Success Stories

Business Spotlight

June - Featured Business (BEI Outfitters)

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Eileen Williams: Owner Operator of BEI Outfitters

PACE is pleased to recognize Eileen Williams of BEI Outfitters located on Bear Paw Drive in Wabigoon as our feature business this quarter.  Eileen came to PACE during the COVID-19 pandemic filled with enthusiasm and confidence that she could provide sales of both summer and winter sporting gear in the form of kayaks, canoes, water toys and snowshoes. 

During the pandemic, more people were looking to spend time outdoors with family and the demand for this type of recreational equipment skyrocketed.  Eileen lives on the lake and is an avid outdoors person who saw a need for this type of business in the area.  There had been a supplier in Dryden previously that closed which left the closest similar type of business more than 3 hours away.

Starting up BEI Outfitters gave people the option to buy locally and save a trip to the city for these kinds of products.  Eileen and her husband built a small shop on their property to better serve customers and store their inventory.  Her lake front home is ideal for this business giving the option to advertise from her dock to the steady Wabigoon boat traffic.    Although her business has only been operating for a year, Eileen has already had great success and word is spreading about her products.  She has attended several trade shows and markets to gain more exposure and promote her small business.

We wish Eileen the greatest success and hope she will be serving the local community for years to come.  PACE thanks Eileen and BEI Outfitters for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.



March - Featured Business (Four Seasons Footwear)

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Justus Leschied; Four Season's Footwear

Living in a small town like Dryden, Ontario, local businesses, and their owners can become like family especially if they have been around for 34 years.  It recently became public that Justice Leschied, owner of Four Seasons Footwear would be retiring and closing the well-known shoe store located in the downtown Midtown Square.  I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to sit down with him and chat about how the journey began, the joys and challenges and his reflections of owning and operating the business for more than three decades.

Lil Leschied was the lady that started it all when she purchased the remaining stock from Ed’s Shoe Store in Dryden in 1987.  She always wanted to own a business so when the opportunity arose, she required some financial assistance to start up.  Surprisingly enough, she was able to secure funding through the PACE office, formerly in Ignace and used some personal finances to cover additional costs.  Her plan was to grow the business with an ideal location and larger floor space, which happened in 1992 when she moved the store to Whyte Avenue in the Midtown Square.  It was this year that Justice partnered with his wife to help with the business and strive to follow its mission statement of ‘supplying shoes of quality, comfort and style’.  Their combined commitment was to provide customer service in a professional and caring manner to clientele throughout Northwestern Ontario.  With dedicated, loyal staff of many years, the couple was able to meet this commitment and continued to serve Dryden and surrounding communities with quality footwear and impeccable service.  Lil and Justice enjoyed the many semi-annual trips away to the shoe trade shows to choose the next season’s hottest trends and styles, while also learning about marketing with integrity and the importance of proper comfortable footwear for all ages.

In 2003, sadly the beloved Lil passed away leaving behind Justice who continued to successfully operate the Dryden store to date.  He kept her dream alive and remained dedicated to providing quality footwear and excellent service to the retail community. 

Through the pandemic, the store was forced to close during the ongoing restrictions and lockdowns.  Since this type of business requires customers to try on the product, it was difficult to have curbside or a means to purchase online.  Justice always believed in face-to-face contact with his customers to provide great customer service.  He learned to budget through the pandemic keeping inventory low not knowing when the next lockdown would happen.  The pandemic was likely his greatest challenge while being in business.  He believed in maintaining a balance between personal life and business to be successful and taking vacation time to rest and rejuvenate so you are always at your best for your customers.

Unfortunately, he has now made the decision with deep regret to close the doors permanently after 34 years and finally retire.  He has three children and eight grandchildren that he is looking forward to spending more time with but will miss meeting new people in the store each day.  He stated that his job was more than just selling a product, it was meeting a need and he did that with professionalism and integrity.  The friendships over the years and loyal support were a great accomplishment for him at Four Seasons.

When I asked him what advice he had for a new business owner he replied that one needed to be critical in thinking, know and respect your competition, maintain balance, and invest in yourself.  Dream big but don’t let your dream cloud your reality.

It was a pleasure to sit down with Justice during his final month of business and learn the story of Four Seasons Footwear.  We congratulate Justice and the staff for their years of serving the community and wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement. 

