It seems almost a lifetime ago, yet my first foray into business is strongly linked to the political world. In March 2002, I left my tiny community of Green Island Cove and went to Ottawa to learn about politics at the Forum for Young Canadians. I knew nothing about politics, except that I was intrigued by it, little did I know I would become a Member of the House of Assembly just 9 years later. This was my first real adventure on my own, the farthest I had ever been away from home and it truly was a life changing experience – from getting a private tour of Parliament to sitting in the Speaker’s Chair while the Speaker took the photo to meeting friends from all over Canada, some of which I would end up in the same class as we completed our University degrees. However, beyond the week of friendship and politics, I was really overwhelmed by the Museum of National Civilization. It inspired me to think about our history, the people who have had an impact on rural Newfoundland and Labrador, especially on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.
I remember the return ride from the Deer Lake airport sparked the conversation about creating a museum that depicted the way of everyday living and its people. On the Great Northern Peninsula we are the one unique place where the “World Came Full Circle”, an event 100,000 years in the making. Cultures collided from the Maritime Archaic Indians, Paleo-Eskimo, Groswater Eskimo, and recent Indians, like the Beothuk and Mic’maq to the Norse, Basque, French, English to modern day. By the end of the ride the wheels were in motion to consider establishing a museum at Aunt Betty Spence’s vacant home in Nameless Cove. However, like most good ideas it almost never got off the ground. I applied for a position with the Green Team, looking for security in summer employment versus the ups and downs entrepreneurship would bring. I was unsuccessful in securing a position.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison
It was now May and I decided that the concept of the museum could be done, with proper diligence and took all my free time in the remaining six weeks of preparation to conduct research (with dial-up Internet), complete some renovations and prepare the property for what would be a grand opening on July 1, 2002. The beginning investment was a lot of sweat equity and less than $500. The reward for trying, was priceless.
Flower’s Island Museum opened with Mary Elizabeth “Aunt Betty” Spence cutting the ribbon. She was approaching her 95th birthday and was excited that her old homestead, collectables and story was being shared with the world. Despite higher gas prices, the outbreak of SARS and limited knowledge of this new venture, this operation was able to secure 600 visitors from Australia, Norway, UK, USA and many places in between. I have made friendships that continue to this day, more than a dozen years later.
After my first season, I re-evaluated the business and look to find ways to generate more revenue streams to make the business model more sustainable. The first season saw great contributions in the form of donations, admission and gift shop sales. That winter, I began drawing up plans to create a Newfoundland themed nine-hole miniature golf course. That Spring the concrete was being laid, with many thanks to family and friends for helping and contributing to its success.
I look back and remember all the fun that happened during those summer months people had playing golf. There was lots of excitement for me on hole number 8 when my golf ball went up the pipe in the lobster trap and it was a hole in one. There were many tournaments that summer and a lot of life in the little community of Nameless Cove.
A summer Fun Festival was hosted in 2003 and 2004 with a partner and the ideas seemed endless. All the magic happened before Facebook, before access to high-speed Internet was available in the community. We focused on printing brochures, doing paper promotions and posters. These are all things of the past to those who have adapted in the tourism world.
It was clear the times were changing and with it some tough decisions had to be made. I was enrolled at Memorial University completing a business degree with summers committed to work terms and education. I worked to help others start-up their own summer ventures and spent a year living and working in Europe. Those decisions would ultimately lead to the closing of the museum’s doors. It was very difficult to see something in which I created, and have to let it go. Though, the experiences I gained overseas have forever changed my outlook on life, on economic development and on community, not to mention the life long friendships.
Flower’s Island Museum was a real high point in my life, as it really let my creativity flow to generate new ideas and share with the world what the Great Northern Peninsula was all about. Is there a possibility to re-visit this concept as it was?
As I walk down memory lane, I reflect with a smile realizing that since 2010, I’ve been continuing what I started more than a decade ago and that is sharing Rural Newfoundland & Labrador. This blog has been letting those “Experience the Great Northern Peninsula” in a virtual form reaching hundreds of thousands of people from 191 countries around the world. We’re certainly on the map!
We all have something to offer and all have an impact on our community. I encourage you to take a walk down memory lane and look back on some of your accomplishments and find new ways to look at failure and realize that there are always other paths to success.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)
The Quidi Vidi Village of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador is not found on the Great Northern Peninsula but is part of the fabric that quintessentially exudes rural living.
As I strolled through the Quidi Vidi Village one just falls in love with the rocky and curvy coastline, the small fishing boats, fishing rooms, stages, walking trails and the colourful houses.
