We all profit from West Nipissing Not-For-Profits

Written by I.C. Mosseler in collaboration with Sylvie Quenneville

In West Nipissing our Not-for-Profit organizations (NFPs) are business leaders. How? In two areas; in strategy and effectiveness of their boards, they practice what most businesses only preach (openness, consultation, democracy, clarity), and in motivation and productivity the people who work for NFPs are pioneers – they work very hard to serve; it’s their raison d’être. Some West Nipissing NFPs are well-funded, some are insecure, and some receive no funding at all, relying totally on their own fund raising and volunteers. From volunteer firefighters to AA to arts groups to literacy to sports groups to chambers of commerce to environmental groups to senior and youth groups, the best NFPs devote a great deal of time to defining their mission; the mission is always to be of service — and the community is the customer. In many ways – they bring life and light to the community.

A well run NFP will look for talent and encourage it, will listen and change according to needs, will venture into new areas and constantly adapt and redefine, will be welcoming and accepting to anyone willing to roll up their sleeves, and will foster innovative ideas. They are committed and active organizations, effective and functional, whether their staffing is paid or volunteer. When you ask someone who works for an NFP you will often hear them say “I love my job”. When you ask them why —“Because I know what I’m here for.” NFPs continually forge bonds with our community in West Nipissing, and in the process they contribute to active citizenship, to social responsibility, to values, to accountability and to increased knowledge. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit itself, with a staff and board that stretches the limits of every dollar and makes every effort count. We know. We salute all of our fellow NFPS in West Nipissing, and in our call for Best Not-For-Profit nominations we had to choose three finalists. They are: Expressions! West Nipissing Art Gallery, Economic Partners Sudbury East West Nipissing, and CANO – Le Conseil des Arts de Nipissing Ouest.

Expressions! West Nipissing Art Gallery

Paulyne Charron, one of the executive members of Expressions! West Nipissing Art Gallery, was one of the several local artists who painted the flower pots this year in downtown Sturgeon Falls.
Paulyne Charron, one of the executive members of Expressions! West Nipissing Art Gallery, was one of the several local artists who painted the flower pots this year in downtown Sturgeon Falls.

The gallery has been in existence for 15 years and is run by local artists. This year there are 30 artists. The organization has two objectives: 1) to promote the graphic arts in West Nipissing, and 2) to provide opportunities to local graphic artists to show and improve their work in a supportive environment that includes workshops and other exchange opportunities. There are two major showings a year, using space provided at the tourism information centre. The organization is bilingual, the board is selected democratically, and members pay an annual fee to participate. They receive no public funds. The group of artists takes on community projects— this year they painted flowerpots in downtown Sturgeon Falls, and they are working on a two-wall mural inside the recreation centre. They work in cooperation with other organizations: schools, the municipality, other art groups, special events, creating partnerships in order to undertake these community activities. President Hélène Chayer said, “When we have an artistic community, we have a vibrant community.” Artists, being a creative bunch, not only experience the joy of their own activities, they do their best to involve the community in the arts, in a completely supportive environment. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, and it’s growing. This group has a website and a Facebook page, and interacts with similar groups throughout northern Ontario. Every artist is encouraged to explore, to be brave enough to exhibit, and to learn from each other.

Economic Partners Sudbury East West Nipissing

The staff of Economic Partners East Sudbury West Nipissing has brought their skill and dedication to numerous business and economic development, tourism and cultural initiatives in the area.
The staff of Economic Partners East Sudbury West Nipissing has brought their skill and dedication to numerous business and economic development, tourism and cultural initiatives in the area. L-R: Claire Béland, Sabrina Bradley, Neil Fox, Heather Black, Brigitte Benoit.

Generally just called “Economic Partners” this organization has been operational for 25 years and formally established in 1999. Economic Partners is part of the Community Future’s Program Development Corporation and is funded by Industry Canada via FedNor. The staffing has consistently been between 4 and 7 employees, really active employees, who serve West Nipissing, French River, Markstay, Warren, St. Charles, Dokis First Nation and Nipissing First Nation. They have invested more than $18 million in small business, their primary program being investment funding; providing capital loans to small business up to $150,000. The people at Economic Partners provide business counselling and regional economic development, with the objective of driving private sector growth. Their incentive is to bring economic development to our community. Economic Partners has worked over the years with numerous other NFPs, including the hospital, the Chamber of Commerce, Job Fairs, and schools, and they assist private sector businesses with administrative expertise when possible. They are also the Go-To people when you’re looking for funding opportunities for your business. Neil Fox has been the General Manager since the fall of 2008, and has been involved with the West Nipissing Business Excellence Awards since its inception. The organization, under his leadership, participates in the Northern Ontario Youth Initiative, seeking to guide youth towards entrepreneurial options.

CANO – Le Conseil des Arts de Nipissing Ouest

Catherine Levac-Lafond, Directrice artistique adjointe) of Le CANO presenting the 2015 line-up of performers to the community. Insets: Marcel Bougie (Directeur artistique) and Marc Lavigne (Président du CANO - CANO's president).
Catherine Levac-Lafond, Directrice artistique adjointe of Le CANO, presenting the 2015 line-up of performers to the community. Insets: Marcel Bougie (Directeur artistique) and Marc Lavigne (Président du CANO – CANO’s president).

Some West Nipissing performance arts aficionados started with a dream 9 years ago, and formalized their existence as Le CANO 5 years ago. The dream was to provide quality French-language performance art for the entire community of West Nipissing and beyond. It has had a remarkable impact on community life. The talent they have brought into the community has been outstanding, and you do not have to be a francophone to appreciate the calibre. They have 8 to 10 concerts a year, and the acts include both professional and amateur music and comedy. CANO has 13 volunteer members on their Board of Directors, with Marcel Bougie as the Artistic Director, and 4 employees. In June of 2015 CANO held a family event day at Goulard Park, hosting 2000 people of all ages but particularly geared towards the young, with face painting, inflatable toys, and more. They held their first Joie de vivre festival, stressing the bilingual aspect of the community, with 2 local artists and 4 professional artists performing over 2 days. Cabaret, a massively popular event, featuring local performance art, is branching out into Cabaret jeunesse —a concert presented by and for all five French-language elementary schools in West Nipissing. Le CANO is part of the Northern Ontario Improv League, where individuals from all over northern Ontario meet once a month in Sturgeon Falls to compete. “It’s fun, exciting, and humorous!” Le CANO is the only francophone organization representing the performance arts in this area, and they believe this is critically important. They have an open arms and welcoming approach to all anglophones and francophiles, but the base of their support remains the francophone community. It’s a forward thinking, progressive group that uses modern technology, social networking, and they take risks all the time. They not only stand up for francophone cultural identity through the arts, they sing, dance, crack jokes and put the joie in Joie de vivre.

Many of us have worked for a not-for-profit at one time or another. They are a major employer as well as the community furnace of ideas, events, social activity, charity, and the organizations where good cheer and hope are forged into useful tools. Doing good works motivates most of us, and good work benefits all of us. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is delighted to have had so many nominations recognizing our NFPs. It’s very encouraging, and so extremely important. These three finalists are only a small representation of a huge body of incredible dedication and effort by our community members, the flowering of a civilized society. Our applause to all of you.

The winner of this award will be selected by an independent jury and announced on November 7 at the West Nipissing Business Excellence Awards. This wonderful bi-annual gala will feature a meal prepared by Nick Tsiogas of Blue Mandolin (local) and music by Mario Arcand’s band (local), in a resplendent atmosphere prepared by Wishingstar (local)… for more information call your West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce at (705) 753-5672.

The corporate sponsors of the West Nipissing Business Awards are:

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West Nipissing’s most active businesses…. The foundations of a strong community.

