Fred grew up in Port Colborne in the 1960s, and Lake Erie was the focal point of Fred's youth.
MEET THE PEOPLE
Fred – Port Colborne
Fred was named after his grandfather who worked as a police officer in Wales. In 1910, his grandfather moved to Canada and eventually ended up becoming Port Colborne, Ont.’s chief of police.
"If you grew up in Port Colborne, you spent your time on the lake."
In the 1970s, manufacturing jobs in Port Colborne “went away and never came back.” As the town’s economic development officer in the mid-1980s, Fred was part of an ambitious effort to take Port Colborne from a crashed industrial economy to a thriving recreational economy. This shift is still a work in progress, but the one consistent factor has been the lake.
“Lake Erie is Port Colborne’s strategic advantage.”
Fred and his wife Monica have opened several restaurants together over the years but noticed Port Colborne lacked a brewery. Fred’s son Conrad knew the beer business, so, in 2018, they opened their family brewery.
Breakwall Brewery gets its name from the breakwall (breakwater) in Gravely Bay that protects Port Colborne’s harbour. One of Fred’s fondest memories from his youth is learning how to waterski around that breakwall.
The brewery has a deep connection to Fred’s family and the area’s history. Cronmiller & White Brewing & Malting Company was Port Colborne’s most significant employer in the early 1900s. But in 1919, on the eve of prohibition, after delivering beer by horse to local establishments, police arrested Cronmiller & White’s employees. Fred’s grandfather was one of the officers there that night of the arrest. Subsequently, they charged the business with bootlegging and fined it thousands of dollars (a massive sum of money at the time). The brewery tried reopening after prohibition but could never recover.
With Breakwall Brewery, Fred registered to use the trade name Cronmiller & White Brewing & Malting Company. Every year, Breakwall Brewery produces a few select beers under the old name to pay homage to this history. Many descendants of the Cronmillers and Whites have visited Fred’s brewery, and recently, they even had a family reunion at the brewery.
“I jokingly say I’m honouring the Cronmiller & White Brewery because my grandfather threw them in jail!”
As a homeowner and a developer on the lake, Fred is concerned about the high water levels and significant erosion. Fred believes the situation will continue to worsen unless a long-term vision for waterfront protection is agreed upon internationally.
“We have lost a significant amount of property as a result of these ‘once in a hundred-year’ storms. The problem is that we have had four of these storms in the last four years! Breakwalls can’t stop these storms."
Fred is also concerned about the lake’s recurring algae problem.
“To anyone saying there is no climate change, just come live on Lake Erie, and you will see it.”
With each passing year, Fred’s business philosophy and goals have shifted more and more local. Fred wants to establish and support local businesses that create more jobs around Port Colborne. The pandemic has only heightened this quest.
“My hope is that we continue to utilize the lake as a strategic advantage to grow the local economy.”
Lake Erie and the millions of people who rely on it for their drinking water, local jobs, and so much more need your help.
The health of Lake Erie continues to decline. Action is needed more than ever to restore its health for current and future generations.
You can make a difference. Here’s how you can help protect the lake and support the people who are closely connected to it.