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Meet Sandra Vanattan, co-owner of Chris’ Live Bait

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Ask Sandra Vanattan what she loves about living and working in a rural community and she’ll tell you in one word:

“Everything.”

It’s the personal relationships built with customers, the short commute to work, and the small-town ambiance that you can’t find in a larger city centre.

 “I love coming to work because our customers are happy,” Sandra said. “They’re doing something they love.”

Sandra and her husband Chris have operated Chris’s Live Bait in Marmora for more than two decades and have been at their retail location in Highway 7 just outside of the village for 19 years. Five years ago, due to customer demand, they expanded the store to double its original size.

The customers Sandra refers to are the many hunters and anglers who visit the shop for everything from tackle and lures to hunting rifles, duck decoys and clothing. Visitors have referred to the store as a miniature Bass Pro Shop in the heart of Hastings County.

It’s also a destination for cottagers who make Chris’s Live Bait an annual stop. Sandra recalled one such repeat customer who left such an impression on staff that they keep his photo on the wall in the store.

“We had a gentleman who asked us to recommend a fishing lure. It was his dad’s very last fishing trip,” she recalled. “They caught the most amazing fish.”

An older gentleman wearing glasses, a white ball cap and orange and black jacket, poses holding a large fish in both hands.
Photos of repeat customers are displayed throughout the store, like this photo of a gentleman who caught this fish on his last fishing trip with his son. The lure was purchased at Chris’ Live Bait as per the recommendation of staff and remains an emotional memory for owner Sandra Vanattan.

Repeat patrons not only come for the store’s retail offerings, but for its variety of live bait products. Chris’s Live Bait is one of the only local spots in the area where anglers can obtain minnows, leeches and frogs for fishing.

 “It’s a real draw for us,” said Sandra, adding that her staff pride themselves on having vast product knowledge and great customer service skills.

Female employee Ashley Hern holds a bucket of live minnows that are for sale at Chris' Live Bait shop in Marmora, Ontario
Many anglers visit Chris’ Live Bait in Marmora for the opportunity to purchase live fish bait like the minnows pictured here, held by employee Ashley Hern.

Although operating a business hasn’t always been easy, it’s been worth it. Sandra says up until a few years ago, she and her husband both worked second jobs to keep the business viable.

“It’s meant sacrifices,” she said, adding her children adapted to a lifestyle where both parents worked shift work aside from the retail store. All three of Sandra’s kids have been an integral part of the business since they were young.

“They were counting worms at three years old,” she joked.

The hard work and dedication to the business finally paid off a few years ago when Sandra was able to leave her job and work at the store full-time. There’s less stress now, and her commute can’t be beat.

“It takes people two hours in the city to get to work – it takes me five minutes.”

Sandra loves looking for new and innovative products for customers and hunting down specific items for people. With a customer base that comes from as far as Niagara Falls, Sudbury and Renfrew, Sandra maintains it’s important to always ensure everyone is satisfied with their experience at the store.

“We offer good customer service and offer the products customers are looking for,” she said, adding that they always try to engage customers by showing them how products work or offering contests and events.

“We’ve had customers tell us it doesn’t matter where we move, they’ll find us.”

You can find Chris’ Live Bait on Facebook and also by visiting www.Chrislivebait.com, or by stopping by in-person at 17 Marmora Mine Road in Marmora and Lake.  

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