Breathing life into a slice of Warwick history
A DAY IN THE LIFE - Mark Cains
IN 2009 Mark Cains and wife Sonia Hunt were looking for a home to buy in the UK.
The couple's plan was to spend six months of the year in England and six months in Australia.
"We were googling old places for sale, and saw an ad for this amazing old building in Warwick," Mr Cains said.
"We assumed it was in Warwick, England until we figured out the sale price was in Australian dollars.
"That's when we discovered there was a Warwick in Australia, and not too far away."
Mr Cains was born in England and emigrated to Australia in 1972 with his parents and two brothers.
"We were 10 Pound Poms," he said.
"The Suez Canal was closed at the time due to tensions in the Middle East, so we had to take the long way around.
"Eight weeks on a boat to Australia was a real adventure for me, I loved it but spent a lot of the time seasick."
Mr Cains said his parents had owned an old pub near Leicester in England.
"It was a 600-year-old pub called the Rose and Crown Hotel," he said.
"It was an amazing old place.
"Their plan was to buy a marina on the Gold Coast, but we got here a bit too late and prices were too high."
The family settled in Brisbane and at 19 Mr Cains relocated to the Gold Coast.
"A lot of my friends were there and I loved my surfing at the time," Mr Cains said.
"I became a plumber and in 1992 I started my own business.
"I built it up and had 50 guys working for me."
Mr Cains met wife Sonia about 15 years ago when she owned the Cold Rock Ice Creamery national franchise.
"She had about 80 or 90 stores nation-wide," he said.
"Eventually we both sold up and were looking for a grand old house, when we discovered the Abbey."
Mr Cains said they came to town on Christmas Eve 2009 to look at the property.
"We rang the real estate agent and came straight out," he said.
"We bought it as a house.
"The business came as part of the deal, but we didn't plan on doing anything with it at the time.
"Then the global financial crisis hit and we lost a bit as many people did and had to rethink things."
Mr Cains said the magnificent old building had needed a lot of work.
"We wanted to bring it back to how it was in it's glory days," he said.
"And we've just about done that now.
"We repainted the entire interior and exterior, recarpeted, renovated and expanded the guest rooms, fixed the roof and did up the gardens, fences and driveways."
These days the Abbey is marketed as a boutique hotel and is for sale.
"It's taken us a while to get to that point," he said.
"There is a bit to go through to be able to call yourself a hotel.
"We have been running a bed and breakfast for a few years, but the hotel side of things takes it to a whole other level."
Mr Cains said the Governor-General and his entourage stayed at the Abbey last week.
"That was exciting," he said.
"He was lovely guy and even gave me a medal.
"We also had Gold Coast playboy, The Candyman (Travers Beynon) stay here with his wife, girlfriend and three promo girls.
"That was a real buzz, there were $3 million dollars worth of cars parked outside.
"Anna Bligh and Tony Abbott have both stayed as well."
Mr Cains said the place appeals to people looking for something a bit different.
"We get a lot of customers from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sydney," he said.
"We also host weddings, high teas, Christmas in July and hire out the house as a function centre.
"We do everything ourselves, all the cooking and looking after the rooms and the guests but if needed we'll hire some young local girls to assist us with functions and weddings."
The house has 55 rooms and Mr Cains said it was very peaceful when empty.
"When it's just me, Sonia and Basil the cat, it's lovely and quiet," he said.
Mr Cains said the Abbey was now on the market.
"We had a six-year plan," he said.
"We have built the Abbey into something now for someone else to take over.
"We've done our stint, it's time to find something different."