Discover Tillsonburg Spring 2019

S P R I N G 2 019

Home Sweet Homes Tillsonburg’s record-setting year for new home construction

Meet the family behind Bre’s Fresh Market Farm Fresh and Local


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Home Sweet Homes Tillsonburg’s record year for new homes

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The Farmer’s Daughter Meet the family behind Bre’s Fresh Market

Seeing the World The story of Rotary Youth Exchange


Inspiring Innovation Discover Tillsonburg’s entrepreneurial spirit


Driving Success Autoneum celebrates 50 years in Tillsonburg


Welcome Summer Tillsonburg-Style Come out of your shell and enjoy family fun

Do you have story ides for this magazine? E-mail us at

Discover Tillsonburg Magazine is published twice a year by the Town of Tillsonburg, in partnership with local builders and other community partners.

Advertising Shelley Imbeault Call 519.688.3009 ext 2247


Tillsonburg’s record-setting year for new home construction HOME SWEET HOMES

Written by Michele Sponagle F or years, Tillsonburg has been known for tobacco and the back-breaking labour required to harvest it. But while Stompin’ Tom may have put us on the map, these days, Tillsonburg is gaining a reputation for something else—quality new homes. As southwestern Ontario’s housing market heats up, more people than ever are discovering the joy and affordability of small-town living. In 2018, the Town had its strongest year ever for new residential construction, with 324 building permits issued and a construction value of $31.4 million. “Last year was amazing for new home construction,” says Chief Building Official Geno Vanhaelewyn. “Eighty-six new detached homes were built and 62 new apartment and condominium units.”

Hayhoe Homes breaks ground at their new Tillsonburg development, Andrews Crossing

It all adds up to good news for the staff responsible for the Town’s residential attraction and marketing efforts. Collaborating with builders “In 2014, we launched a collaborative marketing pro- gram in partnership with local builders,” explains Cephas Panschow, Economic Devel- opment Commissioner. “The idea is towork together to promote Tillsonburg as an

attractive place to live, with builders competing for sales once buyers have determined Tillsonburg is the right fit for their needs.” Hayhoe Homes, the popular developer behind Andrews Crossing, has been a part of the marketing partnership since its inception. “A program like this lets us leverage our marketing dollars,” says Joe Hayhoe, Director of Sales and


Marketing. “The more we can do cooperatively to promote Tillsonburg as a whole, the more successful each individual builder will be.” Oxnard Developments is Tillsonburg’s newest builder. Their project, Potters Gate, is a two-phase residential subdivision of 110 homes, including semi-detached and townhome styles located off picturesque Potters Road. “We’re excited to be working together to share Tillsonburg’s story across Southern Ontario,” says Oxnard’s Ashcon Jafarpour. “We’ve completed a number of projects in the Toronto area in the past and to have this level of support from a municipality is outstanding.” Simply360 Living has also joined in the2019collaborative marketing efforts. “Through this partnership, we’re able to have a presence in markets we couldn’t reach otherwise,” says Simply 360 developer Cedric Tomico. “As a small, local builder, this level of collaboration is invaluable.” This fall, the group will have a presence at the Toronto Fall Home Show where they will invite prospective buyers to attend the Tillsonburg Fall Home Tour approximately two weeks later. “The home tour will give buyers a chance to meet the builders and see Tillsonburg for themselves,” says Colleen Pepper, Marketing and Communications Officer for the Town. “The route is

Above: Open the door to Simply 360, a new development on Quarter Town Line. Below: The grand opening of Potters Gate, a new subdivision by Oxnard Developments.

designed so that participants will get a feel for what the community is like and see its major attractions.” The group is also planning extensive online promotion in conjunction with the tour. “With digital media, we can target specific areas with our marketing includingKitchener/ Waterloo, Toronto/Hamilton and even the Niagara region,” says Pepper. “We’re also able to target our messaging based on key demographics and interests.” The success and ingenuity of the marketing partnership

has already earned the Town kudos from the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDC). In the first year of the program, new home starts increased 25 per cent, with 50 per cent increase since the last recession. Learn more about the Fall Home Tour in the next edition of Discover Tillsonburg Magazine , or visit www.