Written by I.C. Mosseler in collaboration with Sylvie Quenneville

If you are in business in West Nipissing you understand quite clearly that part of being in business is people knocking on your door, asking for help in their community endeavour. It’s just what happens, and it’s part of the business landscape of any community in Canada. Business people in West Nipissing will tell you that not a week goes by that a request for support doesn’t come through, and most community members who are involved with any sort of community activity will tell you how responsive, generous, and kind most businesses are, even when they have to regretfully decline the invitation to support a particular cause. And while the cynics may tell you “It’s a write off”, “It’s tax deductible”, the people who know how things truly operate understand that business people in this community have been supportive to the tune of thousands upon thousands of dollars, hours upon hours of time, and every other kind of support which is needed. Many business people don’t even want anyone to know how much they contribute because they consider it a private affair. But they should be proud, because these community contributions, these efforts to support the public and their causes, from sports teams to emergency fund raising, from giving to the arts to toy drives, or simply responding to the requests of customers to stock various items – many loss leaders — these are the human interactions which put a caring face on any business.

Of course the level of support is dependent on the size of the business, its capacity to engage in public philanthropy, and the leadership of the business – how they feel about engaging in certain areas of the community life. In an economy which becomes increasingly dependent on goodwill, sometimes the goodwill is stretched beyond capacity, and decisions need to be made. A corporation or business will have to set policies as to where funds and support are disbursed – and they become dedicated to a certain activity or area of community life. West Nipissing is blessed with a very responsive and active community of businesses, and the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce feels the business community deserves to be heartily acknowledged by everyone for its dedication to community well-being. Because of the importance of this contributing factor to the community, there are two awards to be given in the area of Most Active Community Partner in 2015. One award will go to the Most Active & Outstanding Business Over 10 Employees (finalists: Canadian Tire, Giant Tiger, and Lafond’s Towing & Recovery), and the other award will go to the Most Active & Outstanding Business Under 10 Employees (finalists: La Vie en Couleur & Décor, OK Tire/Sturgeon Tire, and Steve’s Premiere Pizza). These awards not only recognize community partnerships, they also acknowledge the capacity of an individual business. It’s not always how much, but rather in what spirit, the effort is made — the relationship a business has with the community. What follows are very brief notes on each business,

Canadian Tire – Most Active & Outstanding (Over 10 Employees)

Pierre Marchand of Canadian Tire being congratulated at the grand opening of the expanded store.
Pierre Marchand of Canadian Tire being congratulated at the grand opening of the expanded store.

Is there a community group which has not called on Canadian Tire over the years? It’s a natural, because it’s perceived as being so big. But what also is evident is that Pierre Marchand, the owner, has a very big heart. It’s not his job to support every person or group with a cause, but he takes almost all requests into consideration. He sometimes supports things by lending his tents, or other equipment, for community events, like this past summer’s Feast on the Farm. Canadian Tire has been incredibly generous over the years with annual events such as the Christmas Telethon, the Relay For Life, various fund raising golf tournaments. “Whatever we can give for free we try our best to do so,” he said. “Propane, tent rentals, gift certificates, prizes.” Canadian Tire supports the Sturgeon Falls Curling Club, different hockey teams, including the minor leagues and the Lumberjacks, ATV clubs, the Chamber of Commerce. But even more, Pierre Marchand has personally assisted individuals in the community who have suffered tragedy. Pierre Marchand also supports the Canadian Tire Jump Start Program, to help children and families who are financially unstable. It’s a corporate sponsorship which has assisted 600 kids to register for extra-curricular activities (sports). Canadian Tire has paid their registration fees, equipment and travel – to the tune of $45,000.

Giant Tiger — Most Active & Outstanding (Over 10 Employees)

Rob Rowlandson with some of his staff at Giant Tiger.
Rob Rowlandson with some of his staff at Giant Tiger.

Giant Tiger is a franchise, established in 1983 by Bob Rowlandson. In 2006 Rob Rowlandson took over from his father – and he maintained an ongoing 32-year tradition of community support. The business started with 10 employees and has grown to 28 staff members. The business is very customer oriented, “The customers who come through our store, many are just like family because we’ve had a relationship with them for so long.” The operation is also proud of its excellent employee-relations. The staff gets discounts on clothing and food, there is a yearly bonus program, they have had BBQs and pizza parties throughout the years, and they have flexible scheduling. The store is currently upgrading with renovations for a new look in the interior along with re-wiring, re-arranging the departments, adding new sections, more cash registers, more open concept and new lighting. In the community, Rob Rowlandson has proudly sponsored soccer leagues, the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Business Excellence Awards, school activities, community activities like Step & Fiddle, and Rob says, “If it has anything geared towards kids we pretty much sponsor it.”

Lafond’s Towing & Recovery — Most Active & Outstanding (Over 10 Employees)

Pierre Lafond in front of his spanking new establishment on Toulouse Crescent.
Pierre Lafond in front of his spanking new establishment on Toulouse Crescent.

Lafond’s Towing & Recovery has been in business since 2008, under the leadership of Pierre Lafond. In the past two years the company has gone from 2 employees to 11, and has dramatically increased its sales. Pierre Lafond loves helping people. His approach to customer service is to always make his clients “feel good”. The shop has moved to Toulouse Crescent, a $550,000 undertaking which now has 52,000 sq ft of space, with offices, kitchen and lounge area for drivers, and shower facilities. He’s gone from 2 bays to 5 bays with the move, and a state of the art security system. They have also created a water recovery unit to retrieve cars, boats and snow machines from lakes and rivers – a first of its kind in Canada. Lafond’s Towing & Recovery is active in the community through support of many organizations and groups, including partnering with fund raising for Shop with a Cop, minor hockey leagues, volleyball leagues, Relay for Life, the Christmas Telethon, the Fire Department initiatives. “Any event they have, we always try to be there to help them out,” says Pierre Lafond.

La Vie en Couleur & Décor — Most Active & Outstanding (Under 10 Employees)

Jacqueline Bergeron of La Vie en Couleur & Décor
Jacqueline Bergeron of La Vie en Couleur & Décor

La Vie en Couleur opened its doors at the present location on July 2, 2013, and right from its opening day proprietor Jacqueline Bergeron has been an active community partner. Part of making a community beautiful, which is her business, is making a community a good place to live. This business has also been nominated for New Business of the Year. In this category, however, Jacqueline has received her nomination because of the spirit of giving. Her business has been a generous sponsor of the Chamber Golf Tournament, as well as numerous other tournaments in the area. She’s been part of the Breast Cancer hospital fund raiser since she opened her doors, this year providing a basket worth well over $100. The BBQ she hosted at her grand opening raised over $700 in funds to go towards the Canadian Cancer Society, she has sponsored and donated to the concert for the food bank, sponsored the Blast From The Past concert, has supplied free paint for various projects, including the flower pots in town which were painted by local artists. She sponsors hockey teams, the Christmas telethon, donates gift baskets for raffling at such events like those undertaken by CANO.

OK Tire – Sturgeon Tire — Most Active & Outstanding (Under 10 Employees)

Luc Remillard of OK Tire / Sturgeon Tire.
Luc Remillard of OK Tire / Sturgeon Tire.

OK Tire is more than okay, they are awesome. The business has been operating under the ownership of Luc Remillard for 10 years, and Luc bought the entire building in 2005. It’s a franchise which offers auto repairs, exhaust/muffler, tune ups, brakes, yearly inspections, tire changes, and more. There are currently 8 employees, and Luc has made customer service a top priority for both himself and his staff. Luc is well known for his sponsorships, including Relay For Life, Sturgeon Falls Sting hockey team, the Rod & Gun Club, Sturgeon Falls Figure Skating, the West Nipissing pageant, both police and fire department initiatives, area fund raising golf tournaments, the Club Richelieu Lobster Supper, the Christmas Telethon, and he often donates gifts of free oil changes for area events. Sturgeon Falls OK Tire offers free storage for its customers if they go there for service or for the purchase of new tires – he has about 1000 tires in storage right now. Perhaps one of the most encouraging things about Luc’s business is his involvement in the mechanics apprenticeship program. He has trained 3 individuals so far, 2 of them being hired full time once they completed their program.

