Amherstburg’s Pet Valu location finishes $200,000 expansion



By Jolene Perron


Thanks to the support of the community since 2003, owners of Amherstburg’s Pet Valu have been able to grow steadily, invest back into their community and most recently complete a large expansion renovation.

Deborah Gonda and her husband Kevin have been franchisees for 14 years, having started out in White Woods Mall with just a 1,700 square foot store. When they moved into their current location after the mall site was re-developed, they adopted a much more shopper friendly, boutique-style look Gonda said.

When the corporate office approached them a few months ago and suggested expanding into the empty store next to them, they asked “what are we getting ourselves into?”

“The expansion started in the last week of September, at which time we went to our national convention in Ottawa, where we were very surprised to learn we had made it into the ‘million dollar club’ which is no easy feat with stores such as sears closing in many communities,” explained Gonda. “Of course, being a franchise, we make only a small percentage of those sales, but still we had come a long way since our little store in the old mall. So we went from 2,400 square feet to 4,300 square feet. This is the approximate footprint that Pet Valu desires for its stores, which are approaching nearly 1,000 in Canada and even more in the U.S.”

Deborah and Kevin Gonda recently completed an expansion of their Pet Valu store in Amherstburg.

The expansion has allowed Gonda and her husband to expand from three shopping aisles to six. She said it’s not even that they have new product but rather they have more room and customers can see everything better that they’ve carried all along. They carry products such as raw pet food from Big Country Raw, which comes from the Niagara region.

“Raw diets are an alternative method of feeding that result in better smelling breath, less gas, nicer teeth and a shiny coat,” said Gonda. “Chicken, turkey, beef and lamb are just a few of the flavours available. These diets include fruits, vegetables, organ meats/bone, which provide pets with nutrients needed to be healthy.”

Gonda said they also stock smelt, and a variety of bones, which are excellent, digestible chews for puppies and dogs and some formulas may be appropriate for cats as well.  She said all BCR food is hormone and antibiotic free.

“We’d also like to people to know that our house brand of dog and cat food, Performatrin, is made in Elmira, has a loyalty program of buy 12 bags within 2 years, and get a free bag, and has several tiers, including super premium, with brown rice, grain-free, and hypoallergenic, with one protein and one carb and very limited ingredients, which are excellent for pets with allergies,” said Gonda.

Not only did their expansion allow for a better display of their products, but they also added a self-serve, double dog wash station. It’s made will all ceramic tile, which gives it a very classy look according to Gonda.

They provide the bath, shampoo, towers, water and “leave the mess with us,” service for a fee of $10. Their dog wash station also has a loyalty program.

Above the dog wash station is a mural painted by local artist Dennis White and his done Dylan. The team have been commissioned to paint the murals above all the Pet Valu franchise dog wash stations and reflect the community they are within. Gonda and her husband chose the Navy Yard Park to be featured in their mural because of its history and picturesque waterfront where many dogs have enjoyed walking. Their mural even includes their store cat Flame, Lizzie the lizard and Gonda and her husband’s backs all walking along the waterfront.

“All in all, we are happy with the expansion and the community support,” said Gonda. “We have moved our store forward and feel confident that we have made the right decision!”



Malden Central receives nearly $10,000 from Buick “Drive for your Students” event


By Jolene Perron


With a scoreboard that still runs on an analog system, Malden Central Public School is pleased to be putting up their new scoreboard this week

That would not have been possible without Buick’s Drive for your Students event.

According to principal Kris Marentette, the new scoreboard cost around $6,000 and will be used often for gym classes, intramural sports and school team activities. It will be installed later this week.

Malden students stand with their principal and representatives from Amherstburg Chevrolet Bucik GMC as they receive their check from the Buick drive for your Students event. Front: Lauren Baillargeon, Layne Sinasac, Brendan Arglsell, Colin Cote , Mya Bezzlubkin, Alexa Morley. Back: principal Kris Marentette, dealer principals Scott Elliott, Mike Bezzoubkin.

“We were referred by a teacher at General Amherst, they had done it before and had referred us to Buick,” said Marentette. “We feel fabulous, fantastic, it’s wonderful. We are really appreciative to Buick for allowing us to be able to participate in that event, I know that it’s in high demand so it’s great that they would allow us to do this.”

The Buick Drive for your Students program donates $20 for every test drive at the local dealership on a specific date with a maximum of $10,000. The event for Malden brought out 497 test drives, which means the school will be receiving $9,940, just three test drives short of maxing out. Scott Elliott, dealer principal at Amherstburg Chevrolet Buick GMC said it’s great local exposure for their company, while also helping out students.

Town looks to arbitration to settle dispute with WECDSB over St. Bernard School



By Ron Giofu


Frustrated over talks to buy the former St. Bernard School, the town of Amherstburg is looking to have the matter settled by an arbitrator.

As the result of an in-camera session Monday night, town council agreed to have CAO John Miceli pursue the matter as the town and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board have been unable to finalize what the fair market value for the former school building, located at 320 Richmond St., should be

The town has been looking to purchase the school building after it was declared surplus by the Catholic school board, said Miceli, with the intention of using it as a “community hub” centred around senior citizens.

Miceli said the WECDSB’s counteroffer to the town was $100,000 more than the $650,000 that the board had it appraised at. A subsequent offer came in at $25,000 higher than the appraisal.