If we look much closer we see a thriving small business community with the presence of Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, Quidi Vidi Brewery, Mallard Cottage, The Inn of Olde, tours and future opportunities with expressions of interest being accepted for a vacant property. Rural Newfoundland & Labrador has sustained itself on producing its own goods and services, bringing new dollars into the economy from working away and supporting the local small business community.
The Quidi Vidi Village Plantation should be replicated across the province. This concept is remarkable for supporting craftspeople at the beginning of their career. There are ten studios to visit in which unique craft product is being made before your eyes. It is a great opportunity to talk with the creator, ask questions about their process and see all the hard work and skill that has gone into making their product. This is a great incubation program when artists can renew a lease agreement with the City of St. John’s for up to three years. After three years individuals should be amply prepared to launch into the marketplace somewhere in the Province (More info: http://www.quidividivillageplantation.com/).
It was quite nice to also see some our Great Northern Peninsula’s finest wildberry jams and teas for sale at this venue via The Dark Tickle Company (http://www.darktickle.com/). Artist studios are becoming much more popular, one only has to look at the work done by the Shorefast Foundation on Fogo Island (www.shorefast.org). Here’s a photo I took of one in Joe Batt’s Arm in 2012.
Could Brown Cottage, St. Anthony supported through Grenfell Handicrafts be the next location for an artisan incubator? Englee with their mat hooking and glass art studio? Conche with their tapestry? As you can see we on the Great Northern Peninsula have ample opportunity as we have an abundance of local crafters and could attract new artisans to the area.
Craft breweries are growing in popularity, especially in tourist towns of Jasper, Banff and Granville Island. Quidi Vidi certainly makes a great location. One can visit for a tour and tastings on the hour until 4 PM. They are most notably famous for their Iceberg Beer in the beautiful blue bottles. They produce “Eric’s Cream Ale, formerly branded as “Eric the Red”, which has a connection to Leif Erikson, the first European to re-discover North America at L’anse aux Meadows more than 1,000 years ago.
Could venues like the former Fisherman’s Galley work as it is en route to L’Anse aux Meadows World UNESCO Heritage Site? Or would a place like the Clock Shop in St. Anthony be a better venue to support local entertainment, pub, artist village, hostel and offices all under one roof? Or maybe some other combination is best to create a thriving rural business. There are opportunities in rural Newfoundland & Labrador to grow small business.
A unique character certainly is a selling point for a small business. The Inn of Olde certainly has that interesting atmosphere with mountains of items hanging all around. One that stood out was the sign “Gettin’ Married in the Fall – Fish or No Fish!” It reminded me of an Irish pub my mother and I visited in Cork during November 2010. The walls were covered in all sorts of postcards and other memorabilia.
Here’s a snap of the Irish Pub
Skipper Hot’s Lounge in Straitsview is a venue that offers a unique atmosphere, promotes their own local band and does regular screech-ins. Kitchen parties are every Friday night during the summer. The Eagle Lounge in Sandy Cove has undergone new ownership, which may lead to changes to provide a more pub style atmosphere to cater to the local and visitor markets.
Mallard Cottage is one of the oldest wooden structures in the province. It recently undergone extensive renovations to preserve the building and create a restaurant under the ownership of Chef Todd Perrin. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this venue as it truly does provide a very unique experience. It is a great place to get lost in conversation, while enjoying some amply prepared seafood and meat dishes that were sourced locally. One will not want to leave without the carrot cake cheesecake. My two favourite desserts blended in to one, makes you always wanting more.
We have many local restaurants on the Great Northern Peninsula that work to support local hunters and source seafood locally. We must reduce barriers where possible to enable more local food to be sold closer to home.
A rural economy will only survive and thrive if we support those who have business, make, grow, produce or sell a product or service. This is basically the premise of our existence from before the days of currency existed we would have our own gardens, animals, cut wood for winter and catch our own fish. For things we needed we would use the barter system. All this provided what we needed to live our daily lives. Although rural Newfoundland & Labrador has adapted to new transportation and telecommunication opportunities, we must recognize that we still require the support of those around us in community from our small business to everyday people to truly thrive in a modern day world.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North @MitchelmoreMHA
A few weeks ago, I took a vacation and spent a couple of days in the Town of Woody Point. I was greatly impressed by their overall product offering that promotes one another’s small business and supports overall growth in the region.