Meet the forward-thinking family behind Bre’s Fresh Market THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER

Written by Colleen Pepper W hen it comes to tasty sweet corn, Ostrander’s Breann Van Moerkerke is something of a legend. The namesake behind Bre’s Fresh Market just north of Tillsonburg, Van Moerkerke got into the produce business as a university student and hasn’t looked back since. “I was in my third year at Carleton when I heard about a program that would help students start summer businesses,” she recalls. “After six summers lifeguarding, I decided to give it a shot. I wrote a 19-page business plan and received $3000 in startup money.” That first year, Bre’s approach to business was anything but fancy. “I set up a picnic table and a shed on the corner of Tillson Avenue and Concession


Street,” she smiles. “My dad Eric planted four acres of sweet corn for me at his 200- acre farm on Airport Road and I sold it all summer long.” Not only did Bre make money that summer to help pay for her education, she had fun doing it. “I loved talking with customers and getting to know them,” she says of that first year. “Before long, people were making a special trip just to buy from me. It was great.” The following summer, Bre added strawberries to her offerings. “I decided that if I was going to be working eight hours a day, I might as well have another product available for people,” she says. With each passing summer, the operation grew. Fast forward to 2019, and Bre’s makeshift veggie stand at the car wash seems like ancient history. Today, Bre is married to her high-school sweetheart Kyle Gillespie, and has three beautiful, busy kids. She holds a Masters of Health Science degree in Speech- Language Pathology degree from the University of Toronto and for the past several years, has worked at Oxford Speech Plus. Her clientele includes children diagnosed with language difficulties, voice disorders, developmental delays, literacy challenges and even those on the Autism Spectrum. But if you think Bre has

given up her farm-girl ways, you’d be wrong. In fact, today, you’ll find Bre’s Fresh Market is bigger and better than ever. “I love my career as a speech pathologist but I’ve never wanted to give up the market,” she says. “I just like it too much—and fortunately, Kyle feels the same. He’s been an amazing business partner.” “It’s a labour of love and a real family effort,” says Kyle. “This summer, I’ll be out in the field most days, and another family member will be managing the store. We still share equipment with Bre’s dad, and rotate crops over to the family farm when needed.” This year, Kyle expects to plant about 30 acres, and grow four different crops. “Bre’s dad has taught me so much over the years,” says Kyle. “But we’ve also learned that growing for retail sale is a lot different than selling to wholesalers, or food processors.” “You’re literally planting every two days, a half-acre at a time, to ensure you can

provide a high quality product throughout the season,” says Bre. With the trend toward eating fresher, healthier, locally-grown food, Bre’s Fresh Market is poised for continued success. Both Kyle and Bre are quick to credit Tourism Oxford for inspiring them to grow beyond a roadside stand. “It’s been a real journey,” says Kyle. “Over the course of a season, we’ll stock produce from 21 different local farms. We also have a wide assortment of meats, cheeses and sweets from area businesses.” Over the winter months, Kyle and Bre made significant renovations to the store, with more changes still to come. Nevertheless, Bre and her family have never lost sight of two things she attributes to her success: friendly customer service and fresh local food. Learn what crops are currently in season at .


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Celebrating 50 Years of Rotary Youth Exchange SEEING THE WORLD

Written by Jason Weiler F or 50 years, youth have been coming to and traveling abroad from Tillsonburg on long-term exchanges (one year). During that time approximately 80 Tillsonburgers have visited other countries, and Tillsonburg has been host to nearly 70 long-term exchange youth. The program offers great opportunities for kids looking to get out and experience the world, and needs significant involvement from the community to be successful. Youth exchange is a global Rotary initiative that has been operating for over 90 years, offering life experiences to youth, developing leadership skills and helping promote peace and understanding. Each year, more than 80 countries and over 8,000

From left: Rachel Mann, Bob Marsden and Luanna Amarilla


students participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program, which is administered at the regional level by Rotary districts and at the local level by Rotary clubs. RYE was first initiated in Tillsonburg in 1968/69, but has a history stretching all the way back to 1927. The program was originally initiated by a Rotary club in Nice, France, which started exchanges with European students. The first exchanges in North America started in California in 1939, and became a global initiative in 1972. This year, Rotary is hosting Luanna Amarilla from Paraguay. From Tillsonburg Madelyn Bolton is in Thailand, Rebecca Fink is in Peru and Mackenzie Simmons is in Australia. Luanna will be returning home in July. When asked if she is looking forward to leaving, she indicated “Only to see my parents.” “I can’t wait to come back to Canada. The experience I have had on exchange is like living a life in one year” Students who have been on exchange echo many of the same feelings. They did not want to leave, cannot wait for their next adventure abroad, and have had life changing experiences that will benefit them in all future endeavours. Rotary members hear this from youth visiting Tillsonburg and those who have returned from abroad. While on exchange, participants develop leadership skills,

Luanna Amarilla (right) and a friend participating in tree planting at the Take a Hike Ox- ford event held in Tillsonburg.

learn a new language and culture, share their culture, build lasting friendships with young people from around the world and become global citizens. A story about RYE in Tillsonburg would not be complete without sharing some details about the many volunteers and host families that make it successful. Bob Marsden is one of these individuals and is instrumental in facilitating the program in Tillsonburg. Bob has been a member of Rotary since 1978, and after many years with the Tillsonburg Legion, is an Honorary Life Member. Many will know Bob from his career in teaching.

