From Lake Couchiching to Lake Ontario

Chris Thompson and Megan Lumgair got lucky. They found a place to rent in Prince Edward County that’s 15 minutes from Picton and two minutes to the lake. Long term rentals are scarce right now in The County, but it seems dreams really can come true – this time with the help of a friend and Kijiji.

Chris: We’d been looking for a place to rent, scouring the listings, asking everyone we knew but came up with nothing. We put an ad on Kijiji “Young couple looking to rent” and a couple who had just fixed up a place to rent saw it. We were the first people they contacted. We went to meet them and see the house, spent two hours having coffee and talking and we were in. Once we decided to move to Prince Edward County we had no problem finding work, because of our backgrounds, but it was a challenge finding somewhere to live.

WHAT ARE THOSE BACKGROUNDS?

Chris: I’ve always worked in restaurants, food and beverage. Originally I wanted to be a chef so I worked  my first seven years in kitchens before moving to bartending and bar management. I took beer and wine courses at George Brown College and I’m going for my sommelier qualifications – and I play some music, too, so Prince Edward County sounded like the right place to be.

Megan: I work in event management and venue operations. We are both from Orillia but  met in Toronto where I’d lived and worked for nine years. We decided to leave Toronto when our lease ended, and we looked at Victoria, but the cost of living is on a par with Toronto – so there was no point. In summer 2017 we visited my best friend Rebecca Lamb and her partner Jozef Winter in The County and joked about moving here instead and – as soon as we said it out loud – it started to make sense. It could be perfect for our work, our lifestyle and what we want for ourselves. Thanks to Becky we’d have an introduction to the community and  access to a network – not like going somewhere where we knew nobody, and it’s a whole lot closer than B.C! Honestly in the month we’ve been living here we’ve made more friendships and connections than I did in nine years in the city. That happens here even if you don’t already know someone, but knowing Becky was definitely a bonus for us.

AND WHAT’S THAT LIFESTYLE?

Megan: In Toronto we didn’t have much access to the outdoors. I’m an enthusiastic surfer and stand-up paddle boarder, so The County is heaven for me. Chris hikes and loves the water so Point Petre is amazing for us. We dreamed of living close to the water, and we really lucked out finding a place two minutes from the lake. Before I moved in with Chris in Toronto, the water was across the road and I would paddle over to the islands. But it was pretty chaotic! There was lots of boats and planes landing – not peaceful. We lived together at Queen and Yonge which was downtown, busy and loud. Great for entertainment and restaurants but not a lot of green or quiet space. Way too much concrete.

Chris: Obviously it’s a trade-off. There’s not much nightlife in Point Petre! But we get guests and visitors every week, because everybody wants to be here. Our entertainment is more home based now and we’re happy with that. Rebecca was so positive about our moving here and thanks to her things fell into place for us because she knows a lot of people and meeting them led to our finding jobs. But really that’s what we were looking for, a place where people know each other. We grew up in Orillia which was  a close community, where you’re involved with all kinds of different people.

Megan: Chris was not in Toronto for long, and he lived in Muskoka before that, but I was in the city a long time. I admit I was more nervous than him about moving here. What if I didn’t like it? I mean we can’t even see our neighbours now. But I love it!

HOW ABOUT THOSE JOBS YOU FOUND?

Chris: I work at the County Canteen which totally fits my plans. The Canteen owner has the 555 Brewery, too, and there are a lot of good brewers around. They have a massive tap list that constantly rotates and I’m continuing my beer education here. I’m tasting a lot of County beers!  It’s been a good beer education.

Megan: I work with the owners of The Culinary Arts Prince Edward, aka The CAPE, in what used to be the Legion Hall in Picton. They are turning it into an events space and I’m working with the owners, Jonathan and Corrine, on event operations and management of the space. The first phase of renovations happened last year in time for their own wedding, the second phase will be completed this summer – It’s a great fit for me, as I did similar work at Evergreen Brickworks, The St. James Cathedral Centre and Toronto Botanical Gardens I do the marketing, operations and sales – it’s just me right now which is a bit daunting – but so cool.

