Bruce Ewart puts the business experience he gained on remote mining camps to good use at an historic Margaret River guesthouse.

Story By Ann Bolch

It’s a good thing Bruce Ewart loves people. He’s worked seven days a week for the past four years managing Margaret River’s Bridgefield Guesthouse, meeting every visitor who has graced the elegant guesthouse’s steps.
When his friend of 30 years, Sam Caruso, found a quaint, four-roomed cottage at the northern entrance to Margaret River township he immediately called Bruce. “I love it,” Sam said. “I can’t run it, but you can.” On inspecting the building, Bruce immediately saw the business potential of the historic property. Built in 1934, the heritage-listed place has, at different times, served as a coach house, a boarding house, a post office, a gentleman’s guesthouse and even the town hall for a short period.
“It’s very different from a cold motel environment.,” Bruce says. “It’s for people looking to be hosted; people after a little bit of fuss.” Running for five years, Bridgefield usually hosts about 20 guests at a time. It caters for all sorts of people, a mix which usually includes a couple of surfers looking for a wave at Main Break, travellers from Europe, the odd salesman looking for company, and couples getting married in the nearby vineyards (soon-to-be-weds are specially catered for with two Jaguars to get them to the wedding, and a ‘champagne spa room’ for after the event). A communal lounge room gives the holidaymakers a place to find common ground.
A cabinet-maker by trade, Sam has spent the past five years restoring the building to National Trust specifications. He’s added three new rooms and restored a chalet up the road to fit more guests. He has also built a small apartment for Bruce and in the year ahead, hopes to re-decorate the main rooms and add a new wing.
By law, at least one person must be living on the property at all times. And so Bruce calls his Bridgefield apartment home. Holidaymakers in search of a last-minute bed can buzz him on the intercom any time during the night. If there is nothing available at Bridgefield, Bruce will get out of bed and help them find something else in Margaret River.
“It’s long hours but it’s not hard work – you just have to be there,” he says. According to Bruce, the trick to managing a business such as this is to make sure your work life is your social life. He prides himself on being able to talk with anyone and his keen observation skills let him know when guests want time to themselves. “I’m a very giving person,” Bruce says. “You’ve got to be that way to be inclined to do this type of work.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #59

Outback Magazine: June/July 2008