With a penchant for ‘great wine and good vibes’, The June is a female-led motelier that was founded by best friends, April Brown and Sarah Sklash. Following our bow to International Women’s Day, Editor Hamish Kilburn sat down with Brown and Sklash to learn more about how the due are using design into to evolve The June into a leading lifestyle brand…
What started as a side hustle turned into a full-time passion project in 2016, with April Brown and Sarah Sklash converting their first rundown roadside motel into a boutique hospitality destination. Centered on bold feminine design with a retro twist, the two properties, located in Ontario’s Prince Edward County and Sauble Beach, are both set amongst beautiful landscapes that inspire their aesthetics.
To achieve the balance of beautiful design with a plant lady personality, the best friends started by tapping into the epitome of North American motel culture: neon signs, bright coloured doors, and retro Solair chairs. Collaborating with other female-founded businesses, creatives, and makers from their local communities and beyond, The June brand look quickly came together. Everything from the custom bathroom tiles, terrazzo countertops, bespoke wallpaper, and perfect paint shades like Apricot Beige and Palladian Blue set the mood and transform the spaces from roadside motels to places of refuge.
Hamish Kilburn: Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What is your background and how did you get to where you are today? What made you decide to open The June?
April Brown: Simply put, we’re two best friends who took a risk to do something we love. My background is in PR, and Sarah’s is in government, but we both have this love of travel and boutique hospitality, and wanted more than our corporate jobs in Toronto. On New Year’s Day 2016, we finally decided to work together and develop a sort of side hustle. Originally, we wanted to create a weekend “wine camp” for adults, setting up camp at a roadside motel in the Prince Edward County countryside. It didn’t take long for us to realise that there was a bigger idea there, so we visited a dingy, roadside motel and decided to purchase it. It was exciting to take that leap, but what followed was a lot of hard work. We renovated the property entirely ourselves – except for the plumbing and electric – and learned so much along the way. The result is something that we literally built, and we’re looking forward to growing the brand.
HK: What was the inspiration behind The June? How would you describe the style of The June?
Sarah Sklash: The June is a little old school, high-spirited, eccentric, good vibes – and we like to personify that throughout the properties. To achieve all of that, we really focused on the designs, putting a lot of time and attention into every detail. The Prince Edward County property features pink doors, statement palm wallpaper and serious plant lady vibes; Sauble Beach has sun-bleached wallpaper in every room, a retro colour palette, and an idyllic 70s motel pool. Both properties have a balance of North American motel culture (neon signs, bright coloured doors, and retro Solair chairs) while also pulling inspiration from the beautiful surrounding landscapes. The results are visually stimulating, but also feel like you are in a very cool friend’s house. In addition to the design, we like to throw in other nice touches, like a free glass of rosé at check-in.
HK: The June is a big supporter of Female-led businesses, after all you have created one yourself. Tell us about the creatives and makers you have collaborated with for the two properties.
AB: Wherever we can, we love to partner with like-minded, female-founded and owned businesses in our communities and beyond. The June wasn’t built by us alone; we leaned on a lot of family and friends to help make The June the success it is today, so we really believe in that sense of community. We have a long list of collaborators, having worked with partners on everything from our branding to our custom wallpapers.
Here are some examples of the incredible women we work with:
- Jackie Treitz, The Paper Bakery, who helped us create and design The June brand
- Candice Kaye who designed our perfectly sun bleached wallpaper in the guest rooms in Sauble Beach
- Melissa Condotta of Sunday’s Company, who created our signature scent and in-room apothecary products (body oil, soap and linen spray).
HK: How does The June stand out from other hotels and motels in the industry?
SS: We believe a good amount of our success is because we’re so hands on and everything is from our points of view. We believe ourselves to be the target audience, so there’s an authenticity in everything we do, and luckily it resonates with our guests. Our approach is also very casual, informal, and friendly, which is exactly what people want when they’re looking to escape and unwind.
HK: Earlier this year you launched your e-commerce business. Tell us more about The June Shop and the collections available…
AB: Since we opened our pink doors in Prince Edward County four years ago, our followers have been messaging us and asking where some of our most iconic items are from, and how they can create The June aesthetic at home. We finally decided to reveal our sources and created a destination where our community can shop The June look and find inspiration. Also, with the pandemic and everyone stuck at home for the past year, we wanted to create an opportunity for our guests to bring The June’s iconic vacation vibes home.
The Shop features our Core Collection, a small curated selection of our most asked for items and iconic decor accessories that make The June uniquely feminine, like our pink neon signs, bold wallpapers and signature body oil. It’s dedicated to highlighting bold and visionary female founders, who each took a chance on themselves and pursued their dreams to build creatively fulfilling lives on their own terms.
HK: You opened your Sauble Beach property during the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you think this has impacted the business – and have there been any other challenges you’ve had to overcome?
SS: We learned a lot from launching the Prince Edward County property and in the four years since, so we went into the Sauble Beach project with some key learnings and a strong sense of our brand. In terms of opening Sauble Beach, it was actually very satisfying; it was challenging and rewarding at the same time. The project was so much bigger than PEC, including a swimming pool, 24 rooms, and an indoor/outdoor restaurant. When the pandemic hit we of course were concerned, but we stayed flexible and open to learning. We accommodated staff schedules, implemented new policies, relied on government subsidies, and overall made the best of it as much as we could. Being a small business you have to stay proactive and reactive. We did and it worked.
HK: So what’s next for The June?
SS: Right now, we’re looking forward to opening our doors again once Covid restrictions in Canada lift. As for the future, we’re hoping to grow the brand and bring The June to more communities, continue working with inspiring brand partners, and beyond. We’re proud of what we created, and want to deliver as much good vibes and good wine to all as we possibly can.
Main image credit: Lauren Miller Photography