THUNDER BAY — Mireille Morin and Marcel Rheault have secured a building and zoning approval for their new distillery in Thunder Bay.
They still don't have a name, though, and are open to suggestions.
After about 10 years operating the Rheault Distillery in the town of Hearst, they've decided to expand southwest to Thunder Bay because the market size and location offers more potential.
They hope to be in operation in a former auto body shop on South Court Street before the end of the year.
"It's a nice place to establish ourselves. It's a town that we just love. The population of the Thunder Bay area stands above 120,000, and you need about 100,000 people to be able to sustain a distillery financially," Morin told TBNewswatch.
Operating out of their home in Hearst for the past 10 years, they currently produce vodka, whiskey, rum and a large variety of liqueurs including blueberry.
Many Thunder Bay residents will already be familiar with some of their products including Loon vodka – available at the LCBO – and Sinful Cherry liqueur.
The couple plans to produce whiskey in Thunder Bay.
They have also obtained a winery licence, and plan to launch a new cider using locally-sourced apples if possible.
With zoning issues now resolved, they have clearance to operate a restaurant, tasting room and outdoor patio, but Morin said they may partner with established nearby restaurants.
She expects the business will have about 10 employees.
Morin said the COVID-19 pandemic has already slowed the process of setting up in Thunder Bay, but she hopes production can begin by the fall.
She and Rheault lived in the city for a couple of years when they were "much younger," she said, and they're excited to be expanding here.
"We just love it there...We've been looking for a long while for a site. It's the ideal location. Marcel and I are pretty anxious to get down there to start renovations."