Montreal River Outpost expands to include Churchill River Canoe Outfitters

Photo courtesy of Martin Bernardin. Rick Driediger, former owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, shakes hands with the new owner, Martin Bernardin.

Expansion may involve hiring new staff, but no final decision yet

Although he heard  “through the grapevine” that Churchill River Canoe Outfitters might be up for sale, it was not high on Martin Bernardin’s  priority list over the 2023 summer months, but come fall, he gave it more than a second glance.

“In the fall time I just got kind of a, ‘give him a call and see,’” feeling Bernardin said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

He called the Churchill River owner and got a response, ”this is perfect. Come on up and have coffee, and we went from there,” and the completed deal and handshake took place in November, Bernardin said.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate. Martin and Heather Bernardin plan to keep the Montreal River Outpost going in Air Ronge and adding Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe to their operations.

He’s treating the purchase as an expansion, with Montreal River Outpost being a retail entity, Churchill River takes the business into canoe rentals, guiding, offering full-trip packages.

Montreal River Outpost is moving into its 11th year of operation in Air Ronge, and, although he will spend more time in Missinipe with the new business, he has no intention of selling his house and moving his family out of La Ronge, Bernardin said.

The change may involve hiring more staff, he said, adding that the retail end at Montreal River Outpost involves canoe, kayak, camping and fishing gear sales.

Some of the benefits include folks being able to rent canoes from either place. For example they could rent canoes in La Ronge and drop them off at the end at Missinipe or if they want to sometimes, they would have rented in Missinipe, and it would make more sense to drop them off in La Ronge

“It gives people options as far as rentals go.”

Photo courtesy of Martin Bernardin. More canoes, to be used in rentals and guiding tours.

The change has involved booking trips and booking cabins and the building of a new website. The website now gives people the option to rent cabins, which is an addition.

“We’re getting all that working and then just answering phone calls and booking people in … we haven’t had any dull moments, put it that way,” Bernardin said.

For the time being, they are running the two businesses “as separate entities” and  that means keeping the retail with Montreal River Outpost and the outfitter side will stay with Churchill River.

The expansion also brought in cabins, fishing outfitters, motorboats canoes and the opportunity to move into guided fishing and white-water canoe experiences.

It will probably mean adding some new employees, but that has not been sorted out as yet, he said.

“It’s hard to say at this point. We have a lot of staff that are willing to come back from last year, … it’s an opportune place to work and I’m getting resumes just about every other day. It’s the kind of thing people want to come and work for us, it’s kind of different,” Bernardin said.

Bernardin has his own canoe design and building business, Kisseynew Canoe Company, which he intends keeping going as well.