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Algoma business owners calling it after 48 years in operation

Owners of Agawa Crafts forging succession plan for successful tourism business

After 48 years in business, Jerry and June Demers will eventually step away from Agawa Crafts and The Canadian Carver, and the couple will be actively seeking a buyer for the popular tourist destination and rest stop situated at Pancake Bay.

“I think it’s time that we prioritize,” said owner Jerry Demers. “I’m going to be 72 in November, so how many years do I have left, eh?”

“We’ve lasted fairly long, but it’s time to get out of the business.”

Demers says that he’d like to spend more time with his grandchildren, who live in Seattle and Surrey, B.C.

But for now, the couple will focus its efforts on the task at hand.

Demers says that Agawa Crafts and The Canadian Carver, located about an hour north of Sault Ste. Marie, will be hosting a ‘retirement sale’ throughout the summer, in hopes of liquidating some of its merchandise – there’s a sizeable amount of stock contained in warehouses behind the business – in order to make the purchase of the tourist hotspot more attractive to a potential buyer.

The time it takes to pare down the merchandise, Demers said, will determine how much longer he and his wife will stay on as owners.

“For a potential buyer, it’s expensive to buy the business and the inventory also,” Demers said.

The key to the ongoing success of the business has always been about the strength of its customer service, Demers said.

“The guys out there are giving super service at the pump and in the parking lot,” Demers said. “They’re doing windows, lights, mirrors. Emptying garbage out for folks. Milk bones for the dogs, suckers for the kids. You know, there’s just no end to it.”

“People respond very positively to that, because they’re totally unaccustomed to it.”

Demers may not want to let go of his business entirely.

He said that he’d like to remain on in some sort of advisory role in order to help the future owners.

“It’s not cash out, grab your money and run,” Demers said. “I personally would like to see the business continue, as would our customers, and for it to continue I think consultancy is rather important to help new owners.”

When asked what he will miss the most when Agawa Crafts and The Canadian Carver eventually changes hands, Demers said that he’ll most definitely miss the people.

“The gold is not in the cash register. It’s in the wonderful people that you meet on a daily basis, and people that you work with,” said Demers. “Money as a goal is insatiable; you can never have enough.”

Demers has an historic relationship with his customers.

He recalls that a woman in her 20s told Demers that she still has a ‘Beanie Baby’ toy that he gave her as a freebie when she was just a child.

It’s those memories that he cherishes most, but in the end, it’s time to begin a new chapter in life.  

“I think we’ve given it a pretty good shot, you know, 48 years,” Demers said. “Typically people don’t work that long in their careers before retiring.”