The CAPE’s first private event is in October. We’ll have a launch party and open house before that, but I’ll wait until the crew is done. It works better without having a crazy summer deadline. Phase One was the deck and some interior work. Phase Two is renovating the dining hall which will accommodate 100-150 and the second floor which will have four guest rooms We’ll use them mostly for events, a bride and groom can have the whole space for the weekend together with family and friends or whoever they want. Onsite accommodation is a great asset, because – as we know personally – accommodation can be an issue right now! The big hall had a real seventies vibe which doesn’t align with the actual age of the building or its history, so we’re restoring it to honour its heritage and  make it an elegant space for an event.

TAKE ME TO THE WATER    Megan: We’re outside every minute we can be! The very first week we got the canoe out and I took my paddleboard out, but you have to be really careful at Point Petre. There’s a lot of wind and waves and it can be rough, but whenever it’s calm it’s like heaven. If it’s rough we can go into East Lake which is more protected.

CHRIS’ SIDE PROJECT    Chris: I’m working on a food blog about Ontario Gastronomy – the whole food and beverage scene provincially and locally – and I’m close to launching it. I don’t want it to be “Here’s a recipe for fish and chips”, but more like taking one local ingredient and doing something with it 10 different ways. It’s a study and an exploration for myself and for other people, either in the industry or cooking at home. If you like a drink, whether it’s beer or wine or cider or a sip at a distillery, I will explore the options, review them and find out what’s good and what’s happening at breweries and producers. The main part will be articles about people, winemakers, brewmasters, chefs – as well as issues in the Food and Drink industry in the province. I want to define Ontario food and drink, and where the influences come from. People tend to think maple syrup and poutine and beaver tails, but there’s a lot more to it, and a lot of gastronomic success to explore. I want to shine a light on Indigenous food too, on traditions that have been overlooked or lost, and try to share that because it’s all part of what defines Ontario cuisine. That, plus strong European influences, and now  global traditions from all over the world. Ontario is not traditionally defined by its food, but I think that’s changing now. Check it out at www.ontariogastronomy.com

WHAT’S MEGAN UP TO?    Megan: Primarily the CAPE will be for weddings but also meetings, conferences, and community festivals. We have that huge front garden – with shade trees! We’ll also make it available for location filming.  We’re open to hosting local,  public events, because as the Legion it was always a community space and we want to keep it accessible. The third phase has a culinary component, but that’s still being worked through. We plan to partner with a culinary institution who will offer programs and courses, but that’s for the future. Right now the owners need to see completion of the second phase and get some business going. We’re making relationships with local partners, vendors and services. We have local caterers onboard as our preferred caterers. I’m designing a local wedding checklist for clients who book the space. It has photographers, florists, transportation, hair and makeup, everything they need. Most clients are not going to be local, so it will make them feel comfortable and show how they can plan their event easily here by working with local producers. Our Sustainability Policy asks clients to choose one local winery and brewery or cidery for their event – it is in their contract. Our Recycling Policy states clients must only use recyclable or compostable vessels. Plastic bottles will not be allowed. Zero waste would be amazing, but we’ll start by minimizing the impact as much as possible.

ADVICE TO OTHERS?    Megan: Advice for others who are thinking of moving to The County? Hmmmm. People seem to do it two ways – have a five or ten-year plan to work towards coming here – or just go for it. We just went for it. But we’re young and figured we could handle it. We really did jump in, kind of the extreme end, and we met people, found work, found somewhere to live. We know how lucky we were – we had a lot of help from Rebecca – but there really is a big, supportive community here, newcomers as well as people who’ve lived here a long time. If you ask for help you’ll get it. I personally struggle with that, but I’m learning to do it here because, for example, we’ve got one car and I could get really stuck if I need to get to town …. so I have to ask for help. You’d never do that in Toronto. You probably wouldn’t need to. But it’s crucial to feel comfortable asking for help, taking help and giving help when you live here. And people give help so readily.

Chris: Honest advice? If you can afford to buy you’re going to find it easier to move here right now. But we are proof that you can find somewhere, especially if you talk to a lot of people. And once you’re here people will help you in so many ways. Like – You need a table? I know somebody who has one, and I can bring it over! It’s great, just great.

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