Steve’s Premiere Pizza — — Most Active & Outstanding (Under 10 Employees)

Sabrina and Steve Bradley in front of their store.
Sabrina and Steve Bradley in front of their store.

When Steve and Sabrina Bradley purchased Premiere Pizza in 2009, they developed a plan and dramatically increased company sales. The one part time employee from 2008 became full time and a further seven part time and one full time positions have been filled. The couple have continued to improve their product line and added more, responding to customer suggestions and demand. In terms of community involvement, Steve’s Premiere Pizza has always had a high profile. They participated as a sponsor for the Returns for Leukemia, with the Beer Store, by donating pizzas for a pizza eating contest and for sale to onlookers, and providing gift certificates to monetary donors. Local sports have also benefited, including Sturgeon Falls Sting, the Sturgeon Falls Youth Bowling Association, partnering with Mario Arcand for the Blast From The Past and Harmony For Hunger, raising funds for the food bank. Donations have also been made to the Sturgeon Falls Rock & Ribs Festival, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Christmas Telethon, funds for a local youth suffering from cancer (Mackenzie Larivière), a Village for Noah, The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament and École Saint-Joseph.

Everyone in West Nipissing knows that many, many businesses contribute to the well being of this community. Each and every one of them deserves acknowledgment. By choosing two recipients in two categories for this award, The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce hopes that all businesses will feel acknowledged for their contributions. We are blessed, and we hope that all the local people of West Nipissing will show their appreciation by frequenting the businesses which support the community, and spreading the word about how this mutual support benefits everyone.  For every business in West Nipissing that has ever extended a helping hand to anyone, whether through their exquisite customer care and friendliness, whether through providing employment and training opportunities, or whether through making a direct donation to a cause or community group – Un gros MERCI! You are the heroes behind the heroes. Thank you. Miigwech.

The two winners of these awards will be selected by an independent jury and announced on November 7 at the West Nipissing Business Excellence Awards. If you wish to purchase tickets to this wonderful bi-annual gala, which will feature a meal prepared by Nick Tsiogas of Blue Mandolin (local) and music by Mario Arcand’s band (local), in a resplendent atmosphere prepared by Wishingstar (local)… call your West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce at (705) 753-5672.

The corporate sponsors of the West Nipissing Business Awards are:

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Hey there Good Looking! West Nipissing is looking better because of you!

Written by I.C. Mosseler in collaboration with Sylvie Quenneville

Looking good. It takes effort. People in West Nipissing want a clean, good looking community, one that draws positive attention, one that says – ‘people here care’. You may not be able to tell a book by its cover, but you can probably take a good guess. When a business presents itself with dignity, with a clean approach, with attractive features which make you notice, with a sense of caring for eye appeal, everyone benefits. Every other establishment situated near that caring business benefits. It’s an investment of time, of money, of energy, and the people who undertake these clean-ups, repairs, renovations, decorations and augmentations benefit the entire community. Now the community shows it is not in decay. It is vibrant, alive, cheerful, active, a people place, a place to invest, a place to visit, a place to conduct business and a place with both dignity and pride. It also affects the staff and how they treat their customers. When you show you care about yourself, you show you are capable of caring about others. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce recognizes the huge efforts and expenditures the people behind our store fronts take to make these contributions to the community and considers it one of the most worthy endeavours to improve community life. The Looking Good Award is not just about having a pretty face. It’s about the character of the people behind the business, their efforts to create a good business environment. It’s the commercial face of self improvement. It’s revitalizing to the whole community.

The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce had many nominees for the 2015 Looking Good Award, which is really exciting because it means lots of people are noticing. The nominees had to be whittled down to three, but the Chamber wants to thank all those businesses throughout West Nipissing, from River Valley to Field to Verner and Lavigne, who look good, who look great! There are a lot of very classy businesses in this community of West Nipissing. The three finalists for this year are: Tremblay Chev Buick GMC, Rustic Zen Wellness Studio, and Canadian Tire. The winner will be decided by an independent jury and announced at the Business Excellence Awards on November 7, at the Marcel Noel Hall. Let’s tell you about these finalists…

Tremblay Chev Buick GMCTremblay

Most people just say “Tremblay’s”, because it’s been a part of the community for a long time. This business had also been nominated for Lifetime Achievement. It’s a family affair, 38 years in business, owned by Daniel Tremblay and operated with sons Mike and Troy. In 2006 the entire dealership underwent a renovation/expansion, and in 2013 the business underwent a “facelift”. The business started with 10 employees, and is now at 17 employees

Mike-Tremblay
Mike Tremblay in the very impressive showroom of the dealership.

Tremblay Chev Buick GMC really improved the entire aspect of entering Sturgeon Falls from the west, so that when travelers on Hwy 17 approach Sturgeon Falls from that direction they are greeted immediately by a business that says – ‘You are entering a clean, upstanding community’. Many may not understand how important it is to have this kind of enterprise at the gates of a community. It’s not just a parking lot full of vehicles. It’s a business with curb appeal. Mike Tremblay says, “Since our expansion customers do find it more appealing to the eye.” He indicated he has people who just come in for a coffee. Mike Tremblay knows this reflects great customer relations and repeat business, and the longevity of his business is a testament to this strategy. You just know when a place is kept tidy and attractive, clean of debris, safe and welcoming, that the owner cares about your comfort. It makes all dealings pleasant.

Cleanliness is a priority. The dealership is cleaned every day, “You can eat off the floor!” Even the shop is kept in immaculate order. “You can see your reflection on the showroom floor!” The windows inside and outside are kept sparkling. Winter is a challenge for all businesses in our area, but Tremblay Chev consistently keeps all its approaches clear and free of ice. And if you think it stops there – Tremblay is innovating even further. They are opening Tremblay Chrysler in May of 2016 on the other side of the highway with a new garage, a space of 10,000 square feet and employment for 17 people in the new dealership.

Rustic Zen Wellness Studio

Rustic Zen Wellness Studio is on the corner of Church & Front streets, Sturgeon Falls.
Rustic Zen Wellness Studio is on the corner of Church & Front streets, Sturgeon Falls.

Rustic Zen Wellness Studio opened its doors in 2013 and has been in business for 3 years. It’s a mother-daughter operation run by Corrina Giroux and Amanda Sasseville. They have recently moved to 249 Church Street in Sturgeon Falls, buying a house and renovating it. Corrina said her husband did all the renovations. She points out that her business, in doing their renovations, sourced everything in West Nipissing – another measure of how looking good helps the entire community. “The renovations all happened in the last couple of months. We bought the building in April, and it’s in a commercial zoning area (adjacent to Front Street). We renovated it into a spa; new floors, paint, yard work, new lighting, fixtures and interior décor. We kept the basic structure of the house.”

 The mother-daughter team at Rustic Zen are Amanda Sasseville and Corrina Giroux.
The mother-daughter team at Rustic Zen are Amanda Sasseville and Corrina Giroux.

