By John Pineau, MCP
As a young boy Dave Beaushene saw many a tourist come through town to hunt and fi sh. In fact it was during these years that he recognized the opportunity to combine the demand for remote tourism – right in his own back yard – with his other passion: flying. Beaushene first learned about the hunting and fishing industry while working with his father’s minnow business in Nestor Falls, a town of 500 in a remote part of northwestern Ontario. “Tourists came in all the time. Dad had a couple of Super Cubs that we’d fl y to get in to the lakes where all the minnows were. We’d sell the minnows to the tourists. I really enjoyed doing that, but my main passion to this day has to be flying. I was seventeen when I got my pilot’s. I only had my driver’s for one year at that point.” Skip ahead to 1985. Armed with an ambitious vision for something unique, boundless energy and a few bucks to spend, Dave and his wife Michelle purchased an airplane and an outpost at Keeper Lake – a remote area 170 miles north of home base at Nestor Falls. From there they gathered loose change and headed south to get in front of American tourists. “We started doing trade shows in the US. We had enough money to do one trade show at first. We’d sell enough to get to the next trade show and so on.”
As is the case with most enterprises during their early years, cash continued to be tight, forcing Dave to rely on creativity and resourcefulness to grow. “When I started growing the business I was careful to buy cabins close together. It’s not like I bought every cabin that came along. I bought them close because I knew servicing them would be easier and cheaper.”
And grow it did. Nestor Falls Fly-in Outposts is approaching it’s 25th year with 12 cabins on s10 lakes, and 7 fl oat-equipped aircraft that include two DeHavilland Turbine Otters, one Beaver, a SuperCub, a Beech-18, a Cessna 206 and a Cessna 185. The company employs five certified pilots experienced in wilderness terrain to fl y customers and supplies non-stop from May to September.
Despite the downturn in the economy, it’s business as usual at Nestor Falls, Dave and Michelle still spending the winter months at US based trade shows talking to customers, who according to Beaushene are 99% American. “We do all the US trade shows now. We do Milwaukee, Kansas City, Madison, Green Bay, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis. We have one customer out of Toronto. You never know if we’ll expand there but for now we’ll stay focused on the American market.”
While the core fishing and hunting markets still come from the US, Beaushene has noticed an emergence of the family market. Entire generations are coming to experience different aspects of the Canadian wilderness. Mothers and daughters have started to come along to enjoy nature and time with family without interruption. “We have one family that crosses four generations.” For the Beaushenes, a shift in their market to one that includes family is a natural progression for them. Dave and Michelle’s son Jon and Jon’s wife Kasey help out during the “season” as does daughter Ashley. While part of Dave would enjoy flying customers back and forth, he knows his time is best spent working along side his family. “Jon helps on the dock. Kasey and Ashley in the office. Everyone chips in which makes it work well. I don’t spend as much time as I’d like flying because I have to be back at home base to greet the customers.”
The family theme pervades everything Nestor Falls does, including the way it chooses its suppliers. Kaemingh Fuels, a local family-owned business, keeps the company’s aircraft fully fueled, while Winnipeg’s Gregorash Aviation helps keep the company’s piston aircraft in the air. “Alvin (owner Alvin Gregorash) knows that downtime is a killer for us. He and the guys at Aero Recip and Airparts do whatever it takes to get me what I need as soon as possible. They’ll have a part on the bus, or if necessary they’ll meet me at the airport the same day I call. My customers get to their cabin on time because they really do deliver unbelievable service.” When you talk to Dave Beaushene you get the impression there’s no silver bullet behind his success. He has relied on a solid business plan, smart operational decisions, and the strength of family to grow. It’s these qualities that will help Nestor Falls Fly-in Outposts endure whatever the future brings. “Times are definitely tougher. Fuel prices are one of our biggest expenses, which have come down. That’ll really help us. But we’ve set up the business really well, and at the end of the day, it really comes down to the way you treat your customers.”
By the looks of it, even after almost 25 years, Nestor Falls Fly-in Outposts is still evolving. Dave Beaushene the businessman, along with his family, continues to deliver a unique experience to an ever-changing marketplace. For Dave Beaushene the pilot, half the fun is getting there.