An entrepreneur, hockey coach, and proud Thunder Bay father is spearheading a new Shop Local campaign in his hometown.

On the right: Darrin Nicholas and son Nolan after a recent hockey tournament win. 

Darrin Nicholas, a lifelong resident of this Northern Ontario community, is launching to support small businesses in the city and help combat cross-border shopping.

Thunder Bay, the most populated city in Northwestern Ontario, is home to more than 100,000 Canadians. Located on the shores of  Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is a natural paradise and mecca for those who enjoy the great outdoors, with world-class boating, hiking and camping all around the city.

Darrin’s vision is to create a one-stop online shopping destination with that will make it easier for consumers to shop locally first, and choose to keep their dollars in the community instead of sending them south of the border.

Darrin Nicholas and’s first official member, Roy Pelletier (First Class Gas).

“As I’ve immersed myself into the Shop Local concept and been visiting and speaking with local business owners, it’s so clear that big box stores and online shopping are really killing our communities,” said Owner Darrin Nicholas. “You’ve got two choices: you either stand there and watch it dwindle away or you put a stake in the ground and try to do something about it. I guess I’m choosing the latter.”

Darrin came to entrepreneurship early when he purchased a Thunder Bay insurance brokerage at the age of 23. After selling the brokerage he stayed on for more than a decade to help keep the business thriving. Most recently, Darrin served as a Regional Sales Manager for a large propane company. With the launch of Darrin is making a move back to business ownership, while working to help promote many of the businesses he’s connected with over the years, along with new businesses opening up in his hometown.

“Many of the businesses in our Northern Ontario communities are struggling to survive with the rise of online shopping,” said CEO, Colin Pape. “We are excited to have people like Darrin — with a genuine passion for Shop Local — to lead the charge as we work to bring the Shop Local Movement back to cities across Canada. Darrