Business Profiles

  Business Profiles

Riverhill Farm and Fine Foods

This business, which straddles the boundary between Wards 2 and 3 in our township, is probably best known for its amazing annual Christmas lights show.  Over 100,000 lights that blink, sing Elvis songs, light up large maples, and stretch across an expanse of rolling lawns. But the real business side of Riverhill Farm is maple syrup production, run by Stephanie Lemke.  She has 8000 taps and is still expanding on the 1400 acre property.  Incidentally, this property is my immediate neighbour to the west, and my first introduction to it was through its owners Gerry and Sandra Ducharme in 1972.  Gerry has since passed away, and his son Greg Ducharme is now the owner.  For a number of years Greg and partner Rhonda Lemke operated a food concession on the carnival circuit around Ontario, but this was a difficult life that kept them away from home for months.

 

I learned, speaking with Stephanie and her mother Rhonda, that ‘Riverhill Farm’ was a name that Gerry called his place back in the ‘70’s, but it is only in the last 15 years that I’ve been aware of it as a business enterprise.  The Christmas light show does not charge admission but does have donation boxes and a small food concession.  I can imagine that revenues might pay for the electricity, but the labour to install and maintain, the capital cost of those lights…..? This is essentially a gift to the community, and it draws visitors from Ottawa and Toronto.  This year with COVID, there is a shift to a drive-through format.

 

Maple syrup is another story, and a challenging one for its own reasons.  Getting thousands of liters of syrup to market is not easy, in the past they’ve trucked it to a wholesaler in Goderich. But with COVID this year, that buyer’s shipments to China were in danger.  Another option is CDL in Perth, but prices are lower and there’s more handling of the 32 gallon stainless steel drums, which can lead to damage.  Other large syrup producers market directly to grocery and specialty stores, but this is not something Stephanie has chosen to do. Another recent challenge for all producers is a new grading system that introduces flavour ‘colours’ to the traditional light, medium and dark grades. Stephanie likely has the largest maple syrup operation in North Frontenac, and has colleagues in nearby townships with similar or larger operations, Conboy, Wheeler, Temple. It appears the world will always want more of this gift of spring.

 

Written by John Inglis

October 15/20

Riverhill Farm and Fine Food Ltd.

Mariclaro Designs

I learned a new word when I visited Sven Schlegel at Mariclaro Designs in Snow Road- ‘upcycled’. It appears to be the over-riding philosophy behind everything that happens in this small but intense cottage manufacturing business. It is the use of industrial waste materials to make beautiful, value-added new items. And then to sell them to the world.

A lot is happening at this business- in the basement, in the renovated garage, in the homes of several employees.  Sven bought the property adjacent to the Mississippi bridge on Road 509 in 2012, coming here from Toronto. He has a professional background in planning and a lot of experience tinkering with industrial castoff materials. When he was employed in Mexico in the early 2000’s he started working as a sideline with old leather upholstery pieces. “I don’t know how to sew, but I can make patterns” he told me.  Apparently he still really enjoys crawling through car scrapyards looking for old Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Audi classics. He has become a master at making bags of various designs from the leather upholstery of these cars.  Eight years ago he was selling items at stores in Canada and the U. S. Now, everything is sold from the website, and it is all shipped around the world from the Sharbot Lake Post Office.  Over 3000 items each year.

The Mariclaro website shows a number of bag designs, including purses, backpacks, computer bags and small duffel bags. The source material is classic autos, airline seats, and remnant leather materials from large manufacturing processes.  If you buy a bag made from the seats of a rare Porsche 933, the price of the item will reflect this. A leather label will tell you the model, the year and the VIN of the car.

The story of how someone got to North Frontenac, when they are a ‘newcomer’, is always interesting to me. Usually there is some kind of a family connection.  In Sven’s case, it was Sharbot Lake High School teacher Jeff Murray, a well known fabric artist, who introduced him to the area. This rural property beside a magnificent river was more attractive than Toronto to an imaginative and energetic entrepreneur. The business now employs five women on a full-time basis and has put Snow Road on the map for many discerning buyers.

Author John Inglis  Sept. 24/20

 

 Mariclaro Designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mariclaro Designs

Bishop Lake Outdoor Centre

Bishop Lake Outdoor Centre

13621 Hwy 41, Cloyne Ont.

Owners:  Bob and Allison Yearwood, and Helen Yearwood (Bishop)

Bishop Lake Outdoor Centre Inc. provides a getaway for people seeking a break from the rigours of daily life, with a campground of 75 seasonal sites and a 4 unit motel open year-round.

