THUNDER BAY -- Jo Anne Winters had always wanted to start her own business, and she decided to tap into the booming mining industry. “There were a lot of mining companies in town, but the two major places for geological supplies were on the West coast and in the Toronto area,” she explains.
In 1986, she started selling supplies to people out on the field; surveyors, prospectors, anyone who asked. The first three years, she operated out of her basement, and was eventually able to move into a small store.
“Mining goes up and down. So I had to get more things while it was down, waiting for the mining business to boom again,” she says. She started branching out into outdoor gear such as snowshoes and camping gear, and as she moved locations to bigger storefronts, she started filling her store with bulkier items such as kayaks and canoes.
The boats she sells are made in Ontario. “We also have life jackets and bug vests made in Ontario; we try to do as much [made in Ontario] as possible,” says Winters. “It’s not a 100 per cent possible, but we try!”
In 2006, she moved into her current location, (she calls it her “retirement home”) on Balmoral Street. Currently, her clientele are mostly outdoorsy people (and their dogs), although she still sells geological supplies such as rock chisels and gold pans.
After 33 years in business, Winters says that enjoying what she does and making sure her shop is a fun place to visit has contributed to the store’s longevity.
“Winters are a busy time for us,” says the storeowner. She sells kick sleds and snowshoes and rents them out for people who want to try before they buy. She can also give your old wooden pair a new coat of varnish to make them look like new, and the varnish extends the life of your snowshoes.
Chaltrek is the largest dealer of maps in the region and stocks many different kinds of maps, depending on what people need them for. If you’re looking for a special gift, consider a map from local company Mermap. Created by a local topographer, there are two maps; Dog Lake and Shebandowan Lake - perfect for anyone who has a camp at one of those lakes.