Originally starting at College Avenue Secondary School in Woodstock in 1963 (it’s opening year), and later transferring to Glendale where he worked until his retirement in 1994. “It was the best job I ever had” Bob will adamantly state. Since his retirement, Bob has been very busy working to create opportunities for youth in Tillsonburg. When asked why he is involved in the program, he responds simply “I like working with kids”. He lives this tirelessly and provides continuous support for inbound and outbound RYE students. Bob’s involvement with RYE starts each year with


interviews with interested candidates. This year there wereonly3 interestedstudents and through interviews and discussions with parents, the list was narrowed, and Rachel Mann has become the outbound student for 2019/20. The ultimate destination is unknown to the students through this process until they are announced in February. These announcements are one of the highlights of the process for Bob. The reactions of students and parents are unpredictable and always amusing. Rachel learned she will be going to Switzerland. Her memory of the event was relief and happiness to finally know where she was going. “I was surprised by how much I have grown and my confidence has increased in the short time. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my strengths”, says Rachel. In addition to long-term exchanges, there are short- term exchange opportunities each year. These exchanges last from several days to three months. They are often structured as youth camps, tours, or homestays that take place when school is not in session. The program in Tillsonburg is doing well driven by efforts by the many volunteers in the community. Across the region however, there is some decline in numbers. In Tillsonburg’s district in 2017 there were 22 outbound students, 15 in 2018, and in 2019 the number

has declined to only 7. In some cases, students do not want to delay their graduation for the opportunity. Going at a younger age (between the ages of 15-19) helps with this concern, but parents are often reluctant to let their kids travel. Bob and his peers in the district are putting renewed emphasis on these fundamental principles to reverse the trends that have been experienced. The connections students make to their host families and friends extends through their lives. Patricia Drouvot came to Tillsonburg in 1985 from France and was immediately immersed in our Canadian culture. She maintained her

close connection with her host family. After her wedding, she came back to Canada for her honeymoon, and made sure to visit with Bob and her support system as part of that trip, and has since returned with her three children to spend more time in Tillsonburg. The experience of Rotary Youth Exchange is life altering. It teaches youth to be independent, open-minded and inspired. With community support, it can keep going for another 50 years! For more information on how you can get involved with Rotary Youth Exchange, please contact Bob Marsden at 519-983-2498 or Rick Cox at 226-377-1249.

From left: Rachel Mann, Glendale High School student and Luanna Amarilla, exchange student from Paraguay.


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Hello Dolly: Exhibit of the Museum’s Doll Collection May 26 - August 11

The Dolly & Teddy Bear Family Picnic August 10 - 12:00 PM

Canada Day Open House & Fun Fair July 1 - 12:00 PM

Those Crazy Quilts: Exhibition featuring Crazy Quilts August 25 - September 29

Crazy Quilter’s Social Tea September 13 - 2:00 PM

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The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in and around Tillsonburg

Written by Gabrielle Bossy O ne hundred and ninety-four years ago, industrialist George Tillson discovered a beautiful area nestled along the banks of the Otter Creek. He dubbed the land Dereham Forge, but in fact, it was the beginning of the town known today as Tillsonburg—and the start of an entrepreneurial legacy. Edwin Delevan Tillson— better known as E.D.— soon followed in his father’s footsteps and went on to launch many successful businesses including a brickyard, pea mill, barley mill, and extensive model farm. Most notably was E.D.’s flourishing pan-dried oatmeal business that put Tillsonburg on the map. Flash forward to the 60s and

Annandale National Historic Site, built by E.D. Tillson, is located at 30 Tillson Avenue.


