'Boomerpreneurs' loving Windsor-Essex

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Windsor Star/Roseann Danese

The Windsor Essex Active Retirement Community Initiative wants to build on a campaign that began in 2009 to market the region as a great place to retire. It is hoping to attract the next wave of empty nesters, a group tagged as the new “boomerpreneurs” — retirees who are looking for a second career.

The campaign — called Start Something New — is aimed at introducing new residents over the age of 50 to like-minded people who’ve moved to the region to start a small business. The group’s president, Krista DelGatto, said about 1,000 “active retirees” — people such as Carl and Rita Hulme, Larry and Joyce Duffield and Sandra and Ian McLeod — relocated to the Windsor-Essex region since the campaign began. “It’s a no-brainer,” DelGatto said of the strategy of marketing the region to baby boomers who’ve taken early retirement but still want to work, albeit at a slower pace.

The city and county funded WEARCI to the tune of $120,000 annually until 2014, when politicians decided to stop because they felt the money wasn’t worth the results they were seeing. Norman Langlois, president of the Windsor Essex Association of Realtors, disagrees. Each new family that relocates to the region has to buy or rent a home, they have to pay taxes, they have to buy cars and groceries and clothing. And that helps everyone. “We see it as a win-win situation.”

More information on WEARCI’s Start Something New initiative is available at RetireHere.ca.

Carl and Rita Hulme — Blimeys

It was a full-page ad in a Toronto newspaper that caught Carl Hulme’s attention five years ago, touting the benefits of living in Windsor-Essex. He lived in Orangeville at the time and didn’t know anything about this region in southern Ontario. But he was intrigued. A community surrounded by water, close to a major U.S. city, where one could buy a waterfront home for a fraction of what it would cost in Toronto. “I had to come see it,” Carl said. “Everyone in Toronto goes north (when they retire). We thought we’d go the opposite direction.”

By that point in his life, he wanted to slow down. He’d been travelling the world as vice-president of a multinational company and was rarely home during the week.

Carl and his wife Rita bought a waterfront home in Oxley, spent two years remodelling it, sold their home in Orangeville and moved here. Two years ago, they opened a British store and gift shop in Harrow as a diversion. The business that was to be open two or three days a week has turned into a six-day-a-week operation, with three employees beyond Carl and Rita.

“An undiscovered gem is how I describe it,” Carl said of the Windsor-Essex region. “There is waterfront everywhere. Wherever you are (in the region) the waterfront is spectacular.”

Carl said his 23-year-old son recently bought a home in the area. “There’s no way had we stayed where we were he’d be able to do that. Just an impossibility.”

Sandra and Ian McLeod — Red Door Travel

Sandra and Ian McLeod left their Windsor roots more than 35 years ago for work in Toronto. She was a chartered accountant. He worked in the financial sector. The two moved back two years ago when they decided they wanted to slow down a bit. While their friends moved north, to places such as Peterborough and Muskoka, the McLeods looked south. “We weren’t up north people or beach people,” Sandra, 62, said. But while lifestyle was part of the reason for coming back to the region, Sandra’s parents were getting old and needed more help.

After arriving, the McLeods opened a travel agency, Red Door Travel, which they operate out of their home in an upscale LaSalle neighbourhood. The money from the sale of their Toronto home and a travel franchise they operated there augmented their retirement fund here.

“We would be $1 million in Toronto versus what we are here,” Sandra said. “We were surprised at how much we could get for our money. We could get a custom-built home for half the price of what we’d pay in Toronto.”

And the difference in the weather is noticeable, Sandra said. “The weather is phenomenal. Our spring and summer are two to three weeks longer than Toronto.”

Larry and Joyce Duffield — Ye Olde Walkerville Bed & Breakfast

Larry and Joyce Duffield, owners of Ye Olde Walkerville Bed & Breakfast, moved here 12 years ago after Larry’s long and successful career as a Canadian government diplomat. Duffield said Windsor’s mild climate, its proximity to Michigan (where his wife’s adult children live), and the region’s affordable housing market were deciding factors in the decision to move from Ottawa.

They got into the bed and breakfast business after relocating here and have recently sold it as a turnkey operation. But the Duffields — who lived abroad for 25 years in seven different cities — will remain in the Windsor region. “You can’t get better located,” Larry said. “If you want to live in Canada this is the best climate in the country.”

After the Duffields moved, Larry’s adult son joined them. He bought a house and now works at a retirement home in Windsor. “We love the size of the city. We love the proximity to the Detroit metropolitan area. We are huge fans … in every respect.”