Travellers may turn up at the Merenkurkun Majatalo inn in Björkö any time of day, even late evening, and so owner Anne Ojala is always prepared to receive guests. Ojala herself lives in a neighbouring building close to the inn, which makes it much easier to be available at all times. Her most memorable guests were two young men who were caught in a storm while travelling to Umeå in Sweden on a pedal boat.
“You never know who is going to step in. The young pedal boaters had been driven ashore by the strong winds and where picked up by a nice couple who then brought them here. They arrived around ten o'clock at night and went straight to the sauna to warm up. The next day they continued their journey to Umeå,” Ojala remembers.
Anne Ojala, owner of the Merenkurkun Majatalo inn, lives in a neighbouring building close to it and is always ready to receive guests.
The Merenkurkun Majatalo inn has accommodation for 20, a meeting room for about 30 and a café & restaurant that seats 24, with an additional 16 seats available when necessary. The majority of its customers are Finnish. Companies from Vaasa and the surrounding area hire the inn for events for workplace health promotion for their employees, but otherwise the inn’s customers come from all over the country. About a fifth of its customers come from abroad; for example, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain.
A mixture of old and new
The Merenkurkun Majatalo inn is a mixture of old and new. It was built in its current location in 1997 around a frame dating back to the 1890s, which was transported to Björkö from Helsingby, just south of Vaasa. Using new materials to build the house around the old frame was a better option than a complete overhaul of the old building.
As well as workplace health events, the Merenkurkun Majatalo inn is a popular venue for birthdays, wedding receptions and bachelor and bachelorette parties. Entertainment at bachelor and bachelorette parties can include, for example, cooking lessons by Ojala.
“I was a chef for six years and I’m proud of my cooking. Good food and service are one of my company's definite strengths, but our customers also enjoy the inn’s old-fashioned rural setting.”
The inn was built in its current location in 1997 using a frame dating back to the 1890s, which was transported to Björkö from Helsingby, just south of Vaasa.
Diverse experience proved a good basis for business
As well as training to be a chef, Ojala has also studied hairdressing and she still offers some barber and hairdressing services alongside the inn. Ojala found VASEK a great help when starting her first barbers and hair salon in the centre of Vaasa. She made her business plan, for example, with help from VASEK. After buying the Merenkurkun Majatalo inn, she moved her salon there. VASEK still supports her in her entrepreneurial pursuits by staying in touch and advising her on developing her business activities further.
Ojala has also taken boat-building and entrepreneurial courses in Kuopio. The entrepreneurial course gave her a strong footing in business, and she was not afraid to become a business owner.
“I’m eager to try new things and I don’t worry too much. If I don’t succeed in this business I can always try something else. I haven’t regretted becoming a business owner and I believe I will get along just fine. I take it one day at a time. Life is too short to wait until everything in your life is just right before doing something."
The café & restaurant seats 24 customers and, when necessary, 16 more places can be arranged.
Customer service is the best part
As a business owner, Ojala does not really have a typical workday. Apart from one summer employee, she runs her business by herself and does a variety of jobs as needed. A day’s tasks include, for example, cooking and housekeeping duties. Serving customers is the best part of the work.
“I try to have a conversation with every guest. Breakfast is a particularly good time for this. Usually customers start to talk then and get to know each other too.”
The Kvarken World Heritage Site is a rare gem that many people have not even heard of yet, and that is why it would be wise to invest more in its marketing. The summer of 2016, when the World Heritage Site celebrated its 10th anniversary, was very busy at the Merenkurkun Majatalo inn.
"I have opened a restaurant at the inn and it is open on weekends from Friday to Sunday. It has brought lots of new customers", Ojala says.
Text & photographs: VASEK
Translation: Taina Pemberton
Read the other articles about the Kvarken archipelago:
Molpehällorna island, Cruise to the Mickelsörarna, Granösund Museum, Sommaröhallen crafts shop, Aava Kerttu homestead, Kvarkenturer, Café Salteriet & Villa Meribjörkö.