Brandi Campisi, (nee Watson), the eldest daughter of Chriss Watson and Peggy Doenz, was raised in Picture Butte Alberta, a tight-knit community of 600, in which much of her family lived.
She recalls her childhood as being fun. Together with her sister Cori, 20 months her junior, they would spend time riding their bikes, watching television, swimming and working on the family property. “It was just nice, good things happen, bad things happen, but we were all together,” Brandi shares.
The family roots were well established in Picture Butte. Brandi’s grandfather, and subsequently her father, owned Barton Motors, and Brandi’s parents had the contract for the school buses in the area.
Family vacations were often spent in Fernie, so when the bus contract was no longer available, Brandi’s father decided a move to Fernie would be in order. Recognizing the need for a restaurant in Fernie, Brandi’s parents moved in 1992 and opened Smittys’ Family Restaurant.
Brandi graduated that same year and went on to SAIT. Two years of college would follow, after which she made her way to Fernie to assist with the family business.
As a savvy businessman, Brandi’s father realized that opening a hotel that would “feed the restaurant” would be beneficial, and in February of 1996 opened the Super 8 Motel. This was to become Brandi’s to manage. From opening day, she worked closely with her family to ensure its success.
Less than two months after opening the hotel, tragedy struck her family when Brandi’s father passed away unexpectedly. Brandi’s mother, Peggy, took the reins overseeing all of the businesses, even adding Domino’s Pizza to the mix, which would be run by her sister, Cori.
Brandi concedes that when she first arrived in Fernie, she did not feel as though she belonged. Arriving from Picture Butte, where everyone knew everyone, she felt as though she had no friends in Fernie, other than the people that worked for her. This started to change when, in 1997, she was introduced to a customer at Smitty’s, Jim Campisi. Brandi admits she knew he was ‘the one’ right away.
One day, early in the relationship, Brandi’s mom called a family meeting to discuss the need for someone to run the restaurant. Jim said, “I’ll do it.” Brandi laughs as she remembers her mother telling her “if you and Jim break up, I am keeping Jim.” In 1998 Brandi and Jim were married, and now, 17 years later have two children – Gianna, 12, and Charlie, 7.
The family sold the hotel in 2004 and Brandi worked on-call at the restaurant doing anything she could to help, with the exception of cooking and waitressing. She admits that waitressing is not her forte. In 2010, the family sold Smitty’s, and Jim returned to mining.
As a stay-at-home mom, Brandi now has time to do the things she loves, one of which is researching her family genealogy. She is also passionate about finding treasures such as old furniture and repurposing it. You only have to see the beautiful headboard that she transformed from antique doors to know that this is her calling. On a larger scale, over the past few years, she and husband Jim have purchased and, with Brandi’s vision and Jim’s know how, have refurbished a heritage home, which is now the beautiful home known as Barton Manor.
Also, a huge fan of Halloween, Brandi, until five years ago, organized “Witches Night”, an evening for ladies to dress as witches, which attracted up to 120 participants. Nowadays, she keeps it fairly low key. Decorating at home starts in September, about the time dusting the furniture (for eerie authenticity) ends.
Brandi feels Fernie is her home now. “I love Fernie now,” she shares. “I have worked with a lot of people in town, and it feels friendlier. I have a history here now.”
Building and rebuilding history, Brandi Campisi is this week’s “Face of the Valley.”