Rob Little: Adventures in hospitality

by Kerry Shellborn
Rob Little, General Manager Adventure hotel, Emperor Coffee, Louis Steakhouse in Nelson, BC.

Rob Little, General Manager Adventure hotel, Emperor Coffee, Louis Steakhouse in Nelson, BC. — Photo courtesy Rob Little

Rob Little knows a lot about the hospitality industry. He has helped transform one of Nelson’s historic 100-year-old buildings into a modern European-style hotel. He also had to deal with the tragic loss of Danny Rickaby, his mentor, friend and managing partner of the Adventure Hotel. Through it all Little, has kept calm and carried on with the day-to-day business of greeting customers, caring for staff and growing a business.

How did you come to choose this line of work?

I wouldn't say it was a conscious choice.  But I've always been a strange breed in that I love numbers, but also love dealing with people.  So hospitality seemed like a good fit.  I took a year off of University and took a job bartending at a ski resort to earn some money for the winter, and quickly found that I was fascinated with all aspects of hospitality.  The rest is history.

What is it about your work that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

No two days are ever the same. There is plenty of room for creativity, and I get to work with and meet some extraordinary people.

Where do you like to spend your downtime in the Kootenays?

If it's just me, I'm on the golf course. Always!  But if it's with my wife and children, we really enjoy the camping lifestyle. There are so many great campgrounds in this area that people travel all over the country for, right in our backyard.

What has motivated you throughout your journey?

Knowledge more than anything.  I was fortunate throughout my career to have some incredible mentors.  Some of the best in the business really, who took the time to educate me. I never forgot that and look forward to the day that I can pay that back with someone as eager as I was.

Anything else you'd like to tell us about your business?

The Adventure Hotel was built in 1913 and boasts 40 guest rooms, a sportsbar, steakhouse, coffee shop and liquor store. Throughout the years it has been transformed into what it is today, largely due to the vision of Danny Rickaby.  One of my mentors in this business who we unfortunately lost this year.  If I can do anything moving forward, it would be to ensure that his legacy at our property lives on.

What makes the Kootenays attractive as a young entrepreneur?

More than anything, I think it would be the community's view on supporting local.  Not that I have anything particular against a specific corporate store, but they do bleed money out of the local economy.  Yes, they may provide employment, but all profits are swiftly being shipped to "head office" wherever that is.  People around here seem to grasp that concept and are very supportive of anyone attempting to get started with their small business.

What trends have you noticed in your local community that might impact the local economy in the next five years?

I think the biggest trend that we are seeing in our business is a re-focus on craft.  We are seeing it in beer, in our cocktails, in restaurants, farm to table food, 3rd wave coffee, and in manufacturing.  It feels like we are starting to move away from mass production, and people are starting to really pay attention to these intricacies and to quality—which, to me, is exciting.

Did we miss anyone? Meanwhile, if you think we missed someone who should have been nominated, we’d be happy to consider them for inclusion on next year’s list. Click here to nominate your pick for the 2018 40 under 40 list.

2016 40 Under 40 List See who made the 40 Under 40 list in 2016. 

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