Rustic Zen Wellness Studio is in an easy access location, with Front Street visibility, but it has also maintained a rather discreet and homey look, creating an atmosphere where people can be in their comfort zone. At first glance it may not appear to stand out in any dramatic way, but it’s exactly the kind of appeal required for the nature of their business, and there’s a solid rationale behind choosing to keep their lines clear, clean of clutter, and integrating the Business-In-A-Home feel to what they do; and the improved ventilation and quiet atmosphere are perfect for their clients. Corrina and Amanda provide personal services; spa services, massage, some unique services like live blood analysis, henna body art, creams and chaga products hand-crafted in Sturgeon Falls, teas, spices, unique jewelry and other gift ideas. Their clientele has remained loyal and followed them through their moves. They are also very proud of the fact they serve many special needs clients in the community. “We try to keep things local and Canadian. We love our clients and hope that our work speaks for itself.”

Canadian Tire

In April of 2015 Canadian Tire held its official grand Re-Opening, with the Marchand's and all their staff.
In April of 2015 Canadian Tire held its official grand Re-Opening, with the Marchand’s and all their staff.

Canadian Tire in Sturgeon Falls went through a major renovation this past year, a rather huge expansion which saw the entire store go through a reorganization. Pierre Marchand has been the owner for 13 years. He started with 38 employees. When they had their grand opening with the new renovations in April of 2015 they boasted 66 employees. “There’s a 50% larger area – we went from 17,000 sq. ft. to 24,500 sq. ft.,” he said. This has created some remarkable spin-offs for the entire community. Prior to the renovations Pierre was consistently asked about stocking new products. He responded, and he’s been greeted with a great outpouring of support.

The entire store underwent a facelift— structurally a new addition, new fencing, new greenhouse. All lighting has gone to environmentally friendly LEDs, the interior and exterior were painted, and the parking lot upgraded.

The new space allows for more interesting displays in the various departments at Canadian Tire.
The new space allows for more interesting displays in the various departments at Canadian Tire.

These renovations allowed Pierre Marchand to expand every one of his departments to include new inventory, different products, more storage, better organization, nicer displays, and more aisle space for customer comfort. “It has become a one-stop-shop… People enjoy the amount of space and the greater variety of products. Even if they aren’t looking for something in particular — they usually leave with something!” Clearly Pierre Marchand understands the value of enhanced space to marketing more product. Additionally, a large store like Canadian Tire is a huge asset to the community. Pierre is a very community conscious individual, and supports numerous community causes and events. He’s an astute business person, and is very proud of his accomplishments. So is his staff. The huge increase in inventory and almost doubling in size has meant a lot of changes in the way staff operates as well. Pierre noted, “I’m very proud of my employees for the way they adapted and for the work they put in to making Canadian Tire the way it is today.”

Whether a business is large, medium or small, keeping a close eye on client needs and making them comfortable means keeping the interior and exterior of a business clean, comfortable, interesting and practical — it’s also what makes a community’s commercial sector attractive to both local traffic and people just travelling through. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce thanks all the nominees (and there are lots of such businesses!) for caring. The Business Awards committee had to choose three finalists, but we want to assure the other nominees – your pride is our pride, and we’re very proud of all our nominees for looking so darned good!

The winner of this award will be chosen by an independent jury, and the award will be presented on November 7th. If you wish to purchase tickets to this wonderful bi-annual gala, which will feature a meal prepared by Nick Tsiogas of Blue Mandolin (local) and music by Mario Arcand’s band (local), in a resplendent atmosphere prepared by Wishingstar (local)… call your West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce at (705) 753-5672.

The corporate sponsors of the West Nipissing Business Awards are:

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New Business of the Year – Three inspiring nominees announced!

Marc Serré, the new Liberal MP of Nickel Belt, will be attending the West Nipissing Business Excellence Awrds.
Marc Serré, the new Liberal MP of Nickel Belt, will be attending the West Nipissing Business Excellence Awards.

Written by I.C. Mosseler in collaboration with Sylvie Quenneville

What could be more encouraging than being recognized as one of the outstanding new businesses of the year? Or the past two years, as the case may be? The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting a tradition of good business in West Nipissing, and their bi-annual Business Excellence Awards, scheduled for Nov. 7, 2015 at the Marcel Noël Hall in Sturgeon Falls, is intended to do just that. Over the course of the past few weeks nominations have come in, they have been vetted and refined to three finalists for New Business of The Year: La Vie en Couleur, Padou’s Restaurant, and Grief and Spiritual Care – three completely different sorts of enterprise.

Additionally the organizing committee is very pleased to announce that Marc Serré will be in attendance to recognize the entrepreneurial spirit of West Nipissing. As we just came through a federal election, and have a new MP who also happens to have his roots in West Nipissing, it makes it that much more special to have Marc Serré, MP Nickel Belt, deliver his first address to an audience comprised of the business community of West Nipissing. In that audience will be our new three finalists, who reflect the entrepreneurial spirit, hopes and aspirations, that the entire community wishes to congratulate. Only one can be chosen as recipient of the award, but all three are already winners. Let us introduce you to our finalists.

La Vie en Couleur

Jacqueline Bergeron opened her doors on King Street, Sturgeon Falls, on July 2nd, 2013. She had purchased the business from the previous owners that June, and moved the entire business into what was her husband Marian’s workshop – which they renovated in a quick three weeks. Well, that’s a testimonial to the nature of her business – home improvement from the painting and decorating angle. Jacqueline was the only employee of the business that first summer until she could hire part time.

Jacqueline Bergeron of La Vie en Couleur, West Nipissing.
Jacqueline Bergeron of La Vie en Couleur, West Nipissing.

La Vie en Couleur offers a variety of paints, some of them unique, such as Fusion (“We’re the only ones in the north to have it”), FAT paints, Milk Paint, along with the standard palette. Jacqueline says, “Our customers find these specialty paints great for bringing old furniture back to life.” The business also has a constantly changing variety of home décor items, many items truly unique, and Jacqueline goes to great effort to find what customers want – just ask. Jacqueline Bergeron not only works hard to bring color into her customer’s life – she treats her customers exceptionally well. She has the kind of charm that makes her shop feel like an open invitation to explore, question, consult, and return again and again. Customer service is her passion. She recently shifted to in-home consultations, providing expertise in areas of new designer paints, new projects, new fashions, all in an effort to make West Nipissing a beautiful place to live – inside and out. Her customers love her and her staff, the way they are treated, and they’ve told the Chamber so.

Padou’s Restaurant

Don Leblanc, proprietor of Padou's Steak & Ribs.
Don Leblanc, proprietor of Padou’s Steak & Ribs.

Padou’s is busting at the seams, and it seems people can’t get enough of the food offered. The restaurant is situated right beside the Chamber office, on Main St. in Sturgeon Falls, so we know how hopping the place is! The new restaurant has only been in business for three months, and started with 9 employees. That has quickly changed to 18 employees, and business is steady. That’s what happens when one offers a great product combined with excellent service and good portions. Don Leblanc, the owner, knows that from his years of experience in business as a butcher. He won the 2013 Most Active Community Partner Award as an entrepreneur for 25 years in West Nipissing, honoured for his generous contributions to community organizations, and he’s not slowed down one bit. In fact – expansion seems to be the order of the day. (And after you’ve eaten at Padou’s you may have to expand your own belt…)

Don followed his business plan and surpassed his goals, “The feedback has been amazing!” He made renovations inside and outside of the restaurant, with TVs, new décor, added tables, wagon wheels and lights, a new business sign, and a really nice menu. His success has been inspiring, and it’s inspired him to open a new restaurant on King St – a sports bar – “Don’s Pub & Grill” – creating even further job opportunities. He’s also expanding Padou’s – alas the Chamber will have to move in order to make room for the expansion – because people want their steaks and ribs. “I have people coming from North Bay, Sudbury, all over the north – they take the ride here because of the food and the excellent service. It’s only been in operation 3 months! Can you imagine 3 years?”

