East Coast Lobster Moves to Westfort Location
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East Coast Lobster Moves

East Coast Lobster Moves to Westfort Location

by Scott A. Sumner

Aaron Gillingham is the owner of The Sal Restaurant and East Coast Lobster. The Sal has been in Westfort for 60 years now and Aaron has just relocated East Coast Lobster there! The 35 year old from Thunder Bay went to Westgate High School and then Lakehead University where he completed 4 years in the Commerceprogram finishing in 2006 or 7.


“ I started being an entrepreneur in Thunder Bay in 2017 after moving home to do so. When I left Thunder Bay I went to Calgary for a few years, moved to Ottawa to become a restaurant owner and then moved home to buy the Sal,” said Aaron Gillingham.“Unlike many people who move back to Thunder Bay begrudgingly because things didn't work out I wanted to move home because I like, I love Thunder Bay. Sometimes people think the grass is always greener. Even thought I loved Calgary, an awesome city and Ottawa is a very different but cool city, I wanted to move home. I saw many local restaurants were opening up at that time and it seemed to me the right time to make my way home.”

Aaron bought The Sal restaurant May of 2017 and closed for renovations for 3 months. The grand reopening was September 2017. Aaron has been in business for a total of 10 years now.

“ I grew up in a business family. My dad was in the pipeline industry with Summit Pipelines. My mom owned a elderly nursing care business and also taught at Lakehead University. As a kid I did all kinds of dumb stuff for money. I used to bike up to the local mail store, Broadway Variety and sort mail before school for a little money in grade 6 or 7 at 11 or 12 years. I used to pick golf balls, clean them and sell them back to golfers at Strathcona,Chapples and Fort William. I also used to pick worms at night and sell them to fishermen. Anything I could do for money I was doing it.” laughed Aaron.


“ My dad was very motivating for me.When you are a kid you want all the nice things and I don't mind working. I'll work myself to the bone, I always have, but I enjoy working and have a hard time sitting still so might as well make some money doing it.”

Aaron's dad is retired now but still has investments in Thunder Bay and spends a lot of time out east with family there.

Calgary got me most involved in entrepreneurship where I worked for the Joey's Seafood Group and worked closely with Joe who was a very involved business owner. I learned a lot in a very short time said Aaron.

“ I love the restaurant business. My first real job was washing dishes, bussing tables, serving and cooking. I like restaurants because I enjoy seeing people come and go, chatting with people and the busyness of it, like organized chaos. I love seeing people coming, enjoying themselves and leaving and seeing the whole transaction in front of you. It is a good comradery team environment working in a restaurant. I always loved restaurants.” said Aaron.

The Sal is turning 60 this year starting in 1964 in Westfort. The Salsbury Grill started down the street from it's current location as a greek restaurant.The Sal has been here in the current location for over 50 years and was owned by Greek families originally.

“ After the renovations were complete and we got our liquor license and all that stuff and first opened I worked for 22 straight days from7 am >to midnight. At the time I put everything I had to buy the business including the building.When I did it everyone said there's no parking, its in Westfort and Westfort is dying but now look. As it turns out they were all wrong.”Today The Sal opens 9 to 9 with breakfast, lunch and dinner and serve breakfast all day long. Sundays they are 9 to 3 because the staff needa rest as well and Mondays closed because pretty much everything is closed on Mondays in Westfort.

“ Our menu is pretty big and there is a lot to do so we are here at 7 am prepping. At first it was Westfort people who came here but now we get people from all over including travellers who find us online where we have good ratings.We get a lot of people here from the airport as we are an easy place to go,” said Aaron.

“ We have about 20 to 23 staff. Some like to work one shift a week because they like being here and have other jobs. It has been going fantastic here,we are super busy and always getting busier which has been fun. We have a good staff, a tight knit group and everyone is happy. We treat our staff well. I'll never leave Westfort.” smiled Aaron.


Aaron Gillingham is also the owner of East Coast Lobster now located in Westfort.