70s and Tillsonburg’s sandy soil was a hot commodity for growing big, leafy fields of lush tobacco. Tobacco was a way of life in Tillsonburg, but after the market crashed, farmers and employees were left asking, “What’s next?” Soon, new businesses begin to emerge. Quickly, the people of Tillsonburg learned to use their unique soil and other assets in new ways. Here are just a few of the businesses in the greater Tillsonburg area that have succeeded in channelling their inner George Tillson to create something truly unique. Annandale National Historic Site No visit to Tillsonburg is complete without a trip to Annandale House, the former home of E.D. Tillson and site of his model farm. This elegant home, decorated in the Aesthetic Arts Movement Style, was inspired by a speech Oscar Wilde gave in Woodstock. With three floors of absolute beauty, you’ll love learning about all of E.D.’s entrepreneurial pursuits. Bring a picnic and enjoy a lovely lunch on the spacious front lawn, catch a lecture, or just take your time exploring. Y U Ranch Brian and Cathy Gilvesy of Y U Ranch know a lot about innovation. They started farming tobacco while Brian was still in university. When the tobacco market crashed,

Texas Longhorn Cattle

they decided to begin a Texas Longhorn cattle ranch with a focus on tall grass prairie and regenerative land use. Focusing on this native plant removes 1.5 tons of carbon from the air per acre annually. By using sustainable farming practices, the Gilvesys have created a ranching oasis with well-fed cows that produce the area’s best beef. Koteles Farm The sandy soil that surrounds Tillsonburg has also proven to have potential for a different type of crop. For almost four generations, the Koteles family has been farming fresh asparagus and selling it all over Ontario. Each year, they grow 90 acres during late spring and early summer. Visit their on-farm location during the season and you’ll

find local shoppers picking up their share of farm-fresh asparagus as well as their famous pickled asparagus. Coyle’s Country Store Starting way back in 1899 in King Lake, Coyle’s started as a small spot to grow and process fruits and vegetables to sell in the family store. In 1924, Aubrey James Coyle (grandfather of current owner, James Coyle) moved the shop to Tillsonburg where they made everything from car parts for Model Ts to instant chocolate powder. Today, they roast their own nuts on-site and offer fresh, house-made fudge. This landmarkshopping destination is steeped in a history of entrepreneurship that continues to grow every year.


Ottercreek Woodworks Inc. David Schonberger’s passion lies in the Carolinian forest where a vast array of tree species grow with unique gnarls and twists. Ottercreek Woodworks specialize in creating artisan-crafted charcuterie boards from sustainably harvested lumber. If you want to make your own, you’re in luck. Ottercreek Woodworks has launched an award-winning experience called From Tree to Table. Participants are led on a guided walk through the forest, enjoy a spread of local charcuterie and work with David to craft their own artisan charcuterie board in the woodshop.

David Schonberger working with his planer

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Autoneum celebrates 50 years in Tillsonburg DRIVING SUCCESS

Written by Michele Sponagle F ifty years is a long time in a marriage, and it’s even longer in business—which is why Autoneum’s 50th anniversary in Tillsonburg is definitely a milestone worth celebrating. In a competitive global environment where business longevity is increasingly scarce, Autoneum Canada has managed to beat the odds and flourish. As a result, Tillsonburg has also flourished. “Autoneum has been successful due to its commitment to its employees, best practices and ongoing community engagement,” says Mayor Stephen Molnar. “I’m proud to say the municipality has played a role as well.” Back in 1968, the municipality annexed 32

From left: Councillor Chris Parker, Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar, Autoneum’s Scott Cole and Heather Sleegers.


The 50th anniversary celebration of Autoneum Tillsonburg, located on Bell Mill Side Road just off Highway 3.

acres of industrial land to sell to what was then known as Mastico Industries. “At that time, the sale price was $2,000 per acre,” says Molnar. “Obviously the market has changed a lot since that time, but it’s evidence that even then, Tillsonburg was ‘a place to build your future,’” he says, referencing the Town’s former marketing tagline. The land deal ultimately led to the construction of the current production facility and initiated a strong relationship between the Town and the private sector to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. While the name on the Autoneum facility may have changed over the past five decades—from Mastico in the early days, to Reiter Automotive, and now Autoneum, the company has always had a reputation for being a contributor to the

community at large.The plant continues to have a positive impact, employing more than 300 skilled workers as well as supporting local youth and charitable organizations. In fact, the company was recognized earlier this year withtheTillsonburgandDistrict Chamber of Commerce Award for Community Service. “Of all the recognition a local enterprise can receive, this particular award speaks directly to the passion and commitment of the people of Autoneum,” says Molnar. “It is truly a testament that Autoneum is building more than noise control or thermal insulation parts. They are collectively building a community.” In many ways, Autoneum has been a flagship industry in the community. Their presence in Tillsonburg has ultimately helped the community attract

other manufacturers to the area. “Autoneum’s products may provide for a quieter ride, but the company’s historical contributions to our community continue to resonate loud and clear,” says Molnar. To mark the historic anniversary, Autoneum recently held a reunion car show. Local music group, Small Town Girls performed and members of the public were invited to tour the facility and enjoy a barbeque. During the event, Mayor Molnar also presented a certificate of recognition to Autoneum’s Scott Cole and Heather Sleegers. You can learn more about Tillsonburg’s automotive- related industries and competitive advantages at .


