resort on Nova Scotia’s Northumberland
Strait.

Owner Ron Joyce brought Toth — who was previously with
Skyline Hotels and Resorts — on in 2015 and tasked him with creating a master
plan for the 1,150-acre property.

“Mr. Joyce asked me to think 10 years down the road,” Toth
told various Canadian media during a recent familiarization trip to Fox
Harb’r. 

Joyce, a Tatamgaouche, N.S. native, was a police officer in
Hamilton, Ont., when he discovered the two-unit Tim Hortons brand. The
co-founder of The TDL Group, Joyce sold the business to Wendy’s International
in 1996. After acquiring land along the Northumberland Strait, Joyce created
Fox Harb’r because he wanted to contribute to the community, as well as have a
place where he and his friends could golf. As Toth tells the story, the next
logical step was to add guest suites so his golfing companions could stay
awhile, then a spa for when their wives joined them.

“Fox Harb’r is the largest employer on the North Shore,”
said Toth, noting the resort employs about 185 people during peak summer
season.

Chef Shane Robilliard

Chef Shane Robilliard

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Toth referred to the luxury resort as “passion project” for
Joyce.

“He by no means did it for financial gain,” he said.

Construction started in the 1990s and the resort opened in
2000.

The recent rebranding of Fox Harb’r Resort, which dropped the
previous “golf” and “spa” portions of the name, is aimed at highlighting the
plentiful amenities at the property.

“It’s much more than a golf resort,” Toth noted.

In addition to a championship course designed by renowned
architect Graham Cooke and Par 3 short course set along the shoreline, there is
Dol-άs Spa, fly fishing, sport shooting, a wellness centre, tours and day trips
and onsite dining. There is also a jetport and marina.

For those wanting their own place at Fox Harb’r there are
single-detached residences and town-style Golf Villas on the property, scheduled
for further development in the next decade. Harbour Stone Village is phase one
of the residential component of the resort, while marina duplexes will be the
next phase, with sales launching this fall. Future development will also
include a riding stable, harbour lots, pond cottages and golf lots. 

“We want to keep a lot of it natural for recreational use as
well as expand our vineyards,” noted Toth. Situated on a peninsula, on clear days, guests can see the
shores of Prince Edward Island.

There are 12 guest buildings, each with six units (four
executive and two studio). Fox Harb’r recently reconfigured the beds in some
units opting for two double queens in anticipation of more group and family
business. Uninhabited residences are also available as rental properties.

The ten-year plan includes the addition of a conference
centre with a meeting capacity for about 220 and an inn with about 40 rooms,
“when we get to a certain occupancy level,” Toth noted.

Open for business

Toth said it is important the resort communicate to the
public that Fox Harb’r is a luxury resort, but not a private enclave.

“We also want the people vacationing in the area, even if
they’re not staying at the resort, to be able to experience some of our dining
options,” he added.

That said, Toth wants to ensure a high level of service is
maintained for the property’s guests and members so the resort is asking people
to make reservations at Cape Cliff, the onsite restaurant, to ensure there isn’t overcrowding.

Toth thinks Fox Harb’r has an opportunity for
growth in small group golf getaways. 

“This seems to be a growing trend and that’s why we actually
built those double queen rooms,” said Toth, adding cruise ships are also
“looking for a different type of bed configuration.”

Toth said he feels the area is an emerging destination and
a worthy one at that; not only in terms of its natural beauty, but also its
culinary and winery potential.

“We’re working with Tourism Nova Scotia to help position
North Shore as a destination,” Toth said.

With respect to the Fox Harb’r property, Toth doesn’t think
the seasonal operation will open year-round, but is keen to expand the edges of
the season.

“The plan is to really grow our group business in our
shoulder seasons,” he said.

Growing for
dinner 

Cape Cliff dining room was recently recognized as Atlantic
Canada’s first restaurant with a menu of only Ocean Wise recommended choices.

The 88-seat restaurant menu, under the direction of chef Shane
Robilliard includes as many local ingredients as possible, such as lobster
delivered by Earl Chase of Chase’s Lobster Pound. Rainbow trout are from onsite
stocked fish ponds, which have catch and release rules for everyone other than
the culinary team.

Salmon is sourced from Sustainable Blue, halibut is
line-caught, the scallops are farmed, mussels are from Indian Point Marine
Farms and roe is from Acadian Sturgeon. With the exception of Alberta Beef,
other protein is sourced from Nova Scotia farmers. 

“For the most part, it’s as local as you can get,” said Robilliard.

The property’s horticulturist Michael Stewart is increasing
the produce being grown onsite, this year adding about a dozen varieties of
leaf lettuce.

“All of the greens that we’ll need this season — I haven’t
bought a single green — are all being produced in the greenhouse,” Robilliard
said.

Not only does this ensure they are fresh, it also saves on
food cost. A five-pound case cost between $35 and $75 ($40 on average) last
season. Producing lettuce onside costs $11 for five pounds, including
labour. 

Grape expectations

Peter Phillips is a man who wears many hats, from director
of sport shooting to construction manager. He is also involved in the new Fox
Harb’r estate vineyard, which will produce a number of varietals in partnership
with nearby Jost Winery, located in Malagash, N.S.

Planting started last year with Riesling and Lac le Blanc
grapes. This year New York Muscat is being added to the mix. When all is said
and done, Fox Harb’r Resort will be home to 25 acres of vineyard with rows
planted four feet apart to maximize growing capacity. 

The first vintage (the 2018 harvest) will be ready in 2019.

Phillips compared the area’s micro-climate to that of the
Niagara Peninsula, noting the area has a longer growing season than other parts
of Nova Scotia.