Grief & Spiritual Care

West Nipissing has an aging community, and sadly we lose loved ones, and again sadly, those left behind sometimes need the guidance to get through their grief. It’s a unique business, totally new for West Nipissing, but Jeff Archambeault, sole proprietor of Grief & Spiritual Care, has 25 years of experience helping people through spiritual, emotional, and mental crises, and he has a ton of respect from his grateful clients who think the world of his assistance at the most vulnerable time in their life.

Jeff Archambeault of Grief & Spiritual Care, serving West Nipissing and North Bay.
Jeff Archambeault of Grief & Spiritual Care, serving West Nipissing and North Bay.

Jeff takes a non-denominational spiritual approach to his service offerings. He provides memorial services for gatherings called to remember and honor losses through death. He offers group workshops to support the grieving of those who have suffered all kinds of losses, and he also provides one-to-one service. Health care teams will call on Jeff Archambeault for bedside services for those who are ill and facing end of life. It takes a highly sensitive and sensible person to undertake this role, and Jeff comes through in all the right ways. Last year Jeff was the host for the West Nipissing World Religion Day, chairing an event which unified people of Christian, Jewish, Native, Muslim, Sikh, Baha’i, Hindu, Pagan and Buddhist backgrounds, and he has all these resources at his fingertips with a flexibility that honors the sentiment of his client and client family. Jeff says that he sees a lot of people are disconnected from institutions in the present day and often don’t have anyone to call in their time of need. Or, there are long lists of people waiting to receive personal support. “I also offer free introductory sessions for the public, both in West Nipissing and North Bay. … I also offer closed one-to-one sessions for confidentiality.”

“I believe each person is spiritual, and most people experience their spirituality through religion.” He offers as one of his examples how some people combine their spiritual experiences – one of his participants at one session used both her Native traditional hand drumming and her Christian faith as part of her healing process. Jeff works to accommodate these spiritual threads, providing guidance as to how to weave the different threads into a blanket of comfort and healing. Jeff Archambeault is a former chaplain and is linked with various health care agencies. What an incredible way to provide loving service to the most vulnerable clients in West Nipissing!

Wow! Three outstanding new businesses, and let’s not forget our new MP engaging in his own new adventure in service to the people of West Nipissing. The new businesses will be judged by an independent jury, but really – they are all so deserving of recognition. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is exceptionally pleased to be able to present the finalists for the New Business of The Year, and the organizers don’t envy the judges on this one! A very unique offering – Retail, Restaurant, and Service — West Nipissing is full of surprises.

If you wish to purchase tickets to this wonderful bi-annual gala, which will feature a meal prepared by Nick Tsiogas of Blue Mandolin (local) and music by Mario Arcand’s band (local), in a resplendent atmosphere prepared by Wishingstar (local)… call your West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce at (705) 753-5672..

The corporate sponsors of the West Nipissing Business Awards are:

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Get your nominations in! West Nipissing Business Excellence.

On November 7th of this year eight businesses in West Nipissing will be receiving recognition for good business practices, one of them for lifetime achievement. It’s the third bi-annual West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce (WNCC)

Chair of the Business Awards Committee, WNCCC, Marian Bergeron holds up a nomination form. He's ebncouraging all individuals and businesses in West Nipissing to submit nominations.
Chair of the WNCC Business Awards Committee, Marian Bergeron holds up a nomination form. He’s encouraging all individuals and businesses in West Nipissing to submit nominations.

Business Excellence Awards, and the organizers want your input, your nominations, and your suggestions. According to the chair of the Business Awards Committee, Marian Bergeron, the public has as much interest in the quality of enterprise as business does. He said, “The reason we’re holding these business awards is to reward good business. This is the third time we’re holding it… We need to recognize businesses that go out of their way to help customers, businesses that support the community, businesses that promote the community and, basically, this is a way of thanking those businesses and bringing these facts to the public.”

The Chamber sees the role of the business awards, in part, as a means to encourage positive business practice. Bergeron said, “It will do that — everyone is witnessing the awards, and automatically what comes to mind is that this is good practice. Other businesses will want to follow suit. Not all businesses have the means to do everything, but success is tied into this.”
Marian Bergeron is a business owner himself. He and his wife Jacqueline own and operate La Vie en Couleur / Benjamin Moore Paints in the downtown core of Sturgeon Falls. You’ll often see Marian Bergeron in the early hours sweeping the front of his shop, watering the flowers, keeping the area clean and tidy. He is very conscious of the importance of looking good and being positive; it’s simply good business. “We want nominations from the public as well as other businesses. We will take them from customers, from visitors to the area, from anyone who receives good service. Anyone can make a nomination, and it is not difficult. We have nomination forms right beside our guest book in our business and they are being filled out. Unfortunately, not a lot of people seem to know they can participate in this.”

Nomination forms are currently available at La Vie en Couleur, Economic Partners Sudbury East / West Nipissing, West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce, and they can be downloaded from the WNCC website. The nomination forms are available in French and English, and submissions can be made in either language. Submissions can be made by email.

At the 2013 ceremony, Most Active Community Partner Award was presented to Don’s Butcher Shop
At the 2013 ceremony, Most Active Community Partner Award was presented to Don’s Butcher Shop

Submissions are relatively easy. For example, one category is the New Business of the Year (over the last two years because the awards are biannual). Marian said, “If people are interested in nominating a New Business of the Year, get the application. The person nominating enters general information about the company – the owners, name, address, etc. —and then answers the specific question as to why this business deserves this particular award. Each category has specific requirements, and the business has to meet those requirements.”
Any business is eligible. Businesses could be eligible for different awards. “For example, a new business might also be nominated for the Looking Good award, the Most Outstanding Business, the Most Active. It’s basic – Why do they deserve it? And what distinguishes this business from their competitors?”
One category is chosen by the Chamber only, and that’s the Lifetime Achievement Award. Bergeron said, “Life Time Achievement is being chosen by Board members of the Chamber of Commerce. The public can submit names, but the chamber will select a business or an individual for lifetime achievement.” Other than that it’s wide open – even those who have won awards in the past can win again, over and over – except for the Lifetime Achievement. Bergeron said, “If a business keeps the service levels to customers year after year they can be nominated again. A business can end up with a whole collection of these awards.”

Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 went to Michaud & Levesque TRU Hardware. Above are Paul Levesque be presented by the Mayor of West Nipisisng, her Honor Joanne Savage.
Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 went to Michaud & Levesque TRU Hardware. Above are Paul Levesque being presented by the Mayor of West Nipissing, the Honorable Joanne Savage.

The judging will be entirely independent. Bergeron explained, “There will be three independent judges, and judging will be blind – any prior knowledge of the business is to be left at the door and the judging is solely to be done on the material submitted in the package.”

Why should you, as a community member, take the time to nominate a business or two, or three? Marian said, “If you got special service or help from a business, and if you went home and thought, ‘My goodness that was good service! These people went out of their way to give me the information I needed, and they took the time and gave me the help!’ —that would be the incentive to thank them. Usually that’s human nature. If you get help you will like to acknowledge that. …It’s about recognizing that entrepreneurial spirit. You got that service, you probably already said thank you, but it’s going that one step further, recognizing them with their peers.”

Go one step further – acknowledge, recognize and reward Excellence!

And why is that important? “In the long run it will create a chain reaction; other businesses will up their service. It’s definitely good for the economy. Everybody is encouraged to bring up their level of service, which helps bring people from out of town. People will travel just to come here. For example, say I’m traveling through, and instead of seeing boarded-up buildings or streets that are dirty, I see flowers and a healthy business sector– it encourages me to stop and see what’s here. It creates a culture of constant improvement, in appearance and substance – it’s important to economic growth of our community. It’s leading by example, and it usually works. It takes time, but it works. All these businesses make that extra effort.”

