WIKWEMIKONG—The half century of vision, dedication and hard work which built Andy Manitowabi Group of businesses that has formed the core of Wikwemikong’s business district and provided employment for literally hundreds of community members was celebrated with games, speeches, a great cake and some awe-inspiring sales events throughout the day.
The drum group Young Biisineh began the 50th anniversary celebrations on June 21 and Wikwemikong Chief Duke Peltier acted as master of ceremonies throughout the day. Following the drum song, a moment of silence was observed for those partners and employees who have passed on.
“I am blessed to be invited,” said Chief Peltier, who is the nephew of Andy’s founder Andy Manitowabi. It was hoped that Mr. Manitowabi, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday, could attend the festivities, but as Chief Peltier noted, “he has earned the right to go where and when he wants to.”
Chief Peltier noted that Andy’s “definitely is a community institution.”
Partners James and Jenni Manitowabi spoke to the assembled employees, customers and other community members.
“I started working with my dad in 1977,” said Mr. Manitowabi, “right out of Grade 12, so the school bus dropped me off here right after the last day of school.”
Mr. Manitowabi took the audience through the various expansions of the Andy’s Group, starting out with a handful of convenience store items in the corner of the livingroom, the arrival of the gas tanks for the original gas station, the establishment of the laundromat, coffee shop, grocery store and the hardware store.
“My late brother Ross had a vision,” he recalled. His brother commissioned an artist’s rendering of a mall development. “It was pretty incredible what he was looking at.”
Ms. Manitowabi noted that at the time, the other family members were incredulous that Ross had invested $600 in the drawings. Although the plans were tucked away in the back of the office, as the partners were planning the 50th celebrations they revisited those drawings.
“We still have them,” noted Mr. Manitowabi. “We realized that about 80 percent of what Ross was looking at is what we have today.”
Mr. Manitowabi said that his father Andy had “always wanted to serve the community and create jobs for band members. We are continuing that vision.”
Andy’s Group partners Mr. Manitowabi and Ms. Manitowabi were effusive in their praise of their employees. “Without you Andy’s wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Ms. Manitowabi.
Greetings were brought to the celebrations by a number of business partners of Andy’s, including Bill Morrison, president of ACE Hardware, Mike Tasse of RBC and Ryan McLean, of Lumsden Brothers/Independent Food Towns (Sobeys).
Shannon Manitowabi, general manager of Andy’s, then recognized long service employees of the company.
To help the community celebrate the important landmark, Andy’s held a number of amazing one hour sales throughout the day and anyone who spent $25 got a balloon containing an additional discount. For an hour at 1 pm it was 50 percent off snowblowers, at 2 pm the 50 percent applied to lawnmowers, tillers, bikes and lawn tractors and at 3 pm it was lawn chairs, gazebos and lawn furniture.