2018 IW Winners

Entrepreneur of the Year - Thunder Bay

Anne Marie Calonego

Anne Marie Calonego

Anne Marie Calonego is taking an Italian treat and using it to transform lives and the north core of Thunder Bay.

Her business, Prime Gelato, opened on July 1, 2016, offering the housemade frozen treat made from 85 per cent local ingredients, including dairy, honey, herbs, berries and even beer.

“If northwestern Ontario makes it or grows it, we try our hardest to use it,” she said.

That growth and support of local suppliers led to increased employment in the establishment, as well as increased demand for local ingredients, creating more jobs and revenue for all, as well as introducing people to a new way to eat local food.

The shop employs five full-time and seven part-time employees. Her dedication to creating a quality product included having a gelato expert from Italy come to the city to train staff. “This has not only contributed to the success of Prime, but has equipped our employees with skills they’ll be able to utilize for life.”

The hard work of her team isn’t just for her success, Calonego said. They are all eager to to volunteer their time and resources to encourage other local entrepreneurs. They work with charitable organizations such as Dragons of Hope, the Diabetes Association, and Habitat for Humanity. They have also raised money and awareness for local sick children and residents of Thunder Bay.

Among her accomplishments, she listed her family as her first.

“I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband and three wonderful children,” she said.

The speed in which they received their dairy plant licence is another: 11 months.

Creating a “premium” product that resonates with the public and embraces local ingredients is another.

The shop, she said, has been a big part in the gentrification of the core, averaging around 200 to 1,000 customers daily. That increase drives demand for more rental space and decreases abandoned and vacant buildings. This makes the downtown more appealing for businesses, residents and tourists. On the revenue side, it increases commercial property valuations and tax dollars for the city.

Overall, Calongeo is proud of the success. They have been operating for less than a year and a half, but already they are selling their product in nine stores, expanded into southern Ontario, created jobs and are planning on a second location.