August - Featured Business (The Northside Motel)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operator Cindy Skene

PACE is pleased to recognize Cindy Skene of The Northside Motel in Vermilion Bay as our feature business.
Cindy came to PACE in 2014 for some assistance with the purchase of the local motel. It was at this time her regular job was being centralized and the position eliminated with the City of Dryden, so she had to find something to create a job for herself and an opportunity for retirement.
With her family’s help and support, Cindy achieved her goal to own and operate the business and has been improving it over the last six years.
She is happy to cater to weary travellers, hydro and construction workers, hockey teams and the many American fisherman that visit the area every summer. She operates the business smartly and effectively with only opening half the rooms in the slower months to save on expenses and work load.
With the unexpected situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cindy was proactive with looking ahead to where she may be and what measures to put in place to weather this financial loss. She continues to market her location and will take the precautions necessary to continue operating safely and efficiently.
We are happy to continue to work with Cindy and support the growth and success of her business. We thank Cindy and the Northside Motel for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia region.



February - Featured Business (Cloverbelt County Meats Cooperative)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Board President Roger Griffiths

PACE recognizes and applauds Cloverbelt Country Meats Cooperative as our quarterly feature business.

The Co-op president came to us in the summer of 2018 with the hopes that PACE could help fund the upgrades to the former Griffiths Country Meats abattoir. The abattoir had been in danger of closing when the owners decided to retire but were unable to find a buyer. The concern for the owners was that if no one purchased and it closed, it would be difficult to re-open due to OMAFRA meat plant licensing requirements. The CCM Co-op was then formed by a group of local farmers to keep the facility running and avoid permanent closure. The facility, however, needed upgrades to meet new OMAFRA standards. Some of the upgrades included new drainage systems, equipment and integration of new technologies and computer software. These enhancements increased efficiency and production capacity while lowering operating costs and improving energy efficiency. The co-op was the recipient of an approved NOHFC grant from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to help with the expansion and revitalization. In order to receive the grant funds, purchases had to be made first and then receipts submitted for reimbursement of the grant funds. PACE stepped in to help bridge the financing to start the project’s first phase in order for the grant funds to start rolling in for the next project or equipment purchase. It was not always easy to get the work completed quickly with weather, labour shortage and waiting on parts for various jobs, but the abattoir is now functioning and has seen great improvements in the efficiency of operations so far.

A significant portion of the local area residents access the abattoir as well as producers and consumers from across the region. While it is difficult to estimate the exact number that will benefit from the completion of this project, it is fair to say it could be in the thousands. Between farming, First Nations and tourism communities, hundreds of people rely on the abattoir to process livestock and wild game. As a whole, the success of the expansion and revitalization will ensure local farmers are able to continue their way of life and pass on these family farm businesses to the next generation.

The outcome and benefits of this project included the retention of 3 full time, 8 part time, and 2 seasonal employees plus created 1 full time and 5 part time jobs.

We wish the Cloverbelt Country Meats Co-op much success upon completion of this important project and the future of the abattoir.
We thank them for their business and contribution to economic development in the PACE catchment area with creating jobs and investing in this necessary infrastructure.

October - Featured Business (Highway Dollar & More)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operator Michelle Desautels

It is with great pleasure that PACE recognizes Michelle Desautels of “Highway Dollar & More” located in Dryden as our feature business.
Michelle came to PACE in the spring of 2018 filled with enthusiasm and confidence that she could re-open the Dollar Store on Highway 17.
Michelle has an extensive background working in the retail industry and knows the value of excellent customer service. The store operates in the busy Golden Mile Plaza with over 1900 square feet of operating space.
It carries a variety of affordable merchandise from crafts, stationary, flowers, and household products including a small canned food section, beauty supplies, gifts, electronics, toys, seasonal items for all occasions, pet supplies and party needs. The store is clean, friendly and offers something for everyone of all ages, gender and income levels.
Michelle recognized that people were missing this novelty store with affordable prices along the highway and wanted to bring it back to life.
We are so happy that Hwy Dollar & More has added to the traffic flow in the small mini mall and Michelle has been able to create jobs in the community with this endeavour.
We wish Michelle the greatest success and hope she will be serving the local community for years to come.
PACE thanks Michelle and Hwy Dollar & More for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.



March - Featured Business (Your Choice Catering)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Yvonne Lozej

PACE is thrilled to recognize Yvonne Lozej of Your Choice Catering in Dryden as our Feature business.

Yvonne came to PACE just last fall with the idea of opening a small catering business and supplying the community with an alternative to restaurant meals or cooking at home. Yvonne has a vast knowledge of the food industry with her experience as a cook for many years at the TransCanada Restaurant, operating the canteen at the local baseball field over the years as well as her current employment at the Dryden Regional Health Centre. Her experience and organization along with her love of cooking was a perfect Fit for this new type of business in our little city.

If you are a parent with children in sports, a busy entrepreneur or simply would like to try some good home cooking, Your Choice Catering is the business to check out. Yvonne keeps is equipped to handle about 80 meals on any given day for pick up. The meals are homemade and by the outpour of raving on social media, they are delicious. She also has a catering menu to appease any function or even a basic lunch for an office.

