The Wharf: A Gathering Place on St. Joseph Island

Freshly baked pizza, live music, and a sense of community bring islanders and tourists to this cozy new spot in Richards Landing.

What does a couple do after retiring from a long and fulfilling career? There’s no taking it easy with Victoria and Kirby! Retiring from the healthcare field (for Victoria) and engineering (for Kirby) they decided to start fresh by moving from Elliot Lake, Ontario to St. Joseph Island, Ontario—and taking over the family business. 

(Photo credit: The Wharf)

Located on the North Shore of Lake Huron about 30 minutes east of Sault Ste. Marie, the island offered the couple a chance to live the life they'd always dreamed about. “We never intended to buy The Wharf,” said Victoria, “We always loved the island and the feeling of peace when we crossed the bridge."

Victoria's parents owned the existing business and approached the couple about purchasing it in early 2022. With daughter Shahanessy already living on the island it seemed like the perfect fit. "The business then consisted of an ice cream and chip stand, "she explained. "At first, Kirby and I operated a little breakfast place/coffee shop inside. This all happened in April, May, and June of 2022. We also re-started up the ice cream and chip stand when the summer came. We incorporated different products and it was a big hit. My daughter does the baking for the café. All of this morphed into a lunch offering, then to evening meals.”

2 people
(Photo credit: The Wharf)

From Seasonal Chip Stand To Freshly Baked Pizza

Currently, the menu includes pizza, nachos, and grilled cheese sandwiches. The menu will change with the seasons and as hours change. The pizza at The Wharf has become a huge hit. This is Kirby’s specialty, and he takes his pizza-making seriously. The Italian-style pizza dough is made from scratch and is a four-hour process. The thin-crust pizza is made fresh each day and baked in a stone oven. The sauce is homemade and the variations of pizza are unique to the island—some with maritime-inspired names, like the HMS Bonaventure (provolone, prosciutto, arugula) or the Bluenose (garlic, lemon, parm, cream cheese, prosciutto, potato, rosemary) or the popular Sweet Rose (olive oil, rosemary, red onions, parmigiana Reggiano, pistachios, honey). Kirby also adds a secret topping on the outside edge of the pizza. Customers have a choice of gluten or lactose-free pizza too. Check out the full dinner menu here

pizza
(Photo credit: The Wharf)

When the busy summer comes around, the fish and chip/ice cream stand will be up and running again, employing up to ten people.

restaurant interior
(Photo credit: The Wharf)

Locally Sourced Ingredients

“We believe in supporting local, so we source our food items from local businesses like the Island Market in Richards Landing which source much of their produce from local island growers. Our meat comes from Penokean Hills Farms and we grow our own herbs like basil and rosemary. For the baking my daughter supplies us, she uses her own grown lavender, peppers, and raspberries and gathers berries from the area. Our main goal is to source from Algoma, Ontario, then, from Canada. We don’t want pesticides on our customers' food, so we aim for clean, wholesome food.”

baking
(Photo credit: The Wharf)

Live Music And A Place To Gather

On Thursday nights, The Wharf has been hosting a jam night, where area musicians come in and play. “We get all ages and are thrilled with the talent from the Island and surrounding areas.” Victoria, a past member of a band and a talented singer herself, likes to get up and sing along with whoever is playing. “We want to continue to be a place where people feel at home. That’s why we set up our coffee/tea/beverage bar where people can come in and help themselves. We want to keep that feel.”

(Photo credit: The Wharf)

Plans for the business include installing sliding glass doors from the restaurant side of the business and having an outdoor deck area where people can have the choice to eat indoors or out. They have also applied for a liquor license and will be able to offer more choices for beverages.

crepes

(Photo credit: The Wharf)

“We have met some wonderful people and really good friends. We feel we have been accepted well into the community. We now call St. Joseph Island our permanent home.

The Wharf has been in business for almost a year, and listening to what its customers want, has changed their menu offerings and hours to best meet their own and their customers’ needs. The best place to find out what The Wharf is serving and the hours of their year-round operation is on their Facebook page.

I look forward to seeing The Wharf continue to prosper and bring a fun and happy vibe to St. Joseph Island.

The Wharf

Kirby Sampson – Owner, Victoria Thompson – Manager
1195 Richards Street, Richards Landing, St. Joseph Island, Ontario
PH: (705) 929-8479
Email: thewharfmanagement@gmail.com 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/islandsgatheringplace

About Sandra J. Trainor

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Sandra is a Freelance Marketing Consultant, specializing in assisting busy small businesses maximize sales and marketing ROI. Sandra recently returned to her hometown, after living and working in the Simcoe County area for more than 30 years. It was there where she developed her passion for local food and agriculture, while working with farmers, producers, farmers’ markets, retailers, and restaurateurs. She believes that food brings people together, no matter what their background and that food grown and produced close to us should be not only supported, but celebrated. In her spare time, Sandra loves to explore area lakes in her kayak and spending time at her cottage on the North Shore.

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