YOUNGSTOWN -- Christine Nowacki spent years helping patients with traumatic brain injuries recover in Canadian hospitals.
Now the Ontario native has taken on a new type of healing -- helping tourists to relax and regroup on the shore of Lake Ontario.
Nowacki and her husband, Wally, purchased the Lakeview Motel and Cottage during a Saturday afternoon auction last year and have completely renovated and reopened the 12-room Lake Road motel. They will open four new cabins this summer and have been operating the three-bedroom lakefront cottage.
The motel sits on the state's Seaway Trail and was featured in the April edition of Road Runner Motorcycle Cruising and Tour magazine. The Nowackis, both Harley-Davidson riders, were in for a surprise when the magazine's writer and photographer arrived.
>You bought this inn on a whim. How did that happen?
We bought it at an auction. We originally came over to buy a few chairs, and we ended up buying the whole kit and caboodle. We were just stunned that we were the winners.
>At the time, it had been closed for three years. What work did you have to do?
We gave it a total new look. We tore down walls, ceilings, inserted new plumbing, new electric services, new floors, decorated, put in sidewalks, bulldozed the back and put in new grass.
>Your motel and the state's Seaway Trail were featured in Road Runner magazine this spring. How did they end up at the Lakeview?
They wanted a place where they could park their bikes outside, so they asked if they could come down. I was expecting Harley riders.
>Because you're a Harley rider?
Correct. So I got my Harley T-shirt on, and I got my Harley clock up, and two fellows showed up -- one on a Suzuki and one on a BMW. And I thought, 'Oh, they're not Harley riders.'
They ended up staying with us for a day. They visited [Fort Niagara], and then they were on their way to Rochester, and they did a little article, and it ended up being in Road Runner magazine.
>Were you surprised when you read the magazine?
I was stunned. I mean it was great, because it advertised not only us, but it advertised the whole entire area, which I think is really important. Especially being on the Seaway Trail and all the other amenities that we have to offer.
>When did you open?
In August of '06.
>You haven't done much advertising yet; how are people finding your place?
I think it's happening by word of mouth, and we also have a small Web site up [http://www.lakeviewmotelandcottage.com]. But we have a lot of people who travel down the Seaway Trail, and they come into the area to visit the fort and visit the falls. We have fishermen, tourists, painters, poets, artists that like to be in a laid-back setting. I think they just happen upon us and like the ambience of the area and the fact that we have access to the lake. So they go down there, they paint, they write. We had an opera singer. We had a pilgrim this year.
He's been walking for the past 30-some-odd years. He's a Catholic Christian pilgrim. He looked like Moses with a huge beard, and his clothes looked like they were sewn out of denim material. He had a staff, just like Moses would.
He's traveled through 40 different countries and he goes around, and he visited Fatima Shrine. He came with his sister from Pennsylvania, and they stayed one night, and then he was gone. But he just goes around and he prays for the world and for everyone in it.
>You must meet a lot of interesting people.
We're very, very delighted that we have this variety of people coming in. They come in, not just the painters and the artists, but we've had cinematographers, videographers, photographers, bird-watchers, opera singers. They come from far and wide . . .
Our challenge, though, is going to be the winter season. I would really like to see more visitors in the winter. I sit on the tourism board in Wilson, and we're going to see if we can possibly get some kind of winter festival.
>Attracting visitors past Labor Day has been a challenge for the whole region.
The beauty of the area surpasses anything I've been in. It's so tranquil. You get up in the morning, and the birds are singing. You can come back here and you can catch the deer walking, the coyotes at night. You can hear the owls. It's just incredible. The water, the whole frontage that we have here. We're 15 minutes to Niagara Falls, the quaint town of Lewiston, Wilson with its little harbor. There's just so much to see and do . . .
So we're hoping that the whole entire area, with what little we've done and all the other pieces that people are also doing on their part, is really going to turn this whole region around, and we'll be able to really turn it into a tourism mecca. Because, I think, we really have so much to offer. People are looking for peace and tranquility, and they'll be able to find that here.
>You worked in hospitals and made the transition from one career to another. I think a lot of people would be envious of that. How has it been for you?
We're in nature here, and I've always wanted to do something holistically for people. So now I'm on the other end. I'm not analyzing the specimens and the blood, etcetera, and I'm not so much on the medical side of things, but I'm into the holistic side where I can offer people a place where they can come for a retreat and talk to them about holistic medicines, because I'm so much into that and the spirituality of being in a very calming place. It's a nurturing place, so I'm still sort of doing things for people, but in a different way.