Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fish Shop is One Amazing Culinary Tourism Roadside Attraction

Thunder Bay's tourism industry has a lot of great things developing. Two of my favorites are the blossoming local culinary scene and the awesome tourism entrepreneurs that call the city home.

This weekend, I'll be headed to Toronto to meet with tourism partners and be a part of the Toronto Outdoors Show where we're helping OTMPC with its Superior Adventure Contest. As busy as my schedule is with the various hats I wear, getting out and connecting one on one with visitors reminds me why we're all in the tourism industry. To serve great experiences to great people.

We're going to kick it up a notch this weekend and bring 90 pounds of our Northwestern Ontario culinary delights with us. Six varieties Thunder Oak gouda, smoked Lake Nipigon Lake Trout Fillets, whole smoked Lake Superior whitefish, some rainy river elk summer sausage and of course, Thunder Bay persians.

Why? Because food is the ultimate conversation starter and Northwestern Ontario entrepreneurs produce a myriad of great offerings that are talk worthy. We'll have a chance to talk with thousands of Torontonians about our area's incredible outdoor visitor experiences and ease of getting here while noshing on some great samples from our lakes, woods and fields. Its also great at getting media attention. Friday morning has us doing a live session about our culinary gems for Breakfast TV while Sunday morning sees us chatting it up with CP24.

This afternoon, as we we pulling the stories of our food suppliers together, I had a chance to talk on the phone with Liisa Karrkainen, the second generator proprietor of The Fish Shop, located on highway 11/17 at Crystal Beach. I can't believe I had never been there before. I made a beeline out there at the end of the day to meet her and her husband, Willy, in person.

The shop opened in 1970 by Lisa's mother and is run by Liisa and Willy today. Today they featured smoked trout, whitefish, herring and salmon, all sourced locally. What was even better is that they smoke their fish outdoors, using green alder for a completely nitrate or preservative free result. Sampling the trout fillet, its simply amazing. While talking with them, a long haul trucker pulled to the side of the highway to pick some smoked fish up. A first time customer, he'd heard about it over the airwaves as a must stop while passing through town. Thair fish is known all across Canada.

Liisa and Willy are indicative of the entrepreneurial spirit in our local culinary tourism industry. They are amazingly positive, upbeat and great ambassadors for the city and area. For all the time I spend at the screen pouring over trends and stats and performance indicators, nothing can compare to just having a chat with some of our local tourism partners to get a sense of visitor traffic and expenditure patterns.

If you're a restaurant in Thunder Bay who already serves their fresh and smoked fish, you're adding value to the local culinary industry. If you're a restaurant not serving local fish, what the heck are you waiting for? Its an amazing treat and a great part of our culture.

If you want to check them out, they are on highway 11/17 at Crystal Beach (about 15 minutes drive east of the Terry Fox Lookout) or you can learn more about them at

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