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You can’t just buy this!

Marian says that every business which wins an award is a beacon for other businesses. It’s an encouragement. “The business that has the award on it’s wall, that shows best practice, and that gives info to the customer when they come in. You can’t just buy this!”

A business doesn’t have to be a Chamber member to win, but there is a slight advantage. “The event is sponsored by the Chamber, and of course we have to give a priority to our members, but not much, a very small percentage, so that it will only be a tie breaker if one is not a member.” Businesses such farms are eligible. Tourism operators are eligible. Bergeron admits, “Tourism is in a better position than farms because they have customers, similar to a store, so they can give that service. It’s more complicated for a farm, because you don’t deal with the public normally.” But some farms do deal with the public – so nominate them!

Does your community have a business that deserves recognition?

Sometimes there is only one business in a smaller community that stands out, but there are many businesses in the background – trucking, construction, forestry, agriculture. Bergeron says, “It’s not just about Sturgeon Falls – regardless of where it is in West Nipissing it is eligible. But it has to be in West Nipissing.” Outlying communities may have only one business that stands out; perhaps that business has made wonderful improvements, and has had strong impact on the community, not just by being sustainable, but by reinvesting in their business and providing a service to their community. They might have a lovely storefront. People in Sturgeon Falls may not think of nominating that business because it’s not in their own community. But that one business may be central to its own community. Community member, customers, visitors are are encouraged to nominate that business.

“It’s not just good for businesses— it’s good for whole community. Having a reward for businesses that have good practices and good service is a reward to the people directly. The gala is going to be full of people who are not getting awards, but they can see how it’s done and go back to their work and raise the bar.”

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The decor of the 2013 Business Excellence Awards was prepared by a local company.

The gala event will be held November 7th, at the Marcel Noel Hall, with music by Mario Arcand and his band Icy Redd, performing very upbeat live 70’s 80’s music, with a tribute to Shania Twain. Everything is local – all vendors will be local; decorators, food, etc., as this ties in with mandate of chamber to promote local business and the use of local services. Bergeron said, “Each awards ceremony changes – we learn as we go, receiving a lot of input from people —what works and what doesn’t. Categories change a little bit every time.”  It’s a great gala evening, a good time to celebrate and honor the importance of practicing good business. You may also want to start purchasing tickets soon, or become a sponsor.

Nominations forms can be obtained at:

West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce
West Nipissing Chamber online – for downloading
Economic Partners East Sudbury / West Nipissing
La Vie en Couleur / Benjamin Moore

If you would like to have nomination forms at your business, please call the Chamber.

West Nipissing feast reveals an appetite for local food in the northeast

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Guests were transported from station to station by wagon.

It was an astounding success! Late Sunday afternoon, August 9th, 300 lucky ticket holders enjoyed a beautiful evening of feasting on the farm, enjoying local produce, including meats, vegetables, grains and fruit, lovingly prepared by local chefs and presented to a very appreciative audience. The tickets for “Festin à la ferme / Feast on the Farm” sold out almost a week before the event, and the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce, who organized the event withFeast the West Nipissing Agricultural Task Force (WNATF), said they could have sold another 100 to 150 tickets. The demand only increased as the event drew closer. Everyone who worked so hard to make this event a reality went home satisfied, and happy.

Isabelle Spence-Legault, chair of the WNATF and co-owner of Field Good Farms with husband Ryan Spence, said, “Not only did this event meet its mandate by

The joint organizing committee brains and brawn behind the event, touring the farm the evening before. L to R: Ryan Spence, Isabelle Spence-Legault, Mitch Deschatelets, Jolene Lisk, Patrick Keough. Missing form pic: Jilie Poirier-Menzinga, Isabel Mosseler, Sylvie Quenneville.
The joint organizing committee brains and brawn behind the event, touring the farm the evening before. L to R: Ryan Spence, Isabelle Spence-Legault, Mitch Deschatelets, Jolene Lisk, Patrick Keough. Missing from pic: Julie Poirier-Mensinga, Isabel Mosseler, Sylvie Quenneville.

highlighting local produce and talent, it also gave us an important glimpse into the strength of community around food. There was an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie that Ryan and I felt throughout the Feast on the Farm, one that leaves us with an excitement for what’s to come”

President of the Chamber, Kathleen Thorne-Rochon, was also thrilled with the success of the endeavour. The Chamber has been very active in promoting a Shop Local Eat Local campaign. “We all benefit from eating locally. Local foods are fresher, they taste better and purchasing local food helps support our local economy. The Feast on the Farm event was organized to increase awareness for the meats, produce and value added food products that are available locally.”

DSC_3404She added, “I want to thank the organizers, Ryan Spence and Isabelle Spence-Legault, Mitch DesChatelets of Leisure Farms, Greg Melien of Boreal Berry Farm and Winery, Julie Poirier Mensinga of OMAFRA, Isabel Mosseler and Pat Keough of the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Chamber Staff Jolene Lisk and Sylvie Quenneville. …This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. Thank you to the Municipality of West Nipissing, Foodland Ontario, the Tribune, North Bay Nipissing News, Le Loup, Le Voyageur, Canadian Tire and Alouette Bus Lines. …We had several chefs participate in this event, all with a passion for working with local food. The event highlighted Chef Chris Gibb of Pasta Kitchen and Bar, Chefs René and Laura Dubois of the White Owl Bistro, Chef Nicolas Gignac of the Miner’s Son and Chef Daniel Esposito of Canadore College and Food Reflections.“

It was a mighty effort put on by a small community of volunteers. Everyone was amazed at the level of community response – not only from West Nipissing, but also from Sudbury and North Bay. Many people journeyed the distance to enjoy excellent food at a great location with a warm and friendly crowd of people.  The 300 guests traveled around Leisure Farms with a passport which was stamped at seven different stations, six of them presenting food, including zucchini soup and salad combined, a garlic kale salad, beef chimichuri, fresh steamed corn on the cob, turkey sliders with fresh bean salad, a dessert of strawberry maple panacotta, and a wine tasting station.

Blackboards
Marian Bergeon, Chair of the WN Chamber Business Awards and spokesperson for the Sturgeon Falls Downtown Merchants, co-owner with his wife Jacqueline of La Vie en Couleur, and Patrick Keough of Lennon Electric, Chair of the WN Chamber Agricultural Committee, put in some real time making blackboards for each station. The signs are reusable, cost effective, practical and attractive.

Even the blackboards at each station were homemade. “We were deliberating the cost of signage at one of our meetings and the idea came up to make our own re-useable blackboards. Marian Bergeron of La Vie en Couleur supplied the blackboard paint and Patrick Keough of Lennon Electric, [both of them Chamber board members], got together and made them.” The blackboards were used to list the local ingredients and local suppliers at each of the stations, adding a homey charm to the event.

Derica
Derica Lafrance entertained the guests at the Leisure Farms Kale & Garlic Salad station.

Local musicians also added to the event, with musicians serenading the guests at different stations. Among the local musicians were: Shawn Blais, Basscoustic, JW Stevens, Anthony Beaucage and Derica Lafrance.

Among the guests were John Vanthof, MPP Timiskaming-Cochrane, and Claude Gravelle, former MP of Nickel Belt, (currently running for the seat). Vanthof said, “This is a fantastic event – I’ve been a farmer all my life, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s a great concept and I’ve never been to one. I’m going to promote this concept – it’s very creative.” He gave high marks to West Nipissing. “I don’t think there are too many places that can pull this off.” Claude Gravelle added, “I thought it was a great event; it was well laid out and the food was excellent. The people were very friendly. I’m anxious to come back next year. With the local food movement, events like this, it’s got nowhere to go but up. Most of our food comes from down south, but if you can get it local it’s healthier and tastier.”

