This well-known couple took on one big side project and bought a local marina

Shantilly's Place photo courtesy of Shantelle Bisson.

You would think that Shantelle and Yannick Bisson had enough on their plate already—she’s got a new book, he’s about to shoot the 13th season of CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries, and together they just finished building a new cottage on Chandos Lake, Ont. And yet somehow they decided to take on one more massive project: they bought their local marina, renamed it Shantilly’s Place, and are just finishing up renovations to bring it back to life in time for cottage season. Not exactly a tiny side project.

West Bay Narrows Marina was a cornerstone of the Chandos Lake community for more than six decades before it sat unopened in 2018. At the end of last summer, the couple’s first in their new cottage, Shantelle and Yannick decided to buy the marina and re-open for the 2019 season. We had a few questions for the ambitious couple on their new undertaking. Mainly, what were they thinking?

What, exactly, possessed you to buy a marina?

Shantelle: Well, I wasn’t looking for a job, never mind another project. But my best friend, who owns the cottage next to us and grew up on Chandos Lake, would share a sad story every day about another cottager disappointed that the oldest marina on the lake was just not opening for the 2018 summer season. It had been a Chandos Lake staple for 63 years, and the thought of it possibly never opening again was distressing the lake community. Enter me, the bleeding heart. I went to see the place, which was up for sale, and I was instantly drawn to the building. I decided I wanted to buy it, but the property actually sold conditionally that day, to someone else. But when the other purchasers couldn’t release their conditions, I became the lucky new owner!

What work have you had to put into it to get it ready for the season?

Shantelle: I’ve updated the electrical wiring, the waterline, added some upgraded insulation, and put in new energy-efficient windows and doors. We’ve put in all new drywall, added some plywood plank floors, whitewashed those, gave the ceiling a coat of charcoal grey paint, and hung tungsten light bulbs. We kept the vintage Coca-Cola coolers, and brought back the classic Kawartha Dairy ice cream. Shantilly’s Place is also getting a fresh coat of bright white paint on the outside, with a heritage red window trim all the way around.

What’s your vision for this place? How do you want people to feel when they walk in?

Shantelle: I want parents to be taken back to the days when they were young and would come into the marina for ice cream and candy, but with an elevated twist. I’ll be serving cappuccinos, lattes, and I’m even putting in a small arcade room so parents can show their kids how they used to kill at video games back in the day. I’m also going to be selling retro candies, igloos, the Pop Shoppe sodas—it’s going to be a real walk down memory lane for parents, and they can introduce their kids to the treats that they grew up on. We’re also encouraging families to come sit down in some vintage tour boat seats and picnic tables, play horseshoes, and spend some time at Shantilly’s Place. I’ll be running the first ever pop-up Pusateri’s grocery store, so the cottagers on my lake can have that deliciousness and convenience at the end of the marina dock!

What do you see as the role of Shantilly’s Place for the local community?

Shantelle: I see Shantilly’s Place becoming a hub for the local community. People can come and start their day with us with a delicious special Shantilly’s blend coffee and end it with a family sunset boat ride and their favourite Kawartha Dairy ice cream. I’m also going to sell local artisans’ work and host movie nights under the stars. We plan to collect used blankets and towels to donate to local animal shelters, and we’ll collect any food that my fellow cottagers don’t want to pack up and take back to Toronto with them and donate it to our local food bank and women’s shelters. Shantilly’s Place will be very much a part of the local Apsley community.

What’s been the hardest thing about this process so far?

Shantelle: Trying to decide on what product to carry right, and doing it from L.A., which is where we spend our winters. I’m taking a shot in the dark with putting some stuff on the shelf before I even meet the community. But, a girl can’t open a store with penny candy and ice cream alone.

Despite the risk of opening a new place, it’s been truly rewarding and exciting just how many people are genuinely stoked about us having saved the old marina. People are so thankful, and are ready to come out in full support in a way that I didn’t expect.

How much of your time do you see yourself spending there this summer?

Shantelle: Pretty much all of it. I do have a book to get ready for publishing, so I won’t be on site 12 hours every single day. But I will be there each and every day that it’s open for at least four hours, and after that I’m just a phone call and a boat ride away.

And now, a question for Yannick. How did you react when your wife told you she wanted to buy and run the local marina?

Yannick: I was a little bit shocked to be honest. Being on the lake our first year, we still didn’t even have a full sense of the place and lifestyle yet. All of it was new.

Do you think we can catch you scooping ice cream this summer?

Yannick: I’ve tried to stay out of the way mostly up to this point, but I’m pretty sure that if Shantilly has her way, she’ll have me there as much as she can! My goal when I’m at the lake is to do nothing. Let’s see how that goes.

Shantelle: You can bet your bottom dollar not only will he be scooping ice cream, but he’ll also be pumping some gas for me! And not just him, I fully expect my best friend and her hubby to also put their money where their mouth is, since they’re the ones who shared the sad stories day in day out until I caved and bought the place. It will be all-hands-on-deck, and if fate moves in our favour, the process of making Shantilly’s Place a reality could become a TV show. Stay tuned.

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