The Mission of the Town of Woody Point is to provide a lead role in the promotion, sustainable development, and protection of our natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, through ensuring the support of the community while maintaining the integrity and uniqueness of the lifestyle of our citizens – http://www.woodypoint.ca
I took Route 431 at Wiltondale and checked in at the office at Aunt Jane’s Place, which their gift shop resembled a general store. The old-fashion cash register was a nice touch. I collected the keys to Uncle Steve’s Place, which was a traditional salt box home built in the late 1800’s. This was referred by Darlene Thomas of Seaside Suites, as they were booked for the weekend. Thank you!
Woody Point is famous for its annual Writer’s at Woody Point Festival in August, which draws some of the province’s biggest literary names. It continues to be a thriving success!
Woody Point and area has a wonderful business district that includes:
- Hunky Dory Folk Art
- Aunt Maggie’s Homespun
- Molly Made
- Seaside Souvenirs
- Galliott’s Studios
- Jersey Rooms Crafts
- The Sample Room
- Lise Sorenson Art Studio
- Christine Koch Art Studio
Where to Eat
- Old Loft Restaurant, Woody Point waterfront- www.theoldloft.com
- Seaside Deli and Dairy Bar, Woody Point waterfront- www.seasidesuites.ca
- Granite Coffee House, Woody Point waterfront- www.crockercabins.com
- Back Room Cafe, Cox’s Lane
Where to Stay
- Aunt Jane’s Place B&B-www.grosmorne.com/victorianmanor/
- Blanchard House Bed & Breakfast-www.crockercabins.com
- Seaside Suites-www.seasidesuites.ca
- Victorian Manor Heritage Properties- Efficiency Units, Vacation Homes www.grosmorne.com/victorianmanor/
- Woody Point Motel
Other Local Businesses and services:
- Pete’s One Stop Grocery
- Granite Coffee House Laundromat
- 3T’s Convenience Store
- 3T’s Fish Plant
- Martin’s Garage and Liquor Store
- Martin’s Transportation
- Post Office
- Royal Canadian Legion
- E.L. Roberts Library
- Woody Point Heritage Theatre
Nightly entertainment is extremely important to any tourist visiting an area and will extend the stay. I likely would have only booked just one night and moved on, however, there was nightly entertainment offered at the Merchant Warehouse throughout the weekend. After hearing Jeff Quilty was playing, I knew it would be worth a second night as I love his traditional Irish and Celtic styling.
Just outside Uncle Steve’s Place was “Molly Made”. I’ve seen her rug hooking kits for sale at places like Grenfell Historic Properties, St. Anthony and other venues. However, it was a real treat to drop by her shop and see the studio where all the magic happens. It was also nice to see how this business supported others selling “Aunt Maggie’s Homespun” products. I bought I lovely set of mittens and a rug-hooked mummer for my Christmas tree.
The area is easy to navigate for the novice tourist, as there are directional signs helping you find the business and places you wanted to experience. There are printed maps outlining what is available in the region and the Town itself is highly walk-able. This is an attractive feature! I truly enjoyed all the vernacular architecture, the food and entertainment at the Merchant Warehouse, dart night at the Legion, seeing Coldwater Cowboy Todd Young, his vessel, taking the water taxi to Norris Point and enjoying the natural beauty of the area. In addition we visited neighbouring Trout River, the Tablelands World UNESCO site and the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point.
There is so much to see and do, even in just a couple of days you can fit lots in. I would have loved to have watched a show at the Theatre, however, I had to make the short trek to Deer Lake to pick up my friends. We ended up dining at The Loft restaurant which has a unique atmosphere. I highly recommend the halibut, it was cooked to perfection.
I really enjoyed the co-operation between the business community to support one another and encourage you to experience all the Town and what neighbouring communities had to offer. It provides a very good selling point for the Town and the region. They truly benefit from collaboration and will see further growth and new business opportunities created through these partnerships. A wonderful couple of days, with incredible customer service! I look forward to future visits.
Woody Point is a great starting point as you make your trek up the Great Northern Peninsula.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
The fishing Town of Englee is quickly becoming an artisan retreat and those who love things that are handmade. At the Town Hall one can view more than 100 locally hooked rugs at their exhibition open Monday to Friday from 9 AM until 4 PM. They also created a partnership with the French Shore Interpretation Centre, where a local resident worked and produced tapestry panels for a travelling exhibit commemorating the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.
Englee is all fired up! The creation of the newly formed Glacier Glass has given the Town renewed life through job creation and new economic development. A number of workers have learned and are mastering the art form by creating original and authentic glass art pieces that are indeed quintessentially Newfoundland & Labrador.
