Located just north of downtown Dresden, the Crappie Store and BLB Honey & Beekeeping Supplies are calling the old Dresden port their home. The businesses which are owned and operated by Bria and Tyler Atkins, are two successful graduates from the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre Starter Company Plus program. Celebrating their second year in business this month, the businesses have nearly doubled their sales from their first year of operation.
The Crappie Store, named for the fish which is popular across Ontario, had always been a dream for Bria and Tyler. "Tyler and I, ever since we've lived in Dresden, have looked at the store and location as the perfect place to start a live bait shop and hunting and fishing store," says Bria Atkins, "because it's on Highway 21 ̶ it's on the Sydenham River, and we were lacking any kind of outdoor recreation equipment services in this area."
"Both my husband I went into this on nothing but ambition and pure faith. Both of us were professionals in completely different careers," says Bria. "For The Crappie Store, we went to the Starter Company Plus program to get it going and known out in the community. I got incredible benefits from doing this program because I had never had any academic business experience. I never took a business course in all of my schooling… taking this course actually built a really good foundation of the language, structures and components of small business that I was lacking."
In 2016, the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre helped the Atkins form a business plan and obtain a $5,000 small business grant. Along the way the Small Business Centre has been providing advice, consultation, and mentorship on ways to develop their business.
"This couple is absolutely amazing and the amount that they have achieved in two years is astounding," said Rosemarie Montgomery, Business Consultant with the Small Business Centre. "They are always working on improving the business, making connections into the community, and finding out what their customers need. It's wonderful to see the extra hours they are investing turn into a business which is going to support their family for generations."
Life is busy for these energetic entrepreneurs. Over the past two years the stores have expanded to include a wide range of products and services including a fleet of canoe, kayak, and stand-up board rentals, bottle return depot, beekeeping workshops, hunting and fishing licences plus safety training, and much more.
"For our third year, our plan is to continue maintaining and efficiently controlling our rapid growth that we are experiencing… and continue redeveloping the property and making it beautiful and pristine for the public," says Bria. "I mean, we have grown from 6 hives to having 38 hives. Plus, I'm so happy that we have picked up several beekeeping contracts for several local businesses; it's the kind of partnership that helps everyone."
It seems that, thanks to the dreams and hard work of the Atkins, and with help from the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre, commerce and life have truly returned to the site of the old steamboat wharf in Dresden.
"It's come a long way. Every day is a new project and we just keep moving forward," says Bria.
The Crappie Store and BLB Honey & Beekeeping Supplies are located at 102 Metcalfe Avenue in Dresden, Ontario. You can also find them online at
Marketing and Communications Officer, Economic Development Services
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
Phone: 519-352-8401 x2039