By John Francis
On July 13, 2020, Sault Ste Marie Council passed a resolution to sell the former ferry MS Norgoma to a group of investors from Tobermory.
The investors group is headed by Mike Goman, one of the principal owners of the Sweet Shop/Coffee Shop in Tobermory, a business which has operated continuously since he started it 40 years ago. He grew up in Stoney Creek but spent his summers at the family cottages at the head of Big Tub Harbour. He also worked at Big Tub Harbour Resort for many years, managing it for a season after completing college in the 1970s, and managed Diver’s Den for several years during the same period.
Goman is looking for an expanded premises for the Coffee Shop operation, but he sees the Norgoma as much more than that. She is 188 feet long, 38 feet wide, with four useable decks. That’s a lot of square feet. Could she also house a pub? Goman hopes so. Retail shops and boutiques? A museum? Those would all be wonderful, he says, but makes it clear: “I don’t want to do any of that. Our team wants to stay focused on our existing businesses, which we know well”.
“I don’t want this to be all my idea — I hope the community gets behind it. It seems to me to be a great opportunity to do something unique — something for visitors to do other than line up for the Grotto.” He points out that a historical vessel is just as appealing when the weather is cool as when it’s hot and sunny. He has heard (and been part of) the conversations over the decades as Bruce Peninsula business people and planners brainstorm ways to increase the area’s appeal in the shoulder seasons. The Norgoma would be a draw right from the first mild weather in spring to the last pleasant day in fall. He feels it could make quite a difference.
He talks about the sun deck, which he believes is a “huge opportunity”. Think how wonderful it would be to sit there, twenty feet in the air, looking out over the harbour. It would be wonderful for breakfast, for lunch, for coffee and a pastry. But think of the evenings, he continues. Think how wonderful it would be to sit on the sun deck, drink wine, eat dinner, watch the ferry come and go, watch the sun set. Does he want to run the evening part of the operation? No. That would be for someone else.
Goman lives in Connecticut now. One of Connecticut’s passions is outdoor dining, especially in rural settings. They make heavy use of radiant heaters to extend the patio season a long way into spring and fall. Would that work in Tobermory? Looking over one of the prettiest harbours in central Canada?
He has received about a dozen emails, all of them enthusiastic about his proposal. Most of them have come from captains and history buffs.
Where could you put a vessel that size? Goman is open to suggestions; the most likely one he has heard to date is Little Tub Harbour’s east wall. For the proposal to work, it would need water and sewer hookup, plus hydro.
Mike Goman is eager to hear from people and companies who would like to partner in bringing the Norgoma to Tobermory. He can be reached by email at: [email protected]