Artisans carefully handcraft coasters, tea light holders, pendants, plates, platters, ornaments, cheese trays, cuff-links, icebergs and an array of decorative items. These are unique and perfect presents for special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays such as Halloween or Christmas.
Supporting local business is key to building a stronger economy and sustaining rural communities. We can grow with your help! Drop by their studio and shop at the lower level of the Englee Municipal Building, visit their Facebook Page at Glacier Glass for regular updates and/or call 1-709-866-2711 for more information.
Englee also has a heritage home, wildlife and amazing walking trails. It neighbours Roddickton-Bide Arm and Conche, making the Northern Peninsula East another place to add to your travels when experiencing the Great Northern Peninsula.
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North @MitchelmoreMHA
Raleigh is home to the awe-inspiring Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve, boasting over 300 plant species with 30 being rare. The Burnt Cape cinquefoil is found exclusively on the Northern Peninsula, as it is the only place in the world where this species grows. The Provincial Government of Newfoundland & Labrador has failed to live up to its obligations when it eliminated all interpretation at this Reserve. It has also neglected to install appropriate signage, develop educational material such as guidebooks and panels to preserve, educate, maintain road infrastructure and make available our natural areas to interested parties. These short-sighted decisions by Government impact and harm our rural communities. Where is Government’s commitment?
Additionally, rural communities are facing pressures from out-migration, aging population and changes to the dynamics of the economy that sustained them since their beginning all across the globe. Sustaining our small towns takes commitment and I see that in entrepreneurs Marina and Ted Hedderson of Raleigh, NL.
Yesterday, I was amazed by the creativity, commitment and desire to see the Town of Raleigh with a population of less than 200 survive and thrive. The current owners have been running Marina’s Mini-Mart & Gas Bar since 2001. They saw an opportunity to get into the accommodations business to compliment the neighbouring Pistolet Bay – Provincial Park, which is typically at capacity for tents and RVs throughout the season.
I was given a tour of the cottages, which include 4 two-bedroom, 3 one-bedrooms and a newly added vacation home that has the most incredible ocean view. The vacation home is very spacious and family focused with two queen and a twin bed, laundry facilities, BBQ and a view you won’t want to leave. The two bedroom cottages are very immaculate, offering two queen beds, laundry and wooden finished interior. The three one-bedroom cottages have leather furniture and laundromat access, but the best feature is that they sit with a breath-taking ocean view from a large deck to sit and enjoy your morning coffee or evening beverage. There is an entertainment area for evening fires right at water’s edge. There 4-star accommodations are priced at an incredible value, ranging from $109-169.
The Burnt Cape Cafe is a must if you are in the area. It truly understands the importance of experiential tourism. The Cafe takes lobster to a whole new level of fresh. The patrons, if they choose can go to the local wharf and select their own lobster and get their photos taken before and after. An incredible experience!
After stepping into the cafe, my attention was immediately drawn to the back which includes a comfortable seating area, big screen television playing traditional Newfoundland music and I thought was a great place to sit and relax. They also know the value of WiFi, which is provided for free.
The original six hockey jerseys are proudly displayed as in the off-season this area becomes on Monday nights, open to the dart league. There is a wide-selection of crafts, souvenirs and other products. I purchased a Mummer’s shot glass, as I love the jannies.
The Newfoundland tartan on the tables is a nice touch to compliment a menu that caters to those who love high-quality seafood dishes. I was treated to some phenomenal chowder, it comes highly recommended to start. It comes with generous portions of salmon and cod, great creamy flavour that is amplified with a touch of cheese melting as you eat. As a main, I’ve had pan-seared scallops and shrimp in garlic butter that would melt in your mouth with Parmesan mashed potatoes that kept you wanting more. To top the meal off, the deep-fried ice-cream was superb. The rich coating ensured the ice-cream was cold and in tact while I slowly enjoyed this treat drizzled with bakeapples. If you have not eaten at the Burnt Cape cafe you are truly missing out.
Small business and innovation is the key to dynamic growth, especially in small communities. Ted and Marina have a vision for their Town, their home. The business currently offers everything you need at your fingertips. However, they have more big ideas on how to add accommodations, entertainment and experiential offers that appeal to locals and visitors. They are a partner with the annual Iceberg Festival, believe in strong promotion and understand the value of packaging and providing their customers with the highest in services and unique experiences.
Sustaining a community takes commitment and these two truly have what it takes to build a stronger community. I would encourage you to drop by and support this locally owned and independent business that is doing incredibly big things in a small town.
Visit their website at: www.burntcape.com
Live Rural NL –Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North @MitchelmoreMHA