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Come out of your shell during Turtlefest weekend (June 14-16)

later, Turtlefest celebrates Tillsonburg’s slow and steady rise from a hamlet on the Otter to thriving small town. “Turtlefest is an opportunity for people to come out of their

Turtlefest 2019, presented by Shaw’s Ice Cream, will kick off on Friday, June 14, with the Downtown Block Party. The fun gets started at 5:00 p.m. with merchant booths and live busker-style shows from the Stupendous Silver Sisters (aerial act) and Tex Rexman Comedy Cowboy. At 7:00 p.m., the Country 107.3 stage will start rolling with toe- tapping, boot-scootin’ shows featuring Canadian country stars Kelsi Mayne, Nice Horse and The Abrams. For those who like to be hands-on, why not give axe- throwing, jousting or the 25 foot climbing wall a try? And to capture your memories, don’t forget to strike a pose in the free photo booth. When you’re ready to relax, head over to Annandale National Historic Site for an outdoor screening of LEGO MOVIE 2 at dusk. Don’t forget to bring your blankets and lawnchairs! Saturday and Sunday,

Written by Michele Sponagle T here’s no surer sign that summer is on the way than the arrival of Turtlefest. Held each Father’s Day weekend, this signature three-day event features just about everything you love about summer, including live music and shows, yummy food and tons of interactive activities. So why does Tillsonburg have an event honouring turtles? It’s a great question. The answer goes back to 1864, when Tillsonburg’s aging founder, George Tillson promised to return one day as a turtle to see how his town was prospering. Remarkably, a few years after George Tillson’s death, a giant turtle appeared on the banks of the Otter Creek. Remembering their founder’s words, the citizens took “George” downtown so he could see the town’s progress. More than 130 years

shell and discover small-town living at its finest,” says Festival Director Suzanne Fleet. “Each year, the organizing committee tries to improve on the year before, adding new acts and entertainment that the whole family can enjoy.”


the festivities continue at Memorial Park. Entertainment highlights include the Fire Guy, Forest City Fire Men’s Chorus, and special guests The Carver Kings. On Saturday evening, the Kinsmen Club will take over the park to present the 2nd Annual Bandshell Bash featuring Practically Hip and Ozone Baby, a Led Zepplin tribute band. Throughout both days, you’ll find plenty of activities for young and old alike. In fact, this year, the Dad’s Day Challenge will give park visitors a chance to win a Napoleon barbeque worth more than $900, Blue Jays tickets and more. “In addition to the popular inflatables, we have a host of interactive activities like mini golf that kids can enjoy together with a parent. Everyone who completes four interactive activities together will be entered into the draw,” says Fleet. “And Sunday, the first 200 dads will get free admission.” Head to Annandale National Historic Site on Saturday and you can enjoy a meet and greet with some real turtles and participate in many hands-on children’s activities including crafts, games, and talks by local wildlife rescue specialists. You can also tour the magnificent house, once the home of Tillsonburg’s first mayor, E.D. Tillson. All activities at this National Historic Site are free. Meanwhile, at the Station

The Downtown Block Party will feature live music on the County 107.3 stage.

Arts Centre on Saturday, you can pick up something delicious from the Tillsonburg Farmers’ Market (until noon) and check out the Turtley Treats Baking Contest.

Get all the details about Turtlefest—including location information and admission rates where applicable--at .

167 Simcoe St, Tillsonburg, ON • 519.688.0808 We’ll Help You Grow!





A caring snapshot from the Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital

The AVERAGE STAY in acute care is 6.6 DAYS

patients were admitted to TDMH in the last year. 1,587

Volunteers complete an astounding 19,200 hours of work at the hospital each year.


Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital h a s b e e n i n e x i s t e n c e f o r SEVENTY THREE

is the total number of x-rays completed at TDMH last year


Phase 2 Coming Soon! Reserve Your Lot Today

Welcome Home to Hayhoe Homes


616 broadway Street, Tillsonburg, 519-842-4981 / 1 888-842-4981


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