The "NEW" Fort William

Thunder Bay's Downtown South Core welcomes new businesses

The flow of customers through up shot coffeehouse and The Pasta Shoppe can only inspire other entrepreneurs to take part in another little revival occurring along a formerly vacant store front section of May Street in the South Core of Thunder Bay. Alongside a few restaurants and retail stores (and Heartbeat Hot Sauce), they all opened along the strip within a three-year period, are going strong, and will soon be joined by other businesses.  

Up Shot Coffeehouse’s success is due to the rarity of coffee shops in the area, good coffee, great service, and the use of an unusual combination of two atmospheres: airy and welcoming up front while dim-lit, quiet, and subdued down back. With its airy lobby, the front encourages open conversation, interaction, and hamming it up with the owners, the convivial coffee baristas. The lounge-like setting of the back encourages more in-depth group conversation, reading by the faux fire, and laptop engrossment. 

Aundrea and Crystal’s genuine exuberant interest in their customers is refreshing, and clearly a primary draw. Parents and kids mix it up with police, firemen, professionals from various social services’ offices, lawyers, judges, staff from the law courts, and politicians and staff from city hall. It’s like a Sim City safari. Tourists make up a chunk of the coffee shop’s business as well, mostly from the U.S.

Up early at 6 am, Crystal and Aundrea make soups, wraps, sandwiches, salads, and other light snacks. Their best sellers are the protein balls that they roll themselves. Jokingly referred to as “raw balls,” because they are uncooked, there are two kinds offered; the Peanut Butter Coconut Protein Balls and the Chocolate Cranberry Energy Balls. No joke, they’re good!

The coffee is locally roasted Wolfhead Coffee. A second cup of coffee is free! The plentiful choices of artisanal pastries are morning fresh and provided by the Bakeshop on Boundary.

Along with the usual coffee shop drink options, one specialty drink is the Smoked Nitro Cold Brew, a hickory and mesquite smoked coffee cold brewed so it doesn’t have the acidity and bitterness common to coffee. It’s very smooth. 

A wonderful little nursing room is provided with rocking chair and changing bed. Small batches of local artwork, Ungalli clothing, and jewelry is for sale.  

Kim and Ashlyn run The Pasta Shoppe, where small batches of fresh pasta are made on site with local farm flower. Every food item is made from scratch and infused with local ingredients, herbs, and spices. The pastas include tagliatelle, spaghetti, rigatoni and fusili. Sauces are also made from scratch, including meatballs, bolognese, alfredo, marinara, rose andmushroom ragu. The occasional new choice sauce is added to the menu regularly. Both the meatballs and gnocchi are all-natural and hand rolled. You can eat in or take out, and the take-home kits allow you to bring home a traditional Italian family-style meal to cook, all fresh and certainly healthier and tastier than any processed pasta meal. 

Soon, these successful businesses will be joined by more shops along the strip. Renovations are occurring in existing businesses. Occasionally it only takes a couple of successes to breed more success. Once the momentum begins, an entire section of a city can be reborn.

Be a part of it and check out this newly active section of May Street.

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

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