We are so happy that Your Choice Catering has exploded in a short time to be a successful small business. We wish Yvonne the greatest success and hope she will be serving the local community for years to come.

PACE thanks Yvonne and Your Choice Catering for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.

December - Featured Business (Second Chance Pet Network)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Volunteer at SCPN Nancy Bolton

PACE is pleased to recognize Ann Owens and her volunteers of Second Chance Pet Network as this quarter’s feature business.
Ann has had a long-standing working relationship with PACE that started in 2012 when she first approached PACE for some lending to help with building their current facility.
They were determined to have the loan paid off early and succeeded, giving them an opportunity to apply for funding on a second project for the shelter.
They are now happy to announce that a generator system is in place should any type of power outage occur during any season to ensure animals have
heat or A/C as needed and necessary access to water.
Second Chance Pet Network has become a highly respected organization in Northwestern Ontario and has nothing but the greatest intentions for the care and treatment of the animals in the facility. They help control the pet population by educating the community and subsidizing spaying and neutering for low income families.
PACE appreciates Ann and her amazing crew of selfless volunteers at Second Chance Pet network for their business and contributions to economic development in the Patricia Region.
We wish you continued prosperity for many years to come serving the community and rescuing those helpless, homeless animals in need.



October - Featured Business (Ryder Inc.)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operator Ben Cathcart

PACE is pleased to recognize Ben Cathcart of Ryder Inc. as our feature business.
He came to PACE just last year with a request to purchase a vehicle for his delivery business. Formerly Bri-Mar, Ben already had an established clientele and was determined to offer the same great service under the new business name which he has succeeded in doing. PACE was able to assist with a loan, so Ben could own the vehicle instead of leasing which would free up some revenue. Since opening, Ben has created employment for himself and two other full-time employees. Ben and his staff can be seen consistently driving through town and neighboring communities delivering anticipated packages and are always friendly and smiling. We are pleased to continue to work with Ben and watch the business grow and continue to be successful. PACE appreciates
Ben from Ryder Inc. for his business and contributions to economic development in the Patricia Region. We wish you continued prosperity for many years to come serving the community.


April - Featured Business (Ignace White Otter Inn)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operators Alpanaben & Chetankumar Patel

PACE is pleased to recognize Alpanaben and Chetankumar Patel at the Ignace White Otter Inn as our feature business.
The couple came to PACE two years ago with hopes of pursuing a dream of owning a business in Canada. The opportunity came up in Ignace to purchase the Ignace White Otter Inn which they believed was a good place to enjoy self-employment and raise their family.

Although they had very little experience with hotel operation, they had family who own and operate hotels, and provided them with support and advice if needed.

PACE was able to assist them with the purchase of the 20 room motel situated on the TransCanada Highway in the Town of Ignace. They created jobs for themselves along with a part-time position for a local resident. We are pleased to continue to work with Alpanaben and Chetankumar and watch their business grow and continue to be successful.

PACE thanks the Ignace White Otter Inn for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.

December - Featured Business (The Pet Store)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operator Rhonda Gouliquer

PACE is pleased to recognize Rhonda Gouliquer of The Pet Store in Dryden as our feature business.
Rhonda came to PACE in 2016 with the hope of purchasing the existing business from the current owners. Rhonda had been employed at The Pet Store for 3 years and had a full grasp of what to expect from the business. PACE was able to assist Rhonda with the purchase of the corporation in its entirety with a plan to expand by adding a tub for grooming larger pets and a u-bath station where customers can use the facility to bath their own pets. The store is located on Earl Avenue and is the only store of its kind in Dryden and surrounding area.

They carry a diverse line of supplies to meet client’s needs and sell premium food, treats, toys and fish. They offer competitive prices for dog food and offer a buy 12 get 1 free on most products. With this being the only pet store in the area Rhonda and the store are a valuable asset to the community and surrounding region. Rhonda truly has a passion for animals and the success of her business.

We are pleased to continue to work with Rhonda and watch her business grow and continue to be successful. PACE thanks The Pet Store for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.



September - Featured Business (Great Northern Gunworks)


L-R; BDC Noreen Cox | Owner & Operator Gary Beardsley

PACE is pleased to recognize Gary Beardsley at Great Northern Gunworks as our feature business.

Gary came to PACE four years ago with many years of managing experience and a vision to bring a new business to Vermilion Bay.

Gary has been an avid gun collector and hobby gunsmith for most of his life and saw a need for this type of business in this area. PACE was able to assist the business with construction of a shop, and the purchase of specialized equipment needed to provide the professional delivery of his service.

His site is situated on the TransCanada highway between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg in Vermilion Bay, central to significant population of sports enthusiasts, hunters, tourist resorts and gun clubs.
PACE thanks Great Northern Gunworks for their business and contribution to economic development in the Patricia Region.