New to Manitoulin: Leslie and Michael Proulx

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Leslie and Michel Proulx

EDITOR’S NOTE: Manitoulin is changing with the influx of new residents and business owners who bring with them new ideas, experiences and perspectives that enrich the region. Some individuals and families are still unpacking, having only moved for a month or two, while others have moved in the past few years and are now comfortably settled in their new communities. Here are some of their stories.

by Heather Marshall

The daily 45-minute to one-hour commute on Highway 401 to work gave Michael Proulx plenty of time to think about his busy day as general manager of a chain of five restaurants in the Greater Toronto (GTA). It was a hectic routine that he maintained for almost two decades that he longed to leave behind so that he and his wife, Leslie, could pursue their dream of owning a bed and breakfast (B&B) outside of the city. The pandemic, with its repeated openings and closings of businesses over the past two years, has provided the motivation to finally get moving.

Both had lived near Manitoulin as children. Leslie was born in Sault Ste Marie, but the family moved to Oakville when she was very young and she spent the rest of her life in the GTA. Michael’s father was from Cape Croker First Nation, but he moved his family to nearby Purple Valley, north of Wiarton, where Michael grew up to give his children exposure to the best of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds. indigenous.

Michael and Leslie each worked in the restaurant business while still in high school and after post-secondary education, Leslie after taking classes at Sheridan College and Michael after attending Wilfred Laurier University where he studied business. They first met through work in their early twenties and had been friends for many years. Leslie admits that at first she didn’t like him too much, “but he grew up with me”. So much so that they got married 15 years ago and got married in 2017.

Leslie continued to work sporadically managing restaurants during the pandemic “but obviously our lives have changed. Michael continued to do other work, but I stayed with the company between layoffs. These past two years have really made me rethink my career and our future. Michael adds: “Now in our 40s, we knew it was now or never to make a major career change.”

The duo began exploring potential bed and breakfasts in southern Ontario, checking out possible locations in Stratford and Bancroft, but “none of them really spoke to us.” That changed when Leslie found an online ad for The Twin Peaks B&B in Mindemoya – a place they had to look up on a map because none had ever been or knew anything about Manitoulin.

“Leslie fell in love with it immediately and my only goal is to make my wife happy,” laughs Michael. “I was on a trip out of town at the time, but was taken by the photos when she showed me the list. Once Leslie came to see and I heard the excitement in her voice, I knew it was really promising. As soon as we walked on this property and entered the house, I became enthusiastic too. Ron Perrault and Cheryl Cashman had built a real gem here and we have been sold.

Within weeks, they had filled out the paperwork, sold their house in town, and put their furniture into storage. They moved to Leslie’s parents’ cabin outside of Wasaga Beach to winterize until they could take possession of their dream property in mid-March.

Besides owning their own business, another attraction of the area for Michael is the opportunity to spend more time learning about his Ojibwe heritage. He has already begun to learn about the history of the native peoples of the island and looks forward to visiting the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation in M’Chigeeng and attending powwows at local First Nations in the summer.

The couple have just a few weeks to live in their new home under their belt, but they say they love absolutely everything. “It’s like the sun rising and setting on Mindemoya,” enthuses Leslie.

“We are scouring the earth, figuring out what we want to do with it now that we are here. We want to create beautiful outdoor spaces for guests and have a large garden to grow our own produce. We look forward to being a gateway for many new people to discover how wonderful Manitoulin is.

Heather Marshall and her husband worked as journalists and consultants in the National Capital Region for more decades than they care to admit before making their Sandfield cabin their permanent home. A lifelong learner, Heather enjoys discovering new things and new people and relishes the opportunity to write about newcomers to Manitoulin. If you would like to share your story or hear about recent arrivals we should meet, send a message to [email protected]

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