While vacationing in the Kootenays, Annette and Larry Plett saw a little business for sale in Meadow Creek. By October 2014, they’d moved from Kelowna to become the proud owners of Drifter’s Restaurant, the village’s longstanding sole roadside eatery-pub-bunkhouse.

Now they’re set on making that business opportunity even bigger, both for Drifter’s and the community at large.

An area institution since the 1960s, around the time Duncan Dam was built, Drifter’s has become a hub for the village of Meadow Creek and surrounding communities. “Primarily, there isn’t anything up the lake for people to stay at,” Annette says. “Road workers, crews, firefighters, everybody—they need a place to stay.”

With the help of a loan from Columbia Basin Trust, the Pletts are doing a complete rebuild of Drifter’s on-site accommodations, renovating them from the bare-bones lodgings into modern motel-style rooms. They’re taking the restaurant off the well it’s long shared with the adjacent grocery store and digging its own, and adding its own sewage system. Plus, they’ve added an 800-square-foot deck, which opened in time for summer 2015. “The patio deck has been a huge draw for people,” says Annette. “We’ve had a big increase in business.”

But the Pletts are also looking at things with a broader view: the motel-style accommodations are a vital piece of the puzzle in making Meadow Creek a tourism destination. And that potential boon to the economy is the Pletts’ ultimate goal. Annette notes that the region is ideal for outdoor recreation, including boating, fishing, hiking and quadding.

“I think it will be a destination for people; that’s what we’re trying to make it. Not just a place that people are going to drive through, but that they’ll want to come to; they’ll be using it year after year.”

Drifter’s currently employs six people—making it one of the community’s biggest employers— a number that will grow once the accommodations are up and running. It also supports the local economy in other ways, including using local growers for seasonal produce and putting regional breweries on its beer list.

Although the Pletts are new to the village, they’ve been humbled by the support it has offered and recognize the important role their business plays for area residents. “A little restaurant like this is a critical part of a small community,” says Annette. “It’s an economic engine, and a place for people to gather. It really has united the valley in terms of the different communities that are here.”