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Ma Cabane à la Maison, our story
Being myself a maple grower’s granddaughter, I now carry on my shoulders the survival of our family sugar bush, which has flourished since 1948, one of the oldest sugar bushes in Quebec. I now occupy the chair of a fourth generation of entrepreneurs and my late grandfather Jean-Guy Lampron, founder of Chalet des Érables, could not have suspected that the sword of Damocles was suspended above this heritage.
On March 13, the eve of an exceptional sugaring season, we were all closed without notice due to COVID. For our industry, there could not be worse timing. So it was the publicity done, the full refrigerators, the caned marinades and the tables set that we saw our sugar season vanished. For the majority of SMEs, this unplanned shutdown had an end, but for our industry it was a whole year lost; More than 90% of our annual income had just disappeared while our fixed costs remained the same …
After many tears and all the world’s efforts to diversify, we have come to the evidence that 2020 will be a year to forget. It was filled with despair, that at the beginning of July I personally contacted the other sugar shacks in Quebec, hoping to find a solution. So it was in front of competitors who have now become friends, that I exposed my difficulties and unfortunately the situation turned out to be worse than I would have imagined.
I quickly realized that beyond the survival of my business, our identity as a Quebecer was at stake if this tradition were to disappear. So we all joined together to make a media release on July 21. But who wants to hear about sugar shacks in summer …
It was not until last September that a Good Samaritan came forward to help our association; Sylvain Arsenault. The marketing agency Prospek had seen our media release via my interview on RDI and benefiting from the wage subsidy, the agency graciously gathered its team to put together a plan to save Quebec’s sugar shacks.
From there came the project “Ma Cabane à la Maison”
The concept is to offer a digital platform bringing together the maple groves of Quebec and thus allowing the population to order their maple meals while living a traditional experience; folk music, maple history, suggested family activity list at home, sugar route, and more! A question arose; How to distribute our lunch boxes when the majority of sugar bushes in Quebec are found in remote regions. It was then that our team contacted the proudly here grocery banner, Metro. At first, Metro was touched by our situation and they immediately mobilized their team to help us. We then had nearly 200 drop-off points across Quebec made available!
Fieldwork began. It was personally that I contacted the nearly 200 Quebec sugar shacks in all corners of the province. For some it was already too late, for others this incredible project represented their last chance of survival. After several weeks on the phone, we had nearly 70 participants from Gaspésie to Lac St-Jean, passing through the Laurentians, the Outaouais and Montérégie!
With a marketing team, support from Metro, and 70 participating sugar shacks, we now needed a web platform in an era where all technology boxes are overwhelmed. Who wants to create in less than 8 weeks a cross-geolocation site with more than 70 transactional stores, 200 Metro and an experience component; the 404 agency and UEAT, both Montreal companies affected by the cause. A thousand times thank you!
Now there was the supply. We needed nearly 300,000 cardboard boxes with insulation and more than 1,000,000 containers to store in the dining rooms of the Chalet des Érables to then be distributed across the province, without any cash. Everything had to be made in Quebec and 100% recyclable. This impossible mission, we would not have been able to achieve without partners such as Cascade, Emballage LM and Groupe Lacroix. In addition to their confidence in this project, Groupe Lacroix has even committed to providing thousands of free containers to all participants in addition to having the environment as a priority. All our containers are 100% recyclable class 5 with no added sticky, which would have automatically disqualified them.
Finally, it was important for the team to transport the warmth from our dining rooms to your homes. What a crazy idea to include a performance by Quebec artists with any purchase of a boxed lunch! Thanks to Boucane en Direct for bringing together Daniel Boucher, Yves Lambert, Guylaine Tanguay and les 2 Frères who will sing in your living rooms and hopefully make you stomp your foot!
Other valuable collaborators have joined the wave; Transcontinental, SOMA Production, Lafleur sausages, Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, the Quebec Egg Federation, Tuango and Solutions RTR, all keys to our success!
We are therefore the happy investigators of this incredible solidarity project, which without the support of all these Quebec companies, nothing would be possible …
Together, all united, let’s preserve the sugar season tradition!
4th generation of Chalet des Érables
Co-founder of Ma Cabane à la Maison