We can all agree that moving to a new city in real life is a little different from Hollywood’s all-good-everything version. That said, the beauty of moving to a new place is that you get to gather so many new experiences. And if the place happens to be Sault Ste. Marie, the experiences will be numerous and diverse.
Now, we all know of Sault Ste. Marie as this beautiful city nestled in the heart of Great Lakes, Huron and Superior, off the shore of St. Marys River. With all its awe-inspiring natural beauty, thrilling adventures and culture-rich museums, it’s a holiday destination perfect for every mood and personality. And it doesn’t stop there! In addition to being a great escape for vacationers, the city is also becoming a settle-down hotspot for millennials and gen Z’ers.
To solve the mystery behind this rising fascination for the city, we talked to local insiders who happened to be chefs of two iconic eateries in the Sault, John Armstrong of Ernie’s Coffee Shop and George Al Khoury of Georgie’s Shawarma. Before launching into the amazing revelation they made, let’s just meet the men…
Apart from the three tiny similarities- both handsome men, both chefs and both absolutely in love with the city- there is nothing in common between the two. John is a Sault-born, tattoo-sporting, swear word-using, boating and fishing enthusiast with a feisty and infectious positive energy. George, meanwhile, is a calm-exuding, Syrian refugee and humanitarian with a jovial, all-is-good attitude.
While John spends his time away from Ernie’s Coffee Shop, you can find him either on the lake or exploring new restaurants. Meanwhile, George is a new father, which means that when he’s able to get away from Georgie’s Shawarma, his time is spent with his wife and their beautiful baby boy.
Their strikingly different personalities, cultures and backgrounds are a good representation of the demographic diversity of the city. It’s this diversity that gives The Soo its colourful vibe.
Coming to our conversations with the chefs, here are 5 delightful reasons that prove Sault St. Marie deserves every bit of the buzz surrounding it:
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
You know how we’ve all, at some point, dreamt of settling down in a town we’ve been vacationing in? Well, Sault Ste. Marie is your chance to live that dream. As John puts it, “it’s a great place to start a family.” But wait, there is more- A happening nightlife, a vibrant art scene and a gazillion all-season outdoor activities. And, all of this is served with a side of scenic beauty that’ll take your breath away.
WORK HARD AND PLAY EVEN HARDER
Allow us to bring up the gazillion outdoor activities again. Now imagine living in an all-season outdoor paradise with activities for everyone. John, for example, likes to spend his time out of the coffee shop at nearby lakes, boating and fishing. Are you imagining it? Good! Now imagine actually having the time to enjoy all of this. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Sault Ste. Marie. Despite its booming economy, the city is not big on workaholism which is one of the great aspects of life in The Soo. That’s how John and George (and other Saultites) get their fill of the beautiful outdoors.
URBAN LIFE – TRAFFIC = THE SOO
Let’s face it, the most annoying part of a big city is the long commutes and traffic. Sault Ste. Marie offers a great solution for this… all the amenities and fun of urban life, minus the commute time. Incidentally, if you happen to visit Ernie’s Coffee Shop (we strongly recommend you do) and talk to Armstrong, he will reinforce that everything is “a 15-minute drive away.”
EAT. LOVE. EAT SOME MORE.
George’s Syrian restaurant and John’s old-school coffee shop are just two dots on the broad spectrum of delightful eateries you’ll find in the city. The slew of promising local restaurants offers everything from Indian to Italian and everything in between.
CITY WITH A SOUL
The biggest reason both George and John love the town is it’s warm and welcoming community. George’s deep connection with the city and its people roots from the “care and support” the community showered on him when he first arrived. He asserts that this support is what empowered him to start Georgie’s Shawarma, the first restaurant in the city to offer authentic Syrian cuisine.
John, who moved out of Sault Ste. Marie after high school, was happy to return when the opportunity presented and even happier when the community welcomed his return with open arms. “Lots of small towns may not always be so welcoming to new people because they like things to not change.
But here, everyone welcomes change and new people to be a part of that change,” said Armstrong. He believes that this is largely because a major chunk of the community comprises millennials and Gen Z who are modern, progressive and accepting of new ideas. Don’t believe us? Just take a look around at all of the young faces sitting at craft brewhouse patios around town!
Clearly, there is a lot to be experienced and discovered about the beautiful Sault Ste. Marie.