The Manoir Belle Plage hotel was originally a magnificent English villa, built in the Channel Island Regency cottage style. First called Stella Maris, this summer home was built around 1921 on a portion of Lot 41-C that William Leblanc had sold to Marie-Louise Pearson, wife of the Honourable Charles Marcil. The Member of Parliament for the riding of Bonaventure in the House of Commons (1900-1937), Charles Marcil was one of the main instigators responsible for the completion of the railroad from Matapédia to Gaspé and grandfather of journalist Michelle Tisseyre. In 1924, the property was sold to Harriet Duff Reid of Montréal. She lived there for a number of years before selling it to René C. Cullen in 1949.
One of the first hotel establishments built in Carleton-sur-Mer, the Manoir Belle Plage has a rich history; here are some of the highlights. During your stay at the hotel, if you’re lucky, you may hear some tales about things that have happened on the premises over the years…
In 1949, the villa became a hotel – the Belle Plage – and a series of motel units were added. In 1950, it was purchased by Victorien and Edwige Smith. In 1965, Rollande Arsenault and Raymond Comeau acquired the establishment and expanded it, building on their ideas and good stewardship. In 1978, they bought another building in Carleton that they had moved to the hotel lot and then, in 1988, they expanded the hotel from 10 to 24 units, adding a reception area and meeting rooms. The establishment was renamed Manoir Belle Plage.
Rollande Arsenault and Raymond Comeau
A blind date arranged by a cousin set the stage for the long and tender love story of Rollande Arsenault, originally from Caplan, and Raymond Comeau, of Baie Sainte-Marie (Nova Scotia). After a three-year courtship, they were married in Montréal where she worked in accounting and he, in telegraph communication. While skiing in the Laurentians, the couple compared tourism development there and the potential that existed on the Gaspé Peninsula. That was all it took for the couple to set off on an entrepreneurial adventure, with a great deal of flair albeit without experience.
In life and in business
The couple first approached Mrs. Comeau’s grandfather, Jos Garant, with an offer to buy a hotel he owned in Caplan, but he refused to sell his business to a couple of “young spring chickens” or petites panses (an expression he used for young people). So the Comeau couple moved on to a town more popular with tourists: Carleton. Innovative, hard-working and ever-attentive to their guests’ needs… their efforts were the key to the success of the family establishment they built. In 2010, following a long illness, Mr. Comeau passed away at the age of 73. As for Mrs. Comeau, she still lives at the Manoir Belle Plage, where she continues to keep an eye on things.
The second generation
“In Grade 5, when my teacher Alice Johnson asked us what we wanted to do later in life, I said I wanted to become a hotel keeper. All the other boys wanted to be police officers or fire fighters,” says David Comeau, manager and proprietor of the Manoir Belle Plage. “I was always been proud of what my parents did, of their involvement in the community and of the business, what it represented in the village”. His bachelor’s degree in administration in hand, David Comeau completed a master’s degree in regional development, focussing on the tourism industry in Carleton-sur-Mer. “I got this interest from my mother, who is very attached to the area, its history and heritage.”
The next generation
David Comeau gained experience by working at several other establishments before returning to his home town in 1997 to work full time at the Manoir Belle Plage. He took over management in 2006. “My father gave me a lot of leeway and responsibility. Our project to have me take over worked out really well.” For the Comeau family, the Manoir Belle Plage has always been the family home. “I was raised in the hotel; we ate at the restaurant three times a day for 365 days a year. My mother has never tired of that!” In 2015, after having lived in the hotel for 40 years, David Comeau and his wife Maryse Tremblay bought a single family home right behind the hotel. They live there today with their two daughters, Marianne and Geneviève, who slowly but surely are becoming involved in the business in their turn.