Attawapiskat entrepreneur expands eatery amid expensive challenges
Sutherland family moved home take out business into restaurant space
An Attawapiskat First Nation entrepreneur is expanding his eatery while dealing with the unique challenges of running a business in a remote northern community.
This past winter, Adrian Sutherland and his family moved their food take out business called The Moose from their home into an empty store next door. Renovations are still underway, but it now has a full kitchen and seating area.
"We're much more than takeout now. You can sit in. We also offer a few other things like confectionery and convenience items," said Sutherland, who runs the eatery with his wife Judy. He's also the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Midnight Shine.
The menu at The Moose offers Indian tacos, frybread burgers, clubhouse sandwiches, pizzas, and other options carried over from the operation Judy and their two daughters ran from their home, taking orders from community members through Facebook.
Sutherland said those homemade sales were always "very good," but the decision to expand into the bigger space wasn't an easy one for him.
"When this opportunity came up to acquire an existing business, I looked at it and said 'no, I don't want to do it. I can't make this work. It's too much.' So we voted on it, between myself and my wife and two daughters, and I was outvoted," Sutherland said with a chuckle.
High shipping costs
The main reason for his apprehension was the cost of doing business in a northern community. Attawapiskat is 500 kilometres north of Timmins, Ont., and it's only accessible by plane or ice road in the winter.
"When you look at the remoteness of Attawapiskat, probably the biggest challenge is going to be logistics. Typically what I've learned, it's two thirds of the cost of anything — like building anything in such a remote place," he said.
On top of the huge cost of shipping building materials, getting large amounts of food into the community is another expensive challenge.
"The supply chain side of it is definitely a lot more expensive. We've done our best to negotiate our rates with some of the companies that are handling freight into the communities," said Sutherland.
"You're really at a disadvantage up here. And you really don't have the hand when it comes to negotiating a good deal for your business, or for yourself."
Still, they do their best to keep prices reasonable (a clubhouse platter is $15, for example), as they compete with a handful of other take out businesses in the community.
"These are the types of things that improve the community. You have to have a healthy business environment, and it needs to be fostered. And people really enjoy coming in and having our food," said Sutherland.
The Sutherlands plan to re-brand The Moose within the next year, while expanding the menu and hours of operation.
With files from Chris Ensing