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Finlandia Co-op sells Hoito pancake mix and other items to support the restaurant's rebirth (3 Photos)

The Finlandia Co-operative hopes to have the restaurant reopened next spring.

THUNDER BAY — The Finlandia Co-operative of Thunder Bay is resuming its fundraising campaign to help get the historic Hoito restaurant reopened.

The campaign includes selling a new authentic Hoito pancake mix, and a pop-up online merchandise store.

Development of the pancake mix has been underway for the past few months in partnership with Thunder Bay's Big Lake Pasta.

"We started with the original pancake recipe from one of the former Hoito head cooks, but that recipe is meant to make batter for hundreds of pancakes," says Finlandia Co-op interim president Paula Haapanen.

She said Big Lake Pasta owner Andrew Murchison "has been an enormous help to find the right balance so that the pancake will taste and feel like the one you get at the restaurant."

The mix is now available at local retailers including Maltese, Westfort Foods, George's Market and Dawson General Store.

The co-op also hopes to make it available soon through Amazon so the mix can be ordered by people outside Thunder Bay.

The temporary merchandise outlet, set up through Sportop, offers ball caps, t-shirts, sweaters, mugs and other items displaying a new Hoito logo designed by Kurt Albert of Great North Graphics.

Haapanen said the store will be open until Father's Day, and items will be available for pickup about two weeks later.

"We can't preorder the merchandise because we have nowhere to keep it. So until we have our own space, Hoito supporters can order directly from our online store setup by Sportop."

The Finlandia Co-operative had originally sought to buy the Finnish Labour Temple after the Finlandia Association was liquidated in the spring of 2020.

However, the property was purchased by Brad McKinnon who is now converting the auditorium and banquet hall into high-end apartments.

McKinnon has previously stated that he wants to see the Hoito reopened at some point.

The co-op, which is looking into leasing the restaurant, initially raised $37,000 in the community last year when it attempted to buy the building.

According to Derek Lankinen, a director of the co-op, the two parties have verbally agreed to continue their discussions about an agreement later this year. 

The co-op would like to reopen the Hoito by next spring.

McKinnon could not immediately be reached for comment, but Steven Scollie – another member of the board of directors – said he understands why the owner's focus is currently on the renovations to the rest of the building.

Scollie said fixing up the Hoito will not be cheap.

"Everything regarding a commercial restaurant is expensive...What we're faced with is bringing the restaurant up to code."

He added that the group doesn't have an estimated cost yet, but expects it will be into six figures. 

Scollie also said the co-op expects to be selling memberships by early summer.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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