Dani Thunder and her business partner Tony Labbe have been working together at In Common for years and are ready to announce their new partnership as co-owners of the popular local restaurant.
Originally the previous owners came back to Thunder Bay after living in Ottawa.
“Tara Lewis is known as a big dreamer," Thunder said. "She dreams up visions and gets them going. She started the Growing Season as well.”
Lewis is ready to pass the torch to Thunder and Labbe, continuing her vision of locally sourced, elevated comfort food in a friendly inclusive atmosphere.
In Common has always held the core value of supporting the local food network.
“Since Dani and I took over, we’ve been providing more of a homestyle because we do prepare more and more and we have to adjust with the climate. With the rising costs we have been making more in house, while trying to keep our local providers happy,” Labbe said.
The pair also want to continue growing In Common’s LGBTQ2 friendly environment. She wants to build on the vision of the original owners,
“They wanted to design a space for Thunder Bay that was all inclusive. Their hope was adding that food aspect and creating more of a hub, where people could come and feel safe.”
In Common brings people together with reasonably priced comfort food in enormous portions. With rising supply costs this has been a challenge. They endeavour to retain their customer loyalty by keeping the value high and offering great promotions to include the whole family. On Wednesday evenings and P.A. days they offer a kids eat free promo with an adult meal. In Common is offers a cordial informal atmosphere that fully encapsulates the concept of comfort food.
“Believe it or not, we are still kind of a nook in the wall,” he says. “Even though it's been open for nine years. More word of mouth is great for us.”
She added, “What we started doing in the new year is what we call our ‘Queer Night’ so it’s a bar night that’s mostly bar snacks and discounted drinks, reaching out to the students. More of just like a bar feel.” They have dancing and live performers occasionally.
“The program that Dani and I created, our ‘Pay it Forward’ program where right now a $5 donation gets a chance for the customer to win a prize and also gives them a chance to feed someone in need of a free meal,” Labbe says.
This program is a vital part of including everyone in the community. They recognize food security is a huge issue effecting people in Thunder Bay and all over the world.
“We don’t believe in wasting anything here. So our Pay it Forward program started off organically, we feed on a daily 10-20 people through that program.” Thunder says, crediting her mother for instilling the value of food and the importance of using everything. “Myself being from the Indigenous culture, from Fort William First Nation — represent — I was taught by my mother, there’s nothing that goes wasted.”
The two ensure that even if there are no donations, their extra food goes towards feeding people a great, healthy meal.
In Common is currently working with a local contractor who is part of the Queer community to build a Queer Bar. It is a grassroots project that will evolve with the input and support of the social network they have grown over the years. Watch for that in the coming months.
In Common is always updating their Facebook page. Be sure to visit them in person at 40 Cumberland Street S. in Thunder Bay.