Dessert, prepared by Chef Daniel Esposito, was served among the raspberry canes.
Dessert, prepared by Chef Daniel Esposito, was served among the raspberry canes.

Most importantly, so many of the guests truly enjoyed the event and made a point of contacting the organizers to let them know how impressed they were. Fabie Nault, one of the guests, echoed what many were saying, “It was so relaxing, so friendly, so social, and the weather was perfect. It had a real European feel to it – no rush, just take your time. At the end of it all, I felt really good, very relaxed. I was full, I couldn’t eat any more, and I was so impressed by how well it was organized, for a first time event. Sure there are things that can be improved, always, but what a great start for something new! I wouldn’t mind helping out next year.”

More than one person offered assistance for another event in 2016. Patrick Keough, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce Agricultural Committee, said, “I think it was a great success. We sold out, and people arrived – music, drinks, and food …what more can you ask for! We learned a lot.” He said that the joint committees will be holding a reflection meeting to go over the details. “I think from the get-go people wanted to get out and enjoy. I do think we have to figure out a way to get people to relax about getting out there (referring to the initial crush). I had no complaints except for people would like to get a drink out in the back part of the tour. There were a few things, and we welcome suggestions from everyone who came out. We’ve already had some great suggestions – everything from better recycling, to more shade for the guests and musicians, to extend the license to another tent. All those suggestions are good ones.” Will the Chamber do it again next year? “Absolutely we’ll do it next year! Go bigger or stay home!”

Fresh steamed corn was served right where the corn was just picked.
Fresh steamed corn was served right where the corn was just picked.

He said, “It got people out of their houses… There were lots of local politicians mingling with the crowd, talking to local people, talking to the food producers, to the farmers, to the chefs. Talk is good! This is a stepping stone to a bigger event. This is the first one and we go from there.”

Lana Richardson, one of the many enthusiastic participants from Sturgeon Falls, said with a real enthusiasm, “I loved it! Superbe! Everything was an experience – eating outside in the fresh air, the fabulous dishes, so varied, so delicious! It was great. There were people I hadn’t seen for years and years, and I met new people!”

Chef René Dubois and Chef Laura Dubois of White Owl Bistro and Somewood Farms served up a ton of smiles along with their Turkey Sliders and Pickled bean Salad.
Chef René Dubois and Chef Laura Dubois of White Owl Bistro and Somewood Farms served up a ton of smiles along with their Turkey Sliders and Pickled bean Salad.

Chamber president Kathleen Thorne said, “We wanted to showcase the local food that is available in our region and assist in creating awareness for what customers can be sourcing locally. We also wanted everyone to leave this event with some tangible ideas on how we can incorporate local food in our daily lives. We can visit farm gate operations in the area to purchase products directly from the source. We can look for local products in stores when shopping. We can plan our menus around what’s in season and being harvested. We can join a CSA (community shared agriculture) program and receive a share of fresh produce or meat from a local farm. We can choose to eat in restaurants that source foods locally. All of the chefs that participated in this event incorporate local food into their menus. And finally, we can support agri-tourism operations by attending their events and participating in seasonal activities like this one.”

The following are links (Facebook and Web addresses where available) to the different restaurants, farms, contributors, sponsors and organizations which helped publicize the event.

Boreal Berry Farm & Winery
Chef Daniel Esposito / Food Reflections
Eat Local Sudbury
Field Good Farms / Ferme j’me champ bien
Foodland Ontario
Leisure Farms
The Miner’s Son
Municipality of West Nipissing
Near North Locavores
North Bay Farmer’s Market
Pasta Kitchen & Bar
Stack Brewing Company
West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce
White Owl Bistro

Thank you, Merci, Miigwech to all of our sponsors! We appreciate the support. Hope to see you next year!

Sponsors

A surprise Boreal Wine tasting event at Feast on the Farm: Northern Ontario’s only winery.

FeastWritten by I.C. Mosseler

In the spirit of keeping it local organizers of Festin à la ferme / Feast on the farm made sure that local craft breweries, Stack (Sudbury) & Highlander (South River), would be available at the event this Sunday, but what a generous and terrific surprise when Greg Melien of Boreal Berry Farm & Winery (St. Charles) told his fellow board members on the organizing committee that he would be providing a free wine tasting!

Greg & Mira Melien, Winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence 2013 for bringing a new fruit to Ontario, the Haskap berry, shown with Vali Melien and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch. The haskap berry bush can survive temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius and produce fruit even earlier than strawberries. The product's antioxidant-loaded berries that combine the sweet-tart flavours of blueberries and raspberries. Meet the haskap, also known as the honeyberry or blue honeysuckle. Greg and Mira Melien have devoted 20 acres of their orchard to this deciduous shrub that thrives in northern climates. As well as selling the fresh and frozen berries, the Meliens transform their harvest into haskap juice, wine, jams, jellies, wine gums and syrups. In fact, these biodynamic farmers are such big fans of the berry that they've formed the Ontario Haskap Association to help other farmers across the province to grow and market it.
Greg & Mira Melien, Winners of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence 2013 for bringing a new fruit to Ontario, the Haskap berry, shown with Vali Melien and Brent Kennedy, Director-Regional Economic Development Branch. The haskap berry bush can survive temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius and produce fruit even earlier than strawberries. The product’s antioxidant-loaded berries combine the sweet-tart flavours of blueberries and raspberries. Meet the haskap, also known as the honeyberry or blue honeysuckle. Greg and Mira Melien have devoted 20 acres of their orchard to this deciduous shrub that thrives in northern climates. As well as selling the fresh and frozen berries, the Meliens transform their harvest into haskap juice, wine, jams, jellies, wine gums and syrups. In fact, these biodynamic farmers are such big fans of the berry that they’ve formed the Ontario Haskap Association to help other farmers across the province to grow and market it.

Greg and Mira Melien are owner/operators of the only winery in Northern Ontario. They are, in fact, breaking new ground, at the forefront of establishing a totally new industry in the north, and they face some pretty tough challenges in the process. After this wine tasting you may want to buy a bottle in the LCBO, but you can’t. The laws in Ontario don’t work that way – so being able to enjoy a free wine tasting is going to be a real add-on treat for tickets holders at the Festin à la ferme / Feast on the farm (Tickets are now all sold out).

The wines produced in St. Charles are natural, organic sustainable and biodynamic. Greg says, “We are Canada’s coldest climate winery and the only winery in Northern Ontario. We are certified organic to COR with Pro-cert.”

Greg Melien is an ex-serviceman and veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces. He and his wife Mira took on a real challenge in building and maintaining a winery in the edge of the boreal forest region. He said, “Our winery is built with insulated foam blocks to create an above ground cavern. We use an innovative night air cooling method to maintain our cellar temperature in the warm season without the use of cooling units. We also use solar power to run our winery.”

Their best seller is Manitoulin Maple Apple Dessert Wine - made with Mountain Maple Products maple syrup! It's a truly local wine made with products sources from northeastern Ontario.
Their best seller is Manitoulin Maple Apple Dessert Wine – made with Mountain Maple Products maple syrup! It’s a truly local wine made with products sourced from northeastern Ontario.

The family estate winery and cidery is something which has inspired a lot of interest in the area. It is located outside of St. Charles on 160 acres fronting the Nepewassi River. The wines, ice ciders and syrups are all made from fruits grown or harvested in the immediate region, including the fruit grown in the rich silt loam orchards on the site. Greg said, “It’s perfect for crops such as Haskap berries. The cold nights and hot days of our short summer grow flavor-forward and nutrient rich fruit which we hand pick and cold press to craft our artisinal wines, ciders and syrups.” His wife Mira, who is in charge of sales and promotion, said, “People in this area often don’t know that we are the largest organic specialty fruit orchard in Canada.”  Boreal Berry Farm & Winery grows  Haskaps (Honeyberry), Saskatoons, Cherries, Lavender, Aronia, Lingonberry and Sea Buckthorn. Mira adds, “We are the oldest and largest Haskap berry orchard in Eastern North America. We have introduced the Haskap berry as a commercial crop to Ontario and developed a line of Haskap products for the Canadian market.”

