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Entrepreneur of the Year: Pat Dubreuil

“The whole idea behind my business plan is to position Dubreuilville for the future, and I really think that the future is based on a tourism economy,” Dubreuil said.

You could say Pat Dubreuil’s career as an entrepreneur was preordained.

A third-generation Dubreuil whose grandfather built the Dubreuilville sawmill — and loaned his name to the town that rose up around it — Dubreuil is the owner of the Relais Magpie Relay, a motel and restaurant where snowmobilers from across Ontario and the U.S. flock each winter to tour the pristine trails and spend their dollars in Northern Ontario.

“The whole idea behind my business plan is to position Dubreuilville for the future, and I really think that the future is based on a tourism economy,” Dubreuil said.

Back in 1994, the Ottawa University grad had barely completed his studies when he entered his first partnership. His father had successfully run the Motel Bienvenue for years, but business was lagging. Would his son come help him recover it?

Dubreuil agreed, but with an exit strategy firmly in place: after the business was brought back to prosperity they would sell.

His approach worked. Over six years, Dubreuil built the motel and restaurant into a thriving business, serving 16,000 snowmobiles in one year alone, eventually catching the eye of a Vancouver entrepreneur. The family sold the business, Dubreuil’s parents happily retired to Sault Ste. Marie, and Dubreuil went on to other ventures.

But in 2009, the purchaser went bankrupt and the motel sat vacant for five years. Not content to sit back and watch the economy of his hometown flatline, Dubreuil stepped in, repurchasing the facility and investing in renovations to bring it back to life.

Today, the Relais — in French it means “stopover,” where one replenishes himself — is a snowmobiler’s paradise. Rooms feature drying racks for visitors’ helmets and winter clothes, and they can park their snowmobiles in a heated garage overnight.

In the “man cave,” where sledders gather for a post-ride social evening, they can watch videos from their excursions, play pool, relax in the hot tub or sauna, and share stories from the day’s ride.

Dubreuil pieced together the unique setup based on his own likes and dislikes he’d experienced in his travels over the years.

“I’ve been getting rave reviews and we’re running at full capacity all winter, because I snowmobile and I understand what it is that they’re looking for,” said Dubreuil, who’s helping consult on a plan to market the North as the ‘world’s best snowmobiling destination.’

“My experience, my knowledge of the industry and exactly what I’m doing at my motel is going to become standard or a best practice in Northern Ontario when it comes to snowmobiling.”

He’s also developing a smartphone app designed to create awareness about the region’s trail system and draw more visitors north. Any proceeds from the use of the app will be put back into notfor- profit organizations like the local snowmobile and cross-country ski clubs to strengthen the trail network.

The Relais is just one project Dubreuil has on the go. While his father and brother- in-law run the Relais in Dubreuilville, he focuses on his Sudbury-based business consultation company, Let’s Roll Ideation Consulting. His current contracts are focused in the mining industry.

Yet Dubreuil said his hometown remains close to his heart and he’ll continue to work to boost Dubreuilville’s economy, whether it’s making a bid to restart the sawmill or engaging in a grassroots gold exploration campaign — two of his many other projects on the go.

But Dubreuil credits those around him for much of his success, and firmly believes in extending his abundance to others.

“I’m a very big believer in paying it forward,” he said. “I’m comfortable in the lifestyle that I have, I’ve generated some success, but I want to make a point of sharing it with others.”