“It’s been extremely exhausting working with the Catholic school board. When you look at bargaining in good faith between public entities, I find this very difficult especially when there’s a community use and a community benefit,” Miceli stated.

The town is interested in purchasing the former St. Bernard School but are locked in a dispute with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board on what the fair market value is.

The CAO believes there is “a total disregard for the town of Amherstburg and its residents.”

A master seniors plan has been included in the 2018 budget, Miceli noted, and the community hub proposed for the site would help to address seniors needs and issues.

“All of the plans we have for the property are supported by our community strategic plan,” said Miceli.

The town is trying to protect the ratepayers of Amherstburg through this process, he added, with both he and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo pointing out the property has been public for years with public tax dollars maintaining it. Miceli added the town is taking “a very strategic approach” to acquiring the land and has followed the process “to a T.”

There is a plan on how to fund its purchase, should it occur, he added but couldn’t release it at the present time as there are other issues in play that can’t be disclosed publicly at this point. He did state there are “synergies” between the proposal for the St. Bernard School site and the possibility of a new public high school being built next door at Centennial Park.

“As soon as the school became available, we came up with a plan to benefit the community,” said DiCarlo. “We found a way to re-purpose (the school building) so it can continue to be beneficial to the community.”

DiCarlo said it has been a “frustrating” process in working with the Catholic board and trying to realize the town’s vision for the property.

Stephen Fields, communications co-ordinator with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, said the Education Act calls for property matters to be discussed by the committee of the whole board and stay confidential.

“As a rule, we do not discuss property matters in public,” said Fields. “Those are the guidelines we operate by.”

Asked for reaction on the town’s stance on the matter, Fields reiterated the board does not comment on property matters.

“There’s a process for all negotiations and we followed the process,” said Fields. “Part of the process is maintaining confidentiality.”

Remembrance Day in Amherstburg features largest parade since WWII ended


By Ron Giofu


Remembrance Day in Amherstburg was even more memorable than ever this year.

While Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 did its usual excellent job organizing the parade and the service at the cenotaph, it was made extra special this year due to the parade’s size. Capt. Richard Girard, zone Sgt. At Arms, told those who marched that it was the largest parade in Amherstburg since the conclusion of World War II in 1945.

The Remembrance Day parade heads westbound on Richmond St. en route to the cenotaph.

“This is the proudest day I’ve had in a long time,” Girard told the parade participants after its conclusion outside of Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 Saturday morning.

The ceremony at the cenotaph included the roll call of all Amherstburg veterans who died at war and also included two minutes of silence to remember all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey offered thanks to all of those who served Canada and also thanked the young people who attended the Remembrance Day ceremony. That included the members of the 202 Fort Malden Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.

A member of the #202 Fort Malden Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps salutes as part of Nov. 11 ceremonies.

Ramsey also read a poem sent to her from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School student Kathleen Drouillard, which captured the spirit of the day.

“It’s incredibly important that young people understand the sacrifices made by so many to have the freedom we have today,” said Ramsey.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak said people have the “solemn obligation to remember” and that he was honoured to be in the presence of all of the veteran on Remembrance Day. Natyshak stated that “peace came with so much sacrifice” and that veterans need to be taken care of when they are at home.

Capt. Richard Girard, a Korean War veteran, salutes after laying a wreath in memory of his brother.

“Our debt is a debt that can never be repaid but by being here, we honour their sacrifice,” he added.

CAO John Miceli represented the town of Amherstburg and he read an address from Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, who was recovering from surgery. DiCarlo’s remarks, as read by Miceli, noted that “we are a better country” because of our veterans and that it is sad many are now passing away.

“The young generation of today will not have the honour of knowing our veterans like we have,” Miceli read.

The mayor added, via the CAO, that today’s youth need to be educated on the sacrifices of veterans and added “liberties and freedoms didn’t come by chance, but by the sacrifices of men and women.”

The Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 colour guard leads the Remembrance Day parade back to the branch Nov. 11.

Laurie Cavanaugh, president of Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157, thanked those who participated in the parade and all of those that attended the Remembrance Day service. She added the cadets stood guard at the cenotaph late Friday night as part of their tribute.

Cavanaugh added there were a lot of volunteers that helped make the Remembrance Day parade and service a reality and that the Legion was grateful for their efforts.

Western Secondary School observes Remembrance Day



By Ron Giofu


Schools across Windsor-Essex County observed Remembrance Day last Friday and that included Western Secondary School.

Cadets from the Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment march in the gymnasium during a Remembrance Day service last Friday at Western Secondary School.

With Remembrance Day falling on Saturday this year, schools held ceremonies a day early with Western Secondary students assembling in the gymnasium. Two minutes of silence were observed for fallen veterans with wreath laying, inspirational songs and cadets from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment also helping to mark the occasion.

Brandi Plantus, who teaches Grade 10 Canadian history at Western, said the school puts on a Remembrance Day assembly annually. She added that her Grade 10 class helped organize the assembly.

“I was really pleased with the participation today and the silence given throughout the ceremony,” said Plantus. “The students seemed to be really respectful and interested in learning about Remembrance Day.”

Western Secondary School students Nickolaus Danckaert and Robert Bennett lay a wreath.

Plantus said her Grade 10 Canadian History students just studied World War I so they were able to relate to the topics that were studying.

“They’ve really taken a liking to wanting to participate on this day,” Plantus said of her students.

Plantus thanked the cadets and others who also assisted in planning the ceremony at Western Secondary School.