Thunder Bay·Audio

The Crew On May hopes to bring new flavour to Thunder Bay's south side

The owners of a new restaurant on Thunder Bay's south side are hoping their new business could be part of an entertainment revival in the area.
Shane Bannon and Derek Lankinen are two of the three partners running The Crew on May. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

The owners of a new restaurant on the south side of Thunder Bay, Ont. are hoping their business could be part of an entertainment revival in the area. 

A former pizzeria on South May Street has been transformed into The Crew On May, a bar and eatery notable for its warm wood decor and menu items like bannock burgers, and duck pizza. 

"I was given free reign over the menu," said Derek Lankinen, a chef and one of three partners in the new venture, adding that there was one condition.

"My partner wanted to see the best Indian taco he's ever had in his life," he said.

"He seems fairly impressed so far. So that's good."

Culinary experience put to use

Lankinen, who won Thunder Bay's top chef competition in 2013, and has also worked as head chef at The Foundry, said he was actually working at a mining camp in western Canada when he got the request to come back and help set up the new restaurant. 

"I was in the middle of Alberta in a truck, driving," he said, "and one of my partners called me."

I had never met this guy before, and he told me he wanted to get that attitude that my food had, he wanted to have that in his building and have that feeling in his building."
When designing the layout at The Crew on May, its owners had to work around a number of pillars that existed in the building. That's why the bar has an unusual 'S' shape, said Derek Lankinen. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

"And so he just wanted me to help him figure out what this place was going to be," he said.

They tried to create a place that would be welcoming and relaxed, with decor inspired by northwestern Ontario, he said, pointing out framed photos of the Nipigon area on the wall, and accents like an old barometer from a grain ship.
One of the decor highlights of The Crew on May is the antique jukebox that came with the building when it was purchased, said Derek Lankinen. It plays classic 45s, for a quarter.

Hoping for a south core revival

The entrepreneurs are also hoping the restaurant could be part of a larger transformation in Thunder Bay's south core neighbourhood, similar to the revival that's taken place near the city's north side waterfront.

"The entertainment district in Port Arthur is booming. Every one of those old buildings that was doing nothing four years ago — every one of them has a new interesting concept going in them," he said. 

"And we see a lot of that same potential down in this area ... but we're probably about six years behind them, seven years behind them."
A pizza place used to occupy this spot on South May Street in Thunder Bay. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

As someone who grew up on Thunder Bay's south side, he said he's glad to see more businesses opening on May Street. 

The partners behind The Crew On May also have plans of their own to open a second business on the street in the near future, he said. 

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