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Employee takeover

Succession plan in place at popular Manitoulin hangout

The only thing changing at the landmark Anchor Inn on Manitoulin Island is who is at the helm.

Denise and Chris Callaghan are the new owners of the historic Little Current restaurant and pub. They officially took over July 1, just in time for the start of the summer tourist season.

While it's under new ownership, those who frequent the Anchor Inn know Denise as a familiar face. She has been working there for years.

“When I came here I was a waitress, then I went on to dining room supervisor and felt I couldn't go any further,” she said in mid-June.

“So I thought it was either buy the place or look for a different job. I felt like I was stuck and there was nothing left for me here.”

Her main reasons for buying the Anchor Inn were pragmatic.

The original owners, Bruce and Kelly O'Hare, and their partner/building handyman Rob Norris were talking about selling the business.

Denise feared she and her fellow employees would lose their jobs so she started to plan to buy the business's shares.

“At the time I was like 'Oh my God, what am I going to do?' All of my co-workers were my friends,” she said. “So I thought, I should buy it so everyone keeps their job. I took a full year to think about it and right after Labour Day last year I started to work on if it was going to be doable for me.”

When she approached the O'Hares about buying the shares, she said it was no surprise as she had been talking about it for a while. They were very happy to sell her the shares, and in a June 5 staff meeting, they announced the Callaghans were going to be the new owners. Chris will join her in running the business.

The O'Hares had run the Anchor Inn for nearly a quarter century. Denise said she is very excited to be running the business now, mixed with a few nerves heading into the busy season as the co-owner.

She is especially happy knowing all the staff will be staying with her as well as keeping the restaurant and bar running as normal.

“Everyone gets to keep their job and the business runs as normal,” she said.

“This building has been here since 1890. There's a lot of history here and I don't have any plans to make major changes. This place is perfect the way it is.”

As for her former bosses, she says it was great working with them. The O'Hares, she said, are looking forward to being grandparents and spending more time in their other venture, Lakeshore Excursions, a Great Lakes cruising development company.

The O'Hares have already assured Denise they will be around to help whenever they need them.