Scott and Laurie LaFleur are the newest owners of the Caribou Inn & Convention Center and hope to make the popular hotel a destination spot for visitors. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

CARIBOU, Maine — Scott and Laurie LaFleur are already reimagining how to entice more visitors to the area as the new owners of the Caribou Inn & Convention Center.

The LaFleurs are natives of Nova Scotia but have lived in Aroostook County since before Scott converted the former Budget Traveler Inn in Presque Isle to Maine’s first SureStay by Best Western. The LaFleurs have since sold SureStay and purchased a home in Caribou for their growing family, which includes a son, daughter and another child on the way.

The Caribou Inn & Convention Center has been one of the largest event and meeting spaces in Aroostook County since 1994, while the hotel side has been popular with snowmobile enthusiasts and summer tourists. After nearly two years without an owner, the business will soon receive major renovations and become the Caribou region’s first nationally branded hotel.

Scott and Laurie LaFleur pose above the Caribou Inn & Convention Center’s 3,600-square-foot banquet hall, one area of the hotel that will see major renovations next year. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

“We saw a lot of potential in keeping this place part of the community,” Scott LaFleur said.

Though they officially became owners in late September, the LaFleurs have already begun conversations with national hotel brands looking to add their names to the Caribou Inn. The couple has not chosen one yet. They are also working with a designer to finalize upcoming renovation plans.

Starting in early 2023, the LaFleurs plan to give complete makeovers to the 73 rooms, the 3,600-square-foot banquet hall, conference centers, fitness gym, the Greenhouse Restaurant, Albie’s Lounge and the 10,000-square-foot courtyard.

“Everything is going to be updated and renovated,” Laurie LaFleur said. “It’s going to be a completely different space than what you see now.”

Scott and Laurie LaFleur pose next to the sign for the Caribou Inn & Convention Center. The LaFleurs now own the Caribou-based inn and hope to make the space a destination for visitors to the northern Maine city. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

Once renovations begin, the LaFleurs expect construction to last at least a year. Total costs will be determined once they choose a final design.

After completion, all rooms will contain new furniture, linens, bathrooms and lights. Several single rooms will be converted into suites with their own living rooms and kitchens and marketed toward long-term visitors and traveling medical professionals.

The banquet hall and conference rooms will receive new lighting, floors and tables, which the LaFleurs hope will attract more people for conventions, meetings, company training sessions and private events such as weddings and holiday parties.

“We want [the convention center] to be a gathering space for people in the community,” Scott LaFleur said.

The renovations will be a welcome change for a business that has not undergone major upgrades since the early 2000s, Caribou Inn manager Betty Hersey said.

The 3,600-square-foot banquet hall is one of numerous spaces at the Caribou Inn & Convention Center that will undergo major renovations next year. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

Hersey has worked at the inn since 1991, three years after the business opened as the Caribou Motor Inn. In 1994, Kevin Simmons purchased the Motor Inn and reopened it under the current name. Simmons owned both the Caribou and Presque Isle Inn & Convention Centers until his death in 2021.

The Presque Isle Inn is now under new ownership and no longer affiliated with the Caribou Inn.

As people begin using Caribou’s convention center and traveling after the COVID-19 pandemic, Hersey hopes the LaFleurs’ changes will bring more visitors to Caribou.

“They have great ideas. They’re young and have the initiative and drive to make these changes work,” Hersey said. “It’s going to be helpful for the community to give this place a facelift. It will be a change but a good change.”

The 60-seat Greenhouse Restaurant, adjacent to the Caribou Inn & Convention Center, will be one of many areas at the hotel to see renovations and changes next year. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

As they get settled in Caribou, the LaFleurs have been meeting city and business leaders and learning more about their new community. With Caribou more focused than ever on local economic development and tourism, the couple wants people to not only stay at their inn but also make the city their vacation destination.

“We want to bring people here so that they shop, eat and go places in Caribou instead of just lodging in the area,” Laurie said. “Everyone we’ve met here has been so welcoming and they see the good that this place can do for our community.”