The Island Princess is staying anchored to the Sunshine City.
Gerry Hogenhout and his business partners from Georgian Shores Catering have changed their minds on their original plan of shipping the iconic boat to Midland where it would permanently stay at a dock near Pettersen Park and later the Penetanguishene town dock.
“We have decided to stay in Orillia, and the citizens of this town should give a pat on the back to Allan Lafontaine, executive director of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in convincing us to stay,” Hogenhout said.
“The Orillia council was also very supportive of trying to make us change our minds, and they’ve succeeded.”
Hogenhout says the intent was to move the boat to Midland to offer catering on the boat and leverage the Georgian Shores Catering business which is well established in the Midland area.
“As time moved on, logistics came into play like moving the boat, COVID, and other things. Then, when Orillia really rolled out the red carpet for us and showed us how much they wanted us to stay, we began giving it some consideration,” he said.
Hogenhout says he and his business partners began to realize there was a great opportunity right in front of them.
“I’m actually an accountant and a real estate investor from Toronto, so really I don’t know much about Orillia. However, I’ve learned that the people there are fantastic and supportive,” he said.
“When we bought the boat, I didn’t even look at the Orillia waterfront to see how beautiful it is, but Allan encouraged us to take a look at what Orillia can offer before we (move) the boat, and it’s truly beautiful.”
Hogenhout says it’s unlikely the Island Princess will sail this year, but it will open its restaurant and bar within a couple of weeks.
“If we are successful as a restaurant, we might just keep doing that,” he said.
“A waterfront boat/restaurant/bar will fit in really well with what we want to do in Orillia."
Lafontaine says he’s honoured that Georgian Shores Catering credit his efforts for keeping the boat in Orillia, however, he says it was a team effort.
“The Island Princess is such a great tradition, it means a lot to the community, so the chamber and city council worked hard to keep it here,” he said of the boat which has been in Orillia since 1984.
“It’s something that’s been a part of our community for a long time, it’s a fixture on the water. Georgian Shores Catering is a forward-thinking company with lots of ideas and energy, we hope they are a part of our future in Orillia for years to come.”