“My dad is a Newfie, my mom from New Brunswick and I worked for seafood restaurant chain growing up, so that gave me some experience in the seafood business. We always eat seafood a lot. The previous owner Randy was a bug in my ear for years and wanted to sell East Coast Lobster and retire in 2019 or 2020,” noted Aaron. “ We were very busy with the Sal during the pandemic with take out. At first I laid off all the staff and then hired them back 3 weeks later because we were so busy. At the time I was looking for another project and the seafood store kind of worked out then for me so we bought the business-East Coast Lobster in July of 2021. We opened out of their location on Arthur Street for about 2 years before we moved to our current location.”

In 2020 Aaron purchased the RS Piper/ Maier Hardware building at 1550 Brown Street to move the East Coast Lobster business to Westfort.

“ The building is huge at 8000 square feet where the previous location was 1200 square feet. That project was a challenge and took years off my life! The building is 140 years old which is a long time. Built in 1880 it is one of Fort Williams first buildings. Over the years it was a bazaar, they sold clothing, fine china, ran rum during prohibition, had a boxing ring on the second floor- did everything over the years.”

“We had our Grand Opening of East Coast Lobster last week and it has been very busy. I had my father in law manage the door it was so very busy. We supply many of the restaurants of Thunder Bay with seafood as well. It was a project of mine, I wanted to get into more restaurants. As a restaurant owner as well it was easy to speak to other restaurants in their language to supply them from East Coast Lobster.”said Aaron.

East Coast Lobster obtain seafood from all over with brokers in Toronto,Winnipeg and Montreal and some direct supply from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Their seafood comes mostly from the east coast of Canada and the USA as well as there are some fresh BC products.

“Seafood is a world game now with products from Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. We try to source as many Canadian products as possible and get as fresh as seafood as you can get being in central Canada. We supply a lot of restaurants and small stores as well as the small towns in NW Ontario where we make regular trips. We have lobster shipped from Novia Scotia flown here by Fedex.”

East Coast Lobster currently have 3 full time staff, three part time and are hiring, always hiring.

Skip the fishes was coined by one of the East Coast Lobster customers so it works well.

The next project for Aaron is creating a multi use event space next door in the building which will be a few months to complete.

“We now have a commercial kitchen on the second floor here to service the seafood store in production, as well as our party room space for events of all kinds. Any renovation can be challenging so we are resting a little now. Once we finish the event space we'll take a rest period and wait for the next project to come to us.”

“We are doubling down on Westfort. The people and businesses are very supportive, taxes are lower, parking is easier and it is always a couple degrees warmer then the rest of Thunder Bay. Westfort is busy.”

Founded in 1988

East Coast Lobster & Seafood was founded in 1988 in Thunder Bay, in beautiful Northwestern Ontario. Over the years, the business has grown thanks to its reputation for outstanding customer service and as the region's only specialty seafood supplier. Customers travel to Thunder Bay from all over Northwestern Ontario to stock up on seafood of all varieties. The business has moved locations several times to expand its products and services, but the goal will always remain the same; To stock and supply Northwestern Ontario with specialty seafood, shellfish, and fresh or frozen fish at competitive pricing and provide exceptional, first-class service and consultation.

The People that Made Us.

The business was founded by Randy and Linda Gaudette. Over years of hard work, Randy and Linda were successful in supplying the region with unique specialty seafood and the demand grew and grew. The couple carved a path for the business by offering outstanding and personable customer service and the best of the best in products! Randy and Linda famously offered customers recipes, cooking instructions, and the best >“insider info” no grocery store could rival. It's because of Randy and Linda that the popularity of seafood is what it is today in Northern Ontario. And we will forever be grateful for that. Hard work pays off.

Discover the perfect shopping day in Historic Westfort Village.

Built in the 1800s along the scenic southern bank of the Kaministiquia River, immerse yourself in a delightful array of boutiques, tantalizing restaurants, rejuvenating beauty services, and specialty grocery >stops.

Whether you're seeking the latest trends in men's and women's fashion, indulging in gourmet cuisine, pampering yourself with beauty treatments, or stocking up on essentials, this vibrant business community offers a convenient one-stop destination for all your shopping needs. Come experience the timeless charm and vibrant atmosphere of this beloved neighbourhood shopping district.”


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