R & D DUNHAM HOLDINGS LTD – Bringing the World to Windsor

Debbie and Rick Dunham are community-oriented business owners who restore buildings and give them new life in the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia. They look for character, history, and potential as they search for new properties to invest in. As we talk to their Executive Assistant, Erika Orde, we learn about the Dunhams and how R & D Dunham Holdings Ltd is bringing the world to this little town of big firsts.


Debbie and Rick Dunham were both born and raised in Halifax and moved to Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, in 1976. Debbie was an elementary school teacher for many years, and Rick worked in the boiler industry. They have twin daughters, Sarah and Rebecca, and they have five grandchildren. Rick’s entrepreneurship journey began in July of 1998 when he opened his own company, Maritime Pressure Works. His company focused on boiler equipment installation, repairs, and rentals. In 2005, Rick and Debbie moved to Windsor, Nova Scotia with hopes to eventually retire in the small town. Before retirement could come into the picture, the Dunhams found themselves investing in properties with character, history, and potential within Windsor. Leading them into an entrepreneurial journey that continues to grow as R & D Dunham Holdings Ltd.

The Clockmaker’s Inn was the first business the Dunhams purchased when they moved to Windsor in 2005. The inn was located near their home on King St, and it became a family affair. In the beginning, Sarah ran the business with Rick and Debbie heavily involved. The inn was built in 1894, and it is a classic, Victorian-style bed and breakfast. As a Registered Historic Property, The Clockmaker’s Inn contains some of the original artwork on the walls by George Lyons from Falmouth, Nova Scotia. It has exposed wooden beams and original flooring. The Dunhams were considerate of the history and integrity of the building during any renovations that took place. The unique style of rooms and the delicious classic breakfast keeps guests coming back. The family is often around the property interacting with guests. Rick is known for sitting on the deck in the rocking chair telling stories and carrying on, making any guest feel right at home. 

In 2011 the Dunhams expanded their business venture to include the Spitfire Arms Pub. Spitfire Arms Pub was already a beloved staple in the town, on the decline before the Dunhams’ ownership. So, they wanted to maintain the pub’s character just as it was originally envisioned. Devastatingly, Spitfire Arms Pub had an electrical fire in the middle of the night in 2015 and was extensively burnt. Debbie and Rick took on the renovations and tried to restore the pub as the community remembered it. As quickly as they could, they rebuilt the pub to resemble the previous appearance. Rick immediately secured a temporary location for his staff, knowing their livelihoods depended on the pub. The renovations took about 8 months to complete, and the community was eager to get right back in. “They witnessed how much of a community there is here in Windsor and how passionate the people are about the businesses,” Executive Assistant, Erika Orde told us. 

Today, Spitfire Arms Pub is a place where the community can gather and enjoy great food. They host live music on Friday nights and trivia every Tuesday. Rick and Debbie love to partner with different clubs and societies around town such as Mermaid Theatre, and Quick As A Wink Theatre Society for the fun trivia nights. Spitfire Arms Pub has had the same chef, Daniel Pomerleau, for a long time, and he consistently serves up delicious meals. “Anything you think that a pub should serve, we’ve got it,” Orde said. The British-style pub has classic fish and chips, clubhouse sandwiches, British curry, and much more. There is creativity in the kitchen with an influence from the younger crowd for ever-changing specials. There are 24 beers on tap including craft beers from local breweries. Local ciders are also available to mix things up. “We have regulars who love to try new drinks, so we look for different types of beers to keep it exciting for them.”

After the renovations of the Spitfire Arms Pub, things started to pick up for the Dunhams. “There was a change in the R & D Dunham Holdings business. They saw a lot of potential in many different businesses, and they started investing in more diverse opportunities,” Orde explained. One business that Debbie and Rick purchased later down the road was the restaurant beside Spitfire Arms Pub. After rebranding and renovating, the Hole in the Wall restaurant was ready for its new life. They opened the restaurant in 2021 and took on the challenges of take-out only as the pandemic restrictions were in place for dining in. The restaurant was forced to close several times during staff shortages and illness throughout the pandemic. However, opening during a difficult time didn’t stop the business from growing into what it is today. Hole in the Wall is now an upscale restaurant with gourmet dishes. The interior’s décor and creative plating make the restaurant stand out in the town as something different. Starting out, Hole in the Wall offered predominantly Italian cuisine. “With a new business you have to watch things shift based on feedback and what people are looking for,” Orde explained. Since then, it has shifted into offering a selection of meals that accommodate dietary restrictions; a little something for everyone. For people with gluten intolerance, or vegetarian and vegan diets, Hole in the Wall has more options than just a basic salad. Although they are not a certified gluten-free restaurant, and they do use flour in some dishes, they focus on incorporating dietary needs into the menu. “The kitchen is very knowledgeable, and we want to make sure people can enjoy the experience despite their restrictions,” Orde said. Hole in the Wall is a part of Taste of Nova Scotia and has a selection of Nova Scotian wines to choose from. They also support local breweries and source local ingredients as much as possible, including local butchers such as Oulton’s Meats and Chez Dugue’s Farm. 

Additionally, Hole in the Wall offers a unique experience that brings the world to Windsor. “What’s really exciting about Hole in the Wall is they host destination dining once a month,” Orde said. That means the whole feature menu is designed to reflect a certain destination. “We just had Portugal as one destination,” Orde continued. “So, we had 5 items on the feature menu that were inspired by Portuguese cuisine.” For anyone interested in the varied destination dining experience, Orde revealed it usually falls on the third weekend of every month. Destination dining still considers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Debbie and Rick have invested in many different buildings around Windsor including the Wilcox building which now has rental units in it, the recognizable Blanchard’s building in the downtown core, the former Credit Union building, among others. Most recently, the well-known Napa building on Water Street, currently being renovated to house more residential rental units. They also have many Airbnbs that have a modern style for people wanting to stay and explore the area. They currently own several properties which include both commercial and residential, including Magic Wand Car Wash in Garland’s Crossing. Many of the properties have multiple units for people to lease. Both Airbnb locations had not been in use for a long time, so Debbie and Rick have given them a new life. “The third floor in the Wilcox building was all open with nothing up there whatsoever,” Orde described. “Now it has a new life and it’s in a beautiful location in the downtown core of Windsor. It has massive windows and gives a view of Windsor I don’t think you could get anywhere else.” 

The Dunham’s take any opportunity to be involved in community events. “They never shy away from helping anyone in the community,” Orde said. They are quick to lend a helping hand in any fundraising, projects, or events that they can like local sports teams, specifically the local rugby and curling clubs, baseball and hockey teams. Debbie and Rick employ anywhere from 75-100 people in Windsor. Some of their businesses are seasonally busy so the number of staff can fluctuate, but overall, they continue to provide employment to many people. They also use contracting businesses when they can, supporting as many local people as possible. Orde notes that the Dunhams are always looking to improve the residential market in town, and they keep an eye out for properties with the potential to be renovated. “They’re always improving. They take old things and make them new again, and it benefits everyone.”  Their daughters Sarah, and Rebecca are carrying on the legacy of reviving tired properties. Rebecca renewed the retired elementary school in Newport Station into her social purpose business called The Station Food Hub. Sarah has recently renovated the former Fry Daddy’s restaurant on Gerrish Street into a gorgeous Yoga Studio called Studio 22. 

So, if you find yourself in the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia, be sure to eat, visit, or stay at any of the Dunham’s businesses. And if you’re lucky, you may get to hear a story or two from Rick himself.

by Gabrielle Gamblin