Photo: Lou Duguay and Marlene Turcotte, Owners of Performance Fire Protection Ltd. are shown with some of their fire suppression products in their service centre at 1151 Tecumseh Road West in Windsor. Photo by Dave Hall.
Thank Heavens For Small Business!
A major $1 million expansion has turned Colchester’s North 42 Degrees Estate Winery into one of the most attractive destinations in Essex County.
As Small Business Month is celebrated across Canada during October, it’s also worth noting that North 42 Degrees Estate Winery (North42degrees.com) is one of the most successful small businesses in the region at a time when such businesses are growing and continuing to be economic drivers across the country.
The 17 acre award-winning vineyard at 130 County Road 50 East in Colchester also features North 42 Bistro, which was expected to be open by the beginning of October. The new bistro aims to add to the winery experience for the many guests who pass through the vineyard’s gates every year.
“It’s an ambitious project that’s been a long time in the planning and execution and we believe it will be well-received once it’s open,” says Steve Meehan, General Manager and Executive Chef at North 42 Bistro.
With four second-floor patios overlooking both the vineyard and Serenity Lavender Farm, also owned by the winery, there will be seating for about 140 people. One of the second-floor patios features a double-sided fireplace for cooler days and evenings.
The Executive Chef adds there are also plans for a two-acre produce garden to supply the new restaurant and meats, cheese and other products will be sourced locally, as much as possible.
Meehan, who is trained in classical European cuisine as well as being a proponent of South American and Asian dishes, notes the menu will include small plates, shared dishes and full meal options.
In addition to being an award-winning winery and producer of such varietals as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, North 42 is also the quintessential family-owned small business.
Opened in September 2012 by Owners Martin Gorski and his wife Suzanne Dajczak, the winery has already won multiple national and international awards, including a double gold for its 2012 Pinot Noir.
Gorski comments there were multiple reasons for the major renovations and expansion at the five year old winery.
“Serenity, our sister company, is planning on producing and selling jams and jellies so it needed a commercial-quality kitchen, and at the winery, we decided to offer more food options for our customers and visitors,” says Gorski. “So, for those two reasons alone, we decided to embark on this project.”
Serenity produces 45 different varieties of lavender and will now share space in North 42’s retail store with the winery.
“It’s all part of our mission to bring something new and fresh to our winery and provide additional reasons for people to visit a beautiful part of not only Essex County, but the entire country,” adds Gorski.
Gorski states that the Municipality of Essex was very supportive of the plans and offered advice and direction about how to proceed.
With the exception of cost-sharing grants from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs relating to the kitchen expansion, the project was financed by North 42 and provides additional reasons to visit the award-winning winery.
“It’s very gratifying to all of us to reach a point where our business can sustain such a major investment and expansion,” says Gorski. “As far as we are concerned the timing is perfect.”
Small businesses, such as North 42 Degrees Estate Winery, are the engines that drive economic activity across Canada and the Windsor Essex region is no exception.
This month is “Small Business Month” across the country and the Small Business Centre, a partner of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation (WE EDC), is marking the occasion with the third annual “Small Biz 2017 Expo” at the Caboto Club on October 18.
The expo runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and full details can be found at: WindsorEssexSmallBusiness.com/expo.
“It’s designed to showcase the diversity of small businesses across Windsor and Essex County,” says Sabrina DeMarco, Executive Director of the Small Business Centre. “We have fashion designers, coffee shops, restaurants, wineries, clothing boutiques, breweries, retail stores and many others, all of whom also support other small businesses across the region by buying local products.”
“Most of these small businesses provide the anchors along main street in municipalities across the region,” says DeMarco of the importance of local entrepreneurs to the general regional economy.
Among the businesses participating in this year’s expo are: Robbie’s Gourmet Sausage Co., I LUV Coffee, Little Foot Foods, Sweet Revenge Bake Shop, Licia Ruby Food Co., Urban Art Market, Windermere Art Gallery, Witch and Whimsy, Dave’s Woodworking, H’OM Wellness Centre, Optimal Chiropractic, and Biz X magazine.
Last year’s event attracted more than 50 small business exhibitors and nearly 400 attendees. Admission to the event is free but attendees are asked to bring canned goods or make charitable donations.
Businesses represented at the expo are just the tip of the local small business iceberg.
Across Windsor and Essex County, there are 28,113 businesses with fewer than nine employees, providing jobs for more than 100,000 employees.
According to the Small Business Centre (SBC; 700 California Avenue, Suite 200, Windsor & 39 Maidstone Avenue East, Unit 5, Essex), 90 percent of the businesses in the Windsor Essex Region have fewer than 10 employees.
There are hundreds of successful small business stories across the Windsor-Essex region and what follows are a few shining examples.
Performance Fire Protection
Months after their previous employer closed its doors, Marlene Turcotte and Lou Duguay became business partners and decided to put their collective experience to good use by starting their own company.
In July, Turcotte and Duguay opened Performance Fire Protection Ltd. at 1151 Tecumseh Road West in Windsor, with no financial help except for their own savings.
“It was a leap of faith to be sure after collecting a regular pay cheque, but it’s what we know how to do,” remarks Turcotte, the company’s Chief Financial Officer. “Lou is great on the technical side and I know the office procedures so we make a great team.”
Performance, members of UA Local 853 of the Sprinkler Fitters of Ontario, provides inspections, sales and service for all fire suppression systems including fire extinguishers, sprinklers and fire alarms to mostly commercial and industrial clients, as well as apartment buildings.
Both Turcotte and Duguay say their business model is focused on customer service, which continues well beyond after a sale is made.
“Most of our inspections are annual or semi-annual, so you know you are going back to a client on a regular basis, so your customer service had better be first rate,” stresses Duguay.
There are currently eight employees, including Turcotte and Duguay, most of whom are fully trained to provide repair services on a 24/7 basis.
“It’s all been about hard work and dedication so far and the first four months have been very good,” says Turcotte. “We’re both here 10 hours a day or longer, but that’s normal for anyone operating a small business.”
Turcotte indicates that the company is slowly building a client list across Windsor and Essex County, but quoted on a job in Orillia recently based on word-of-mouth recommendations from an existing client.
Performance Fire Protection is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments can also be booked online at: PerformanceFire.ca.
Silver Stitch Embroidery
When Karen Cichon began her business 27 years ago, she never expected to still be in operation more than two decades later.
“I was just a mom working out of my home making dresses when I decided to take a leap of faith and open the business,” recalls Cichon. “I never thought about going to work just to make money. I always thought I would go to work, do something I enjoy and that I’d get paid at the end of the week.”
Dress-making has been phased out over the years but Silver Stitch (SilverStitch.ca) still offers clothing alterations, embroidery, screen printing and full colour transfers.
“We’ve added services as customers have requested them over the years,” states Cichon who has seven employees. “We’ve also added equipment as needed and I’m very proud of the fact that eight years ago I was able to buy our building with no outside co-signers.”
Cichon, who will celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary with husband Mike in January, says she and her employees consider themselves a small supportive family who always cover for each other.
“There are no set breaks or lunch periods,” Cichon explains. “If you want a coffee, you simply go and get one. They are all on their honour to get the work completed, and it always is, so there are never any issues.”
Cichon is proud of the fact her business subscribes to a living wage philosophy and she also offers employee benefits such as medical and dental coverage.
Silver Stitch, located at 1304 Lauzon Road in Windsor, is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
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