Revelstoke’s McKinnon Building to be transformed into Explorers Society Hotel

With a 70-seat restaurant directed by La Baguette and La Marche's Oliver Dutil, an intimate bar in a basement alcove, a rooftop deck, boutique accommodations and more, the Explorers' Society Hotel will change the Revelstoke social scene when it opens in winter this year.

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Revelstoke business owner Rebekah Jenkins stands on the third floor of what will be accommodation for the Explorers' Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Imagine sipping a cocktail, nibbling on gourmet appetizers while you survey the lively social scene before you, amongst the luxe interior of a converted historical building.

Now put yourself in Revelstoke, where this will become reality when the Explorers’ Society Hotel opens in the winter this year, bringing an urbane element to the city.

Development is on the rise in Revelstoke, evident from the extensive list of businesses, many in the historic downtown core, that have opened over the past year. (The Taco Club, renovations to Conversations Cafe and Main Street Cafe, plans for two new craft distilleries, expansion of Mount Begbie Brewing Co., plans for an artisan lounge, opening of Minh Tuyet’s Vietnamese Bistro, opening of gourmet grocery La Marche, opening of The Craft Bierhaus.)

McKinnon Block owner Rebekah Jenkins, who with her husband Stephen is creating the Explorer's Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer.
McKinnon Block owner Rebekah Jenkins, who with her husband Stephen is creating the Explorers’ Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer.

We see it over and over again. People visit Revelstoke, fall in love, and brainstorm ways they too can create a living for themselves, ensuring a future in Revelstoke that is lifestyle and adventure focused with a promising business landscape to make it worthwhile.

Rebekah and Stephen Jenkins have been working on their niche in Revelstoke since 2007. In the tide that drew hype for the mega-resort town that Revelstoke was meant to be, the Seattle-based American couple scooped up land in upper Arrow Heights. They then sat tight while the city weathered the storm that was the financial crisis. As it cleared over the passing years, the Jenkins moved forward, building a house and turning it into the Revelstoke Roost bed and breakfast.

The McKinnon Building on First Street West. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo
The McKinnon Building on First Street West. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

The couple has since divided their time between Seattle and Revelstoke and are now at the stage where they are selling up and committing to the mountain life. The decision came with an unexpected business opportunity last year.

In August 2015, the old McKinnon Building (which previously housed the Nickelodeon Museum) went on the market. Five potential buyers came and went before the Jenkins held it in their grasp, finalizing the sale in December, and the words “meant to be” followed.

The Revelstoke Mountaineer toured the building with Rebekah on Friday, June 10. While some sections are beginning to develop, it’s still a total construction zone and because the building was constructed in 1911, extensive work has been needed to bring it up to code.

The building first saw life as the McKinnon Block, a multi-faceted development that housed an upmarket pool and billiard hall, a tobacconist and barber, and a basement bowling alley.

It later featured many other uses including a disco, a dentist office, an apartment building, possibly a brothel, and a mini shopping mall.

The 2016 redevelopment will be attuned to its original aspirations of an array of commercial options that draws in the community.

The old boiler. This will be left and become part of a 16-person basement bar. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
This old boiler will become part of a small bar in the basement. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The plans Rebekah holds for the space are big, extensive, and exciting. Today, it will herald in a new era for Revelstoke in terms of venue options. Although the aim is to cater to all, it will be appeal to those with a taste for something special.

The concept includes a nine-suite hotel, an added fourth floor with an open deck and bar, a 70-seat restaurant, an event space, and down below, something of a 16-person whisky bar, like the grungy but hip speakeasies Americans experienced in the prohibition era.

The big news is Rebekah’s partner on the restaurant side — Olivier Dutil from the successful Quebec and French inspired La Baguette cafe and La Marche grocery. While his restaurant won’t be fine dining, it won’t be casual either.

“It’s more contemporary, not fussy, not overly expensive food, but still a really classy atmosphere,” Rebekah said. “The design is super cool, I’m really excited about it.

“But we don’t want people to feel like they can’t eat here. This is a project for locals and guests. We will run the full gamut. You can come here and get some exclusive bottle of scotch, or you can get a draft beer.”

Big plans for the Explorer's Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Big plans for the Explorers’ Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The hotel’s event venue will be named McKinnon Hall, in a dedication to the McKinnon family and the founding owners of the building, and will encourage gatherings.

“The event space I consider to be the heart to the project,” Rebekah said.

With space for up to 200 standing or 75 seated, it will cater to community opportunities such as weddings, conferences and adventure product exhibitions, which are often housed in Whistler, in the shoulder seasons.

“We’ve been talking to reps from outdoor companies and they’re super excited about what we’re doing,” Rebekah said.

Seattle-based interior designer Brian Paquette is in charge of the hotel’s style, aiming for a Victorian feel with a modern, rock ‘n’ roll vibe.

The building will keep its original tin ceiling, one of the largest in B.C., plus the original concrete walls and exposed brick walls. An elevator is being installed plus a number of technical gadgets, possibly inspired by the Jenkins’ mutual work backgrounds in the software industry.

Rebekah Jenkins and builder Bill Black are excited to utilize the unique features of the McKinnon building while giving it a modern renovation. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Rebekah Jenkins and builder Bill Black are excited to utilize the unique features of the McKinnon building while giving it a modern renovation. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

With a hopeful timeline of six months before the building is finished in December, there’s still a ton of work to be done, but it’s not impossible.

“Everything is going along pretty good right now,” builder Bill Black said.

“It’s really neat working on an old building and bringing it back up to the present day.”

Rebekah’s enthusiasm for this development is contagious and she is conscious of the potential and increased activity the hotel will bring to Revelstoke’s downtown.

“The sheer beauty of the space combined with the people here is a magical combination for us,” she said. “We love the downtown corridor and all the history here. But also there is a lot of potential here, a lot of energy and excitement about what Revelstoke can be and what Revelstoke already is to build on. It’s a really nice energy between the two.”

Construction continues to renovate the old McKinnon building into its new life as the Explorers' Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Construction continues to renovate the old McKinnon building into its new life as the Explorers’ Society Hotel. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

The Jenkins also plan to open up the American market to Revelstoke.

“We want to make sure that more people from the States come here,” Rebekah said. “They know about it and are excited about it, but I think it’s still a little bit of a mystery to them. So we’re going to be doing a lot of our own marketing efforts.

“I think that people that are here for a long time forget about some of the cool things about this area, so having new people coming in and promote new things, maybe keeps bringing fresh ideas and excitement back into the community, and keeps people enthused.”

Once the Explorers’ Society Hotel is open, with the travellers and locals alike gathering within its cosy embrace, the city will feel a move towards its future and it will not only change but add to the scope of what is the Revelstoke experience.

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