By Jason Rioux
The town of Chapleau has strong roots in entrepreneurship and pioneering….enabled and inspired by a special mix of ingredients: the long standing First Nations communities and the wisdom of their Elders, the Hudson’s Bay Trading Post that opened trade and export potential, the Canadian Pacific Railway with its army of railroaders and nation-building transport, the forestry industry with the strengths of its loggers and biomass exports, and the broad mix of small businesses that started, flourished, and retired over the last 100+ years.
Chapleau's first entrepreneurs were likely T.A. Austin who opened the first general store in December 1885 and Richard Brownlee who established a barbershop in a tent in February 1886. This mix was the essence of economic growth that established Chapleau for what it is today.
|1886 T. A. Austin store and Richard Brownlee barbershop|
We all have memories of special times, places, and experiences that were enabled by our early settlers, current and past business men and women, and community leaders, big and small, that took the initiative to start or do something new, that people wanted or needed, for the betterment of everyone in Chapleau, and for those that were lucky enough to visit.
|Young Street Chapleau early 1900s from Birch.|
Chapleau has enormous sleeping potential for new small businesses to start and grow. Everyone has something they are gifted with…something they love to do…something from which people could enjoy and benefit. Perhaps even something that we can export. There has never been a time so needed, so encouraged, and so enabled for you to give something a shot. That something is for you to determine.
If you are reading this and thinking, “surely, this is targeted at other people”, then think again. Whether you make the best sugar pie in town, have a passion to teach arts, or can play the fiddle like a wannabe Ashley MacIsaac, there is now a place for you to share and benefit from this talent, and here’s how!
“The Rustic Bear Den”, in the transformed lower level of St. John’s church, is now set up as a community hub, with a café and artisan marketplace. This is a flexible rustic space that accommodates dozens of small entrepreneurs to co-exist and show off their talents. Think of it as Chapleau’s new Trading Post! The commercial kitchen is available for preparing and baking your special foods (like your sugar pies), for sale both outside and inside the café.
The flexible space can be used to display and sell your homemade artisan products, or even better, use it as your workshop to make your products on site and add to the buzz. Dream up your special event and host it there too, nothing is too wild, you’d be surprised. Pitch your ideas to Tanya (Longpre) Keech for anything in this space, she is your go-to person. firstname.lastname@example.org
The upstairs of the church is also open to new ideas. Certainly the priority is ensuring that any new ideas are fully compatible with the Anglican Church proceedings that take place on Sunday mornings. For those that have not seen the upstairs of St. John’s, it is a very special space that is completely original and full of wonderful character. It can accommodate over 250 people, kept warm year-round, and most importantly it has “acoustics” that are second to none.
Whether you are budding local musicians looking for jam space or a recording studio, vocalists looking to host acapella competitions, or the organizer of special events of any kind, this special space is available to be experienced and enjoyed by the whole community.
And last, but not least, the parking lot behind the church and the vacant 2 acres of waterfront land where the old public school once was, are also open to entrepreneurship potential. Farmers markets, large annual festivals, community gardens, and other tourism and waterfront related services could all be pursued while longer term development plans are being worked on for the land. If you have a passion for anything that could flourish outdoors, you can lead the charge and make something happen.
Pitch your ideas for the upstairs and outside spaces to Jason Rioux directly at email@example.com.
New ideas can be pitched at anytime. This is an open door opportunity for the whole community. No idea is too silly or crazy. We are looking for people with “fire in the belly” and the initiative to try something new.
This is our Chapleau, let’s make awesome things happen together.