A Nova Scotia craftsman makes replicas of the Peggys Cove lighthouse. His business is booming
'If it wasn't for this, I'd be in front of a television being a couch potato'
Not long after moving to Nova Scotia from Montreal in 1997, Vito Forgione was hired to patrol the rocks at Peggys Cove.
He was tasked with preventing people from getting too close to the ocean and staying off the black rocks.
That meant a lot of time bracing the elements, like heavy wind and rain storms.
"I basically saw that lighthouse every day. And I said to the lighthouse, 'You're going to pay me back for this,'" Forgione said, laughing.
The patroller program was shut down after about a year and Forgione had to move on to other work. But he never forgot about Peggys Cove.
Twenty-five years later, Forgione, now 64, runs Peggy's Cove Replicas, creating models of Nova Scotia's most famous lighthouse for people to enjoy at their own homes.
"Now I'm retired and I'm doing the lighthouses like I've never done lighthouses before," he said.
In the late '90s, he began woodworking as a hobby, making occasional pieces of patio furniture. He slowly expanded over the years, including benches, wishing wells and octagonal picnic tables.
By 2017, he took on Peggy's Cove Replicas as a full-time business.
While his wife manages the sales and marketing, Forgione alone creates the popular lighthouses — from a small night light to a lawn ornament of more than three metres.
His biggest ones are so big that they don't even fit in his backyard workshop. He has to wait until the summer months to paint the piece outside.
The larger lawn ornaments are all solar-powered, with lights shining out of the side windows and the top of the lighthouse. Each one, no matter how small, comes with the warning sign telling people to "savour the sea from a distance."
In March 2020, the pandemic hit Nova Scotia. Forgione says that's when things changed.
"I was so scared. I thought, that's it, I've lost everything now," he said.
"It basically went the other way. One after another. Three orders a week was a norm — we were getting three orders a day. I'm going, what the hell is going on?"
He struggled with getting supplies as wood and plexiglass went out of stock, while people stuck at home in lockdown looked to Forgione as a way to bring some beauty into their day-to-day lives.
And customers, he said, are always thrilled with the final product.
"They say it's unreal. The picture does not do it justice. They just love it. It enhances their yard, or it enhances their room," he said.
"Every time I see their reaction, I get the encouragement."
While most of his customers are based in Nova Scotia, he's sent a few pieces out west. But he also knows his replicas have made it to Spain, Switzerland, France and Australia.
"My lighthouses have been all over the place."
His latest project is an ambitious one. A fully functional windmill, matching the colours of Peggys Cove. Forgione says he knows customers will start calling for windmills once they see the finished piece.
But he never shies away from more interest in his work. He simply thanks his customers for being patient with him.
"If it wasn't for this, I'd be in front of a television being a couch potato. And I don't like sitting down. I always have to do something," he said.
"I can't foresee myself not doing what I'm doing, until I can't do it anymore."