Local Entrepreneur Brings New Life to CN Train Station

Story and photos by Matt Prokopchuk

When Cory Allan was looking to move his business from its Memorial Avenue location, the historic CN train station building at the waterfront was one of several spaces he was scouting. But when he learned the site was available and would fit his needs, he jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s a beautiful…heritage building that I just felt was iconic for Thunder Bay,” the owner of Kühl Interiors says, adding that it’s a “perfect location” for local retail. “I think that most waterfronts in most communities have retail shops and boutique shops that are locally owned that just create a place and point of interest for people.”

Allan reopened Kühl Interiors (formerly Kühl Lighting) in the station in August, as well as the adjoining Windy Shores Café. It’s effectively the first business to operate in the building since the Breakwater Taphouse closed in 2016. The station building itself is owned by the City of Thunder Bay, but is leased long-term by the Winnipeg-based ReSolve Group, who has also been behind the development at the waterfront. That company is responsible for identifying and securing businesses to sublease the units in the station building, with the provision that those businesses are consistent with a tourism destination. The city gives final approval to those agreements.

Allan says the unit he occupies at the south end of the main floor had had a modern-enough renovation that was large enough and configured properly to house his lighting and home décor business. The café addition was something he says he included to move with modern trends in retail, with more shops offering a place for customers to purchase coffees, teas, and baked goods while on site, like Starbucks being in Chapters and Indigo stores. He also notes that several cafés and small eateries have operated in the CN building in the past.

So far, Allan says it’s been “phenomenal” moving down to the waterfront and hopes that other merchants will soon join him. “There’s so much opportunity down here. I’m hoping now that we’re in the space, we’ll have other local businesses hopefully move in next to us and create kind of a unique shopping pocket in the downtown core [in addition] to what’s on the other side of Water Street.”