Greg Melien, owner operator of Boreal Winery, inspecting his vats.
Greg Melien, owner operator of Boreal Winery, inspecting his vats.

Greg and Mira Melien have been participants with the West Nipissing Agricultural Task Force (WNATF) right from the onset when Greg was invited by the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce to sit. As all the other farmers and producers on the committee, he has had a busy year, with the additional time consuming travel to the numerous shows and competitions the young family attends in order to promote their product. The couple participated in the West Nipissing first Farm to Fork event in November of 2014, providing their syrups to be used as drink mixes. Greg’s product comes under a whole different set of regulations when it comes to getting his product to market, so availability and visibility to the local consumer is not readily apparent. All of his product has to be trucked to southern Ontario, by transport, on skids, in order to be trucked back to northern Ontario. Consequently, the residents and businesses of northern Ontario will not see his wines and ciders on shelves. You have to travel to the winery in St. Charles in order to experience any of the alcoholic beverage offerings.

The good news is that the winery also produces non-alcoholic syrups and ciders. “Our scrumpy Absolute 0 Ciders are available at Eat Local Sudbury and select restaurants and retailers in North Bay, Parry Sound, Muskoka, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and Manitoulin.” Greg and Mira just came back from exhibiting in Toronto, at Harbourfront. “We showed at Celebrate Ontario during the Pan Am Games, and we were the only non-alcoholic product at the show. That event was amazing – 40,000 visitors a day!”

Boreal Winery is open for wine tours and tastings for all kinds for groups. In the photo above - their wagon rides across the fruit orchards.
Boreal Winery is open for wine tours and tastings for all kinds for groups. In the photo above – their wagon rides across the fruit orchards.

The other good news is – Boreal Winery is really into farm tours, and you are in the right place, at the right time, to experience the challenges and joys of opening a brand new industry in the north. “We’re committed to offering premium, high quality wines made from the fruit hand picked in our northern fruit orchard, and we’re always having special events and tours,” said Greg. “Our tours are fun and informative. We take you through the orchard and the winery. You will learn about our fruits, and the wine making process, directly from our winemaker.” The winery has a boutique on site and visitors can sample the hand crafted artisan limited edition wines.

The pumpkin wine is made right inside the pumpkins!
The pumpkin wine is made right inside the pumpkins!

Boreal Winery has some pretty off-beat offerings. Like pumpkin wine. Greg said, “The wine is made right inside the pumpkin. We have a giant pumpkin contest and use some of those pumpkins to make the wine.” He laughs – “I’ve been asked before – about the weird fruit we use for our wines. But this climate is perfect for berries like Haskap. When we first started we planted our Haskap in November while they were dormant, when the temperature was below zero. That very first spring we had an amazing flowering and a subsequent crop.”

The Boreal Winery website reports: Haskap has long been known by the ancient Japanese as, “The fruit of life longevity and fruit of vision”. Haskap berries are high in Vitamin A, C and have high fibre and potassium. ORAC values, otherwise known as antioxidant values, …research shows Haskap to have an extremely high antioxidant value. In particular high levels of Anthocyanins, Polyphenols and Bioflavanoids, which can help protect against the the affects of ageing and disease such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease.”  The Boreal Winery haskap berries are sold under their own brand—  HoneyBlue™ Haskap

Canada Day with Haskap berries at Boreal Winery.
Canada Day with Haskap berries at Boreal Winery.

Saskatoon berries,  Boreal cherries (tart) and aronia are among the crops at Boreal Winery. “Recent research has shown Saskatoon berries high fibre content can help control blood sugar, defend against diabetes, aid digestion, and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. …Aronia are extremely high in antioxidants. …They are also a crucial component of anti-wrinkle diets as they can help protect your skin from the harmful effects of environmental pollutants, tobacco smoke, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and other factors that cause your body to produce free radicals.”

Saskatoon berries in the vat.
Saskatoon berries in the vat.

If you have a Scandinavian background you’ll be very familiar with Lingonberry – Lingonberries are to Scandinavians what cranberries are to Canadians – an abundant wild fruit free for the taking by anyone with a basket, a harvesting fork, and the patience to pick through and clean their harvest. Produced by low, evergreen shrubs throughout Scandinavia’s forests, the tart red berries are much smaller and juicier than their distant cousin, the cranberry. “Lingonberry is affectionately referred as the ‘Queen of Berries’. It  has a nice refreshing taste… This wild berry comes packed with a bevy of health and nutritive benefits.”

Another surprise at Boreal WInery is Seabuckthorn. “It’s known as nature’s most balanced fruit… …[as the] “Holy Fruit of the Himalayas” it has been cherished by native Tibetans for centuries for its incredible nutritive qualities. Seabuckthorn contains more than 190 biologically active compounds  with a full range of omega fatty acids in perfect balance. Seabuckthorn contains more than 60 antioxidants and a high ORAC value. It is very rich in vitamin C; 4 to l00 times higher than any vegetable and fruit. …it can help arthritis symptoms, ease muscle pain after a workout, and enhance sleep. It is also beneficial for cancer prevention.”

I am the chief wine maker at Boreal Winery, In the first year we brought in Dominic Rivard as a consultant. He is renowned worldwide, winning numerous awards as a wine master, and a specialist in fruit wine, dessert wine, and ice wine production.” That award winning skill has been successfully transferred to Greg Melien. Boreal Winery is open for corporate, charitable and private bookings, has wine tastings, wagon rides, and a licensed patio overlooking the grounds. They also hold some very interesting events. Greg and Mira work very hard to form partnerships with different groups.

 Boreal Berry Farm and Winery is situated at 748 Little Brulé Road, Warren, ON,  P0H 2N0 705-920-7096 They are open Saturday - Sunday: 11:00am - 4:00pm  Follow them om Facebook
Boreal Berry Farm and Winery is situated at 748 Little Brulé Road, Warren, ON, P0H 2N0   705-920-7096
They are open Saturday – Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Follow them om Facebook

On August 8, the night before Festin à la ferme / Feast on the Farm,  the North Bay Astronomy Club is holding a Star Party at Boreal Winery. “The evening begins with a lively presentation, ‘The Life of a Star’ , the story of the life of an average star in our galaxy. You can enjoy a wine tasting and chat with our winemaker, and then head outside to the night sky. The telescopes will be set up for guests to view some of the wonders of the night sky. Currently, Saturn is spectacular and will be visible that evening. Also visible will be galaxies, nebula and star clusters. This is a free community event presented by the North Bay Astronomy Club and Boreal Winery.”

On August 13 Greg and Mira are holding a Haskap Information Session, “You can come and learn about planting and growing Haskap for your home garden with our orchard technician who can answer all your questions about this attractive shrub with edible berries. It’s a free seminar for home gardeners, horticulture groups and general public interested in growing cold hardy fruits.” You can also order your own Haskaps bushes for fall planting.

The organizers of the Festin à la ferme / Feast on the Farm are thrilled to have Boreal Winery on board. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce has been working alongside area producers to make people aware of what this region has to offer, and the generosity of all the chefs, the farmers, and the sole winery in northern Ontario has made the entire experience a joyful one.

Tickets for this event have been SOLD OUT. The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce and the West Nipissing Agricultural Task Force gratefully acknowledge all of the sponsors and contributors to this event:

Sponsors