For two local business owners, the smell of fresh-cut fries is a sure sign summer has arrived.
Carole and James Mackenzie, owners and operators of The Chipper at Sunset Point Park in Collingwood. Celebrating their 15th summer in service, the Mackenzies pride themselves on serving much more than just food to locals and tourists alike.
“I want the experience for people when they come here to be so special. That’s why I built The Chipper,” said Carole. “It’s so much more than just a place to grab a bite. It is exciting to come here, it’s an experience.”
The Chipper first opened as a chip truck in 2007 before relocating into the building at Sunset Point in 2015. Since then, its menu has grown to include much more than just beach treats. The family-friendly eatery offers a variety of meals, from its famed fresh-cut fries, sweet potato fries and poutine, to burgers, fish and chips, fish tacos, and dozens of different flavours of Central Smith Ice Cream — served on a homemade waffle cone of course.
Carole researches all of the products heavily before she puts anything on her menu, and James personally cooks the food for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
“We have such good food because we put all our care and love into all of it,” said Carole.
Rain or shine, the eatery is open from the end of April until September, serving hot food from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and ice cream until sunset. With pristine views of Georgian Bay and a breathtaking sunset almost every night, the couple says The Chipper’s location is “unrivalled.”
“We are quite a destination actually, we have so many people who get so excited when they pull into Collingwood — it’s the first place they want to stop when they arrive in town,” said Carole. “I think the location is quite breathtaking.”
The location is what sold Carole and James in the first place.
Prior to The Chipper, the couple — who have been married for over 35 years — ran a sports store in Sarnia. After retiring, they got the idea to run a chip truck through the summer months and spend their winters in Florida. With kids off at university, Carole and James headed north, hoping to find property in the Muskoka area. They happened to pass through Collingwood along the way and pulled into Sunset Point for a pit stop, and were completely blown away.
“Right away I jumped up and down and said this was the place,” said Carole. “We fell in love with the park as soon as we saw it.”
Since then, Collingwood — and Sunset Point in particular — has become home in more ways than one.
“I don’t think I chose it, I think it chose me. I just had a vision when I saw it,” said Carole. “The energy brought me here. It’s like I belong here.”
The couple has gotten to know their Collingwood regulars well over the years, and even their employees have become more like family.
“We love, love, love our Collingwood customers,” said Carole. “Fifteen years is a long time to learn about a community and have a chance to chat with everyone and see what they are up to. Kids who used to come here now come with kids of their own.”
Along with James and Carole there are about 12 other employees scooping ice cream and serving fries at The Chipper — some of which have worked there every summer for eight years.
“We really are a family,” said Carole.
In 2018, The Chipper went completely compostable, and Carole and James are always looking for new ways to add to the experience and do more for their community. Fortunately, the pandemic didn’t halt their business in any way, but it did make the park busier than ever and Carole has expressed concerns regarding parking for Collingwood residents and her regular customers.
“The park has improved so much over the years,” said Carole. “The town has grown, too. We just hope it doesn’t lose its charm.”
In the future, Carole and James are toying with the idea of having table service on their patio and adding a selection of craft beer and local wine to their menu.
“We don’t want to complicate and change what the Chipper is, but I do think change is good,” said Carole.
That being said, Carole assured that The Chipper’s energy will always remain the same.
“It’s nostalgic,” she said. “The people of Collingwood, my staff included, have made The Chipper what it is.”
The Chipper is open seven days a week from April to September, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with ice cream available until sunset.
For more information, visit The Chipper’s website.