Category Archives: Buying and Selling Properties in Nova Scotia

How we bought five properties (two stores, two houses, one hobby farm) in two-and-one-half years – all mortgage-free!

Mom Comes to Stay (What’s Buying One More House?)

My mother, Betty Isabel (nee Miller), was the main reason I ended up moving to Canada.  She was born in Brockville, Ontario, in the early 20s. She met my father, an American from Indiana, during World War II. Brockville, a city of approximately 20,000 situated on the St. Lawrence River, was home at that time to an officer’s training camp. My father was keen to join the war effort and couldn’t wait for his own country to get involved so came up to Canada to enlist with the Canadian-British…

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Three Little Bears Moving to Deep Brook???

The Three Little Bears Cottage Store
The Three Little Bears Cottage Store partway through the long, cold winter of 2013-2014

Our first winter in Smiths Cove was cold, snowy and quiet.  We had lots of time for reflection.

Ian reached the conclusion by the end of February that we should perhaps change direction and develop our property on Purdy Road, Deep Brook, as was our original plan.  We had wanted to start an animal-based business, similar to what we had had in Ontario but on a much smaller scale.  However, because we had brought a lot of our stock, shelving and equipment with us after selling Fundy’s Mountain General Store, we decided late last summer to start another convenience store with a few extras attached to it (such as pet and farm supplies, plants and soils, Christian books, consignments).  We knew Purdy Road would definitely not be the ideal location for a convenience store.

The Three Little Bears Cottage Store continued to be slow sales-wise.  We had been spoiled in Hillsburn as the community there had been very supportive of their small store throughout the year. We were told numerous times by people in Smiths Cove to wait until “the season” started in late spring when the whole area would come alive with tourists and campers.  But we had envisioned a year-round not seasonal business.

We knew that one business that would be successful in Smiths Cove (and the one we had tried to escape by selling our Hillsburn business) would be a takeout/dairy bar.  We seriously considered buying a chip trailer.  We weren’t sure how drastically we wanted to renovate the building itself to accommodate a food-service business.

Ian decided to list his Smiths Cove property, as it was the beginning of the house-selling season for 2014.  Listing a property later in the year (especially in the fall) is almost a waste of time.  If it did sell (and assuming our house on Hollow Mountain Road sold as well), we would throw all of our resources into one property, our  hobby-farm-to-be on Purdy Road, Deep Brook.  This type of consolidation can be a wise decision, especially financially.  We might turn it into The Three Little Bears Country Farm!  Ian has plans for sideline business activities, such as greenhouse plants and forestry.

Just as I had been reluctant to put our farm and then Fundy’s Mountain General Store on the market, I definitely wasn’t keen to try to sell the Smiths Cove property so soon after Ian had purchased it.  On the other hand, I did like the idea of developing the Purdy Road hobby farm.  Each time we visited it, I wished that we had more time and resources to work with it.  But it also seemed to me that we were finally crawling out of a long, slow, sleepy winter hibernation period and into what was supposed to be the really busy, bustling tourist season — only to try to sell the property.

It’s at times like this that I am grateful for my Christian faith.  It may seem like a cop-out, but giving it all to the Lord and letting Him figure it out is such a stress-buster!  I know that He has plans for us, especially regarding the Christian book area that I have been nurturing.

It will be exciting to see where the next few weeks and months take us!


Summer Update (Saturday, July 26, 2014): We’re now in the heart of the “busy” tourist season, and sales continue to be slow, as if to confirm our decision to close up shop here in Smiths Cove. At Fundy’s Mountain this time of the year, a good day saleswise was $1,000 plus. Here we still struggle to even reach the $100 mark! We’ve set the closing date as Tuesday, August 5 (the day after Natal Day).  The local residents tell us that businesses just don’t seem to survive in Smiths Cove — too close to Digby. Yet everybody seems to agree that a store is needed in the community. Originally I had been hoping to see the store last through August, but the need to care for an elderly mother has confirmed our decision to close sooner rather than later. She does not do well when left alone for long periods of time, making numerous phone calls to the store asking when we will finally arrive home. By closing in August, we will have time to move all of our belongings out and renovate the building back into a house for a fall rental, and likely make more profit on the property.

Common business lore has it that 50 percent of new businesses fail in their first year; 90-95 percent within the first five years. We don’t plan to be part of that statistic. But we do plan to make drastic changes that will hopefully place  us in the 5-10 percent that do make it, having learned hard lessons from what hasn’t worked!

We’re looking forward to better things when the Three Little Bears come out of hibernation in Deep Brook some time in 2015, with a new look, new focus, new direction.

3 Bears on C.D.
Even our unique display on Canada Day didn’t draw much interest.





121 Highway 1, Smiths Cove

Usually sellers are happy when they are able to accept an offer, and all the conditions are waived.  In our case, being able to say that our store in Hillsburn was officially sold led to something resembling a panic situation. Where were we going to go next? We have been seriously considering a property in Clementsvale.  It was very economically priced but needed work (and lots of it).  However, we thought it would be an ideal spot for an old-fashioned country store. We knew that the couple who…

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824 Hollow Mountain Road, Delaps Cove, and 440 Purdy Road, Deep Brook

Buying real estate in Nova Scotia is like going to a bargain sale.  The same property in Ontario would cost at least twice as much.  As far as Alberta goes, you wouldn’t want to know! After putting in our offer on the store, we began negotiations on a house on Hollow Mountain Road. The house was nine kilometers from the store.  It was by Nova Scotia standards a relatively new house (Nova Scotia has some very old houses) at only 24 years old.  A roomy house with two bedrooms and a bath upstairs,…

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Fundy’s Mountain General Store (November 2011-September 2013)

Nova Scotia is permit-happy, in my opinion.  Our first step was to choose a name for the business and pay for a business name search.   We knew we wouldn’t be able to use Dee Wee’s Takeout and Convenience.  It was a personal name created by the previous owners. The logical choice, in our opinion, was Fundy’s Mountain General Store.  We didn’t want to emphasize the takeout quite as much as the previous owners had (mainly due to my lack of confidence as a cook!) . After all, the…

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What to Do When Your New Business is “Failing”

Build customer loyalty.   It’s easy to take this for granted until you don’t have it.  Our first retail business purchase in Nova Scotia involved a long-established business with a loyal customer base.  And the customer base was different than that of our new business in Smiths Cove.  There was actually some industry around Fundy’s Mountain General Store – fish plants as well as wharves from which the many lobster fishermen in the area worked.  There is only one year-round business near Three Little Bears: auto salvage/body shop.  Owners of a new business will…

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A Bumpy Start for The Three Little Bears Cottage Store

My husband and I opened our new store (The Three Little Bears Cottage Store)  in the small community of Smiths Cove, Nova Scotia, with great expectations one morning in early December 2013.  We changed our “Opening Soon” and “CLOSED” signs to “OPEN”.  We waited inside for the inevitable herd of eager, curious shoppers.  Oh, we knew some of them wouldn’t buy much.  They would step in mainly just to look around and see what this new store in their small community was all about.  After…

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