There is also a store selling a wide variety of fishing and hunting gear, apparel, footwear, MNRF licensing and a laundromat open to the public.  It also has propane tank refilling and re-valving certification.

This family-owned-and–operated business started in 1987 with the opening of 40 campground sites.  In 1990 propane services were added, and then in 1994 the campground grew to 75 sites.

Built on the Bishop family farm established in 1901, it continued to grow with the addition of the store in 1998, which opened in its current location in 1999.  In 2004 there was an opportunity to acquire a motel unit from another local business, thus expanding into year-round accommodation.

BLOC’s longevity is attributed to local support throughout the years with the welcome influx of seasonal patrons. Their location on Hwy 41 just south of Road 506 makes it an easily accessed destination. There are 5 employees who help in the daily operation of the grounds and the operation of the motel.  The future of this business in North Frontenac Township is strong, as there is a waiting list for campsites, and the store and motel experience business year-round.

An interesting side note is that in the late ‘90s BLOC had a plan for senior’s housing on their site, but the Council of the time was not interested in pursuing the idea.

Bishop Lake BLOC motel

Bishop Lake BLOC motel

 Gemmill Sand and Gravel Ltd
 

When I moved to Ompah in 1974 I learned that Dale Gemmill was a respected dairy farmer in Snow Road, with deep family roots and with two sons and a daughter.  I remember Dale telling me in about 1986 that he was selling his milk quota and starting in the gravel business so that his two sons Roger and Scott would have viable work. That one backhoe and one dump truck has grown into a corporation headed by Scott that now employs 24 people during the busy summer season.  The employees are all residents of Central and North Frontenac.

 

Probably what is most surprising about Gemmill Sand and Gravel is how quickly it has grown since that first backhoe the company does site preparation for individual cottages, and for whole subdivisions.  They are licensed to use explosives. They do a range of road projects including everything but paving and large bridges.  The bridge limitation may change in the future. In order to grow this quickly a company must have a good reputation and bid competitively on jobs over a wide geographical area, in this case generally against larger companies. Competition is strong, from Crain’s, Tackaberry, Cavanagh, Tomlinson, Corcoran. As we’ve heard from others, the continued lack of cellphone service around Snow Road is a challenge for availability to customers.

 

Slightly over half of their business comes from municipalities; North Frontenac got a favourable comment for being a prompt bill payer.  One thing I’ve learned from other people who operate trucks and equipment is that you won’t survive if you can’t figure out a fast, reliable and reasonably priced way to maintain all that equipment; because it takes a beating. Scott must have figured that out because he’s bidding on things like a complete subdivision in Kemptville. When projects like that and other jobs stop with the onset of winter, the company still manages to employ 10 people. They work at two locations getting machines ready for the next spring.

 

This is a family business- Scott’s son may be the third generation to own it in the future.  There’s more sand and gravel on the company property than anyone realized, part of the Snow Road esker. Gemmill’s recently purchased a rock quarry near Sharbot Lake where hard black granite will be crushed. This is not a business that is standing still.

 

Author John Inglis July 30/20

Scott Gemmill

Gemmill Sand and Gravel Ltd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trillium and Maple Woods Handywoman Services

Fernleigh, North Frontenac Twp

Owner: Tammy Watson

 

TMWHS provides a task solution service for homeowners, businesses, and cottage owners in the area getting jobs done that you may not have the time, tools or knowledge to do on your own. Some of these services are painting, carpentry, furniture assembly, short term rental turnovers, property security checks and yard maintenance. She also builds custom outdoor furniture such as picnic tables, planters and benches. 

 

Tammy started the business here in January 2020 seeing a need for a business like this in the area. She gained a lot of her experience and knowledge while working for other businesses when she first moved to the area. She provides her services in North & Central Frontenac and Addington Highlands, 50% in North Frontenac and the other 50% is divided between the other two but not necessarily equal. Being the only employee at this time Tammy does have other family members to call upon if needed but carries out the majority of the work on her own. Her original business plan has had to make some adjustments due to the current situation affecting all businesses worldwide. She figured that there would be enough work coming from local year round residents and businesses but under the past and current restrictions with personal contact made a decision to expand her service portfolio and now finds herself busy, advising prospective customers that there is at least a two week waiting period for new jobs. In the beginning she approached the township looking for and received information and assistance.  Several staff members provided an optimistic outlook and some prospective clients.

 

Tammy's professionalism and positive attitude will keep this business venture moving forward and continually growing.

Tammy Watson

 

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