2013 Winners

Thunder Bay | Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Bianca Garofalo

Bianca Garofalo

Creating something from nothing is familiar ground for Bianca Garofalo.

The 37-year-old co-owner and business manager of Bight Restaurant and Grill in Thunder Bay counts her blessings in reflecting on seven years as an acclaimed restaurateur.

It's been an arduous process for the married mother of two to fulfill her dreams and find her spot in the heart of Thunder Bay's new waterfront development.

"It's probably one of the hardest businesses to get into," said Garofalo.

Located in the new Water Garden Pavilion, the main building at Prince Arthur's Landing, she's greeted every morning with panoramic views of the harbour and Sleeping Giant.

"It's amazing. Every day I look outside through gorgeous windows and think, I'm really located at the waterfront."

Her youthful spirit and personal drive have always served Garofalo well, wrote one of her supporters.

"She has no fear. She just keeps moving forward and is a stunning example to young entrepreneurs of what tenacity and courage can accomplish."

Garofalo attributes her success to wanting to provide a good life for her family.

"It didn't come from wealth and someone backing me, I had to really figure out a way to make it happen out of nothing."

In her mid 20s, the Lakehead University liberal arts grad put a law career on hold following the birth of her first child.

While working retail as a music store manager, Garofalo began drafting the concept for a restaurant.

She realized that her hometown needed a sleek, stylish restaurant and lounge, beyond the plethora of pubs and sports bars. Her research snowballed into a business plan that five years later led to the opening of her first establishment on Court Street in 2006.

As a young entrepreneur with no track record, securing bank financing was impossible. Garofalo turned to the Northern Lights Credit Union, which partially funded the venture, along with some local investors.

She had a hand in every element of the restaurant's construction, décor and menu. It won a Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce best new business award.

The idea for Bight came from the city's ambitious plans to revitalize its waterfront with a massive redevelopment project. Garofalo totally bought into the city's vision of urban renewal.

"We're one of the few cities that's on a shoreline with a beautiful landscape and we were not doing anything with it."

When the city advertised for a restaurant proprietor in 2011, Garofalo sold her ownership stake in the first restaurant and wrote a proposal that was accepted. She opened her doors at the Water Garden Pavilion last December.

The name, Bight, comes from the term for a curve in the line between land and water.

"We really wanted to have something that was casual fine dining, really incorporated the outside and had a similar feel to the architecture of the building. There's a lot of really beautiful wood almost like a modern Scandinavian feel in the décor."

With an extensive beer and wine list, she classifies the menu as modern North American with an emphasis on locally grown or produced food.

Garofalo proudly links her latest success to surrounding herself with like-minded young people, some of whom have an ownership stake.

"I believe in giving people the chance to break into something. That's what I was looking for when I was starting off. If you recognize talented people around you, instead of being threatened by that, you should support and build them up."

With Prince Arthur's Landing becoming a magnet for downtown redevelopment, Garofalo realizes she'll face competition on the culinary front. And that's just fine with her.

If there's another restaurant in her future, Garofalo won't rule anything out.

"You have to always be looking at the future and evolving and becoming more innovative and keeping your finger on the pulse."

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