Women In Business

Marie Birkbeck – Jailhouse Bed & Breakfast

This issue’s Women in Business features our very own Marie Birkbeck! – Dianne St. Jean

Marie began her career in the Hospitality industry at the age of 14 as a dishwasher in an all-night truck stop/diner in small town rural Alberta. From there she advanced to waitress and short order cook, and over the years filled almost every position in the kitchen, eventually having her own successful catering company for several years.

In 1993 Marie graduated from the Hospitality and Tourism program in Red Deer College, but entry level wages just don’t pay the bills, so it was not long before she went to work as Head Cook on the drilling rigs in northern Alberta and British Columbia, running her own little restaurant one week at a time. 

After twelve years of living out of suitcase and away from home, Marie was on the lookout for a viable option that would allow her to stay at home, continue her passion for cooking and meeting people, so opening a Bed & Breakfast was a natural transition.

In 2007, Marie and her son Byron purchased an existing Bed & Breakfast in the old RCMP Barracks in Valemount and after several months of extensive renovations the Jailhouse Bed & Breakfast officially opened on Jan 1, 2008. In addition to the three bedrooms, Jailhouse B & B has maintained the originality of the building with cinder block walls and one fully functional jail cell that was left intact, complete with bunks and bars! In the summer it provides guests the opportunity to don the stripes of a convict and spend a few minutes behind bars! In the winter the cell becomes a drying room for the sledders’ wet gear.

The Bed & Breakfast is open year round and operates at full capacity from mid May to about mid September. The one-person operation can be very tiring and overwhelming at times, but the rewards at the end make it all worthwhile. Guests at the Jailhouse are not just numbers; many become almost like members of the family returning year after year. 

Most recently, by far the biggest challenge of her career has been learning how to continue to operate the business while convalescing from foot surgery and unable to access the upper floor.

Now in its ninth year of operation, Jailhouse Bed & Breakfast truly does “Have the Key to Your Escape!