Sauble rolls out welcome mat

New business owners want to encourage more family visitors and extending the tourist season beyond summer by Bill Henry, Sun Times Staff

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Amy, Mike and baby Macy Robinson inside their new lemonade stand at Sauble Beach.
For Mike and Amy Robinson, who just purchased Sauble Beach's main commercial corner, their first improvements will bring back the amusement arcade where Amy spent much of her childhood. "I was born and raised here and I was always downtown at the arcade, so I think it's nice to bring it back," Amy said earlier this week. "It was definitely a favourite spot."

 The young couple — he's 27, she's 25 and they have a new daughter Macy, just three months old — have also built a new Thirsty Canuck stand, where they'll be serving fresh-squeezed lemonade starting this weekend.

Once know as the serious May 24 party town, the Robinsons are among new and young Sauble Beach business owners who want the encourage more family visits and extend the tourist season beyond summer.

That's the direction Sauble has to go, said Beth Taylor,

Sauble Beach
Beth Taylor is optimistic about the future of Sauble Beach 
 who runs Two Chicks restaurant with partner Susan Lavergne. They earned a Chamber of Commerce tourism award last year for the innovative new business.

Taylor and her husband John also operate two cottage rental businesses and recently bought Mama's restaurant, which they renovated and opened as a year-round eatery known now as MacBeth's.

I have a lot of belief in Sauble," Beth Taylor said this week. We're here for the long run. We're here forever. It's a good community. I believe in the growth and I've got tons of ideas about how to make the beach better."

That starts with businesses that will serve not just the tourists, but also the growing population of permanent beach residents, she said.

"We really believe that the community has grown enough that it needs a place like this to be open all year," she said at MacBeth's.

Starting a family at the same time as two new beach businesses, while also taking over as landlords for a dozen more, means just getting their feet wet this year, the Robinsons said.

Their bigger dreams for the corner and the community will have to wait, they said.

"We're here for a long time. This year we've been running just to get things ready for this year," Mike said. "We're basically just putting the polish on it and we'll see where we go from here."

Some of the property the couple purchased from Mark Wunderlick March 1 has been in his family since virtually the day he was born May 22, 1961. His parents opened their beachfront restaurant that same weekend.

He helped as soon as he was able and by the summer when he turned nine, he said he was earning his first Sauble pay cheques repairing bicycles practically full-time for 50 cents.

The property he sold includes a home, one cottage and 16 lots, all but two occupied by tenants selling ice-cream, french fries, summer clothing and beach gear.

The Town of South Bruce Peninsula councillor said this week he already misses the beach business. He spent much of the pre-May 24 week helping the Robinsons get ready for the big weekend physically and mentally.

This "vigour" reminds him of his parents and the years growing up as part of a family beach business.

"It was a family commitment. It's not a nine to five, it's family and to see that happening all over again is just the way I feel it was supposed to go," Wunderlich said.

Mike, who was raised near Wiarton, has been working in retail and Amy has been an occasional teacher. He said they were looking for a business opportunity with a future when he saw the Sauble property listed.

"We wanted to do something for ourselves," he said. "I think Sauble has a real nice character to it and I think that's important to maintain, but I think there's room for improvement."

Amy remembers the youthful May 24 invasions while she was growing up, but sees much more potential for the community as a family destination with the return of the arcade and the eventual addition of more entertainment options.

"We have dreams," she said.

"I think May 24 is always going to be a party weekend, but I think in general Sauble has calmed down a lot. I don't want to make it a party town again. I don't think that's my focus. I like the idea of a family-oriented beach. I don't like just a party beach. I think Sauble is starting to take off in different directions. There's a lot of different owners, coming in and it's time for a change, to update a little bit and bring in some different businesses."