Marty and Stefan had grown used to the hustle and bustle of big city living, but their tiny Toronto apartment left them wanting more. It was time for a change, so they began their search for a new home, compiling a list of must-haves to help them find the perfect place. When they stumbled upon an online listing for a beautiful mansion in Windsor, Nova Scotia, they knew it had everything they wanted—and more.
After spending one year renovating their new home, the Geldert Guest House was finally ready for visitors, and Marty and Stefan launched their business: a bed and breakfast. While the pair already had full-time careers—Marty, a full-time nurse, and Stefan, a remote tech consultant—their career in the accommodations industry became the perfect side project to supplement their incomes. It also offered an unexpected bonus: a community of new friends who have supported them every step of the way.
When registered nurse Marty Butler and tech consultant Stefan Palios bought the Geldert Guest House in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 2020, they discovered a community with grit and character, and a shared passion that would lead to a life of adventure together.
Falling in Love with a Home from Afar
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Marty and Stefan were living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Toronto. Stefan ran his consulting business from a desk tucked in one corner, while Marty completed his master’s degree from their couch a few feet away. The couple knew they needed room to grow and began their search for a new place to call home.
“I was looking for change—any change,” Marty says.
Marty and Stefan started by compiling a list of features that they believed would make for a “complete town.” They wanted a place with a café, bar, restaurant, grocery store, hardware store, and hospital — a big ask outside of larger city centres. Finally, they landed on Windsor, Nova Scotia. For most of the 19th century, Windsor was one of the largest wooden shipbuilding economies in the world, and before that, the area was the land of the Mi’kmaq Nation, the Indigenous community that still lives in the area today. With its rich history, and appropriate amount of amenities, they had found their town—now, they just needed to find their place in it.
In September of 2020, Marty and Stefan stumbled upon the Geldert House. Built in 1898 by Sophie Forsyth, a wealthy widow, the house features plenty of room for entertaining. Stefan and Marty can still feel the details of her style and elegance through the 10ft tall ceilings.
They reached out to a realtor and said they would love to come for a tour, however, pandemic limitations on travel made this impossible. To work around this, Marty and Stefan began the gruelling process of buying the property from afar. After three separate home inspections from agencies in Nova Scotia and additional video tours with the help of a childhood friend who lived in the province, they decided to take a chance on the place.
Stefan recalls speaking to his family about the possibility of buying a house sight-unseen, “They said, you’ve already done more preparation than we’ve ever done when we’ve bought houses.”
And so, they put in an offer.
The Geldert Guest House
Moving into a house that had already lived many lives (made clear by details like the bank safe in the dining room) Marty and Stefan wanted to respect that history, while modernizing the house to meet their guests’ expectations.
“It’s a mix of what was built but also the decision she might have made if she was building today. That’s been our ethos when we say we’re interested in respecting the historical element versus restoring the house.”
Today, the Geldert Guest House serves as an elevated experience where guests enjoy the period features of a beautiful home with the functionality of things like fibre internet and co- working spaces.
Life as an Adventure
When guests ask what it’s like to be innkeepers, Stefan says, “It’s a great side hustle.”
Stefan and Marty both maintain their full-time jobs, juggling their careers while running the guest house. Recently, they hired a cleaner to assist with room turnovers as they welcome more guests.
“We like our careers and we’re not trying to become full-time innkeepers,” Marty says, but he’s also grateful for the opportunities to meet people from around the world.
“Hearing other people’s stories is so much fun, because one of the reasons we bought this house was this sense of adventure,” Stefan says. “When we bought this house, our entire life became an adventure. And whenever guests come in, they’re on an adventure of their own making as well.”
When asked about working in tourism, they agree. “If you want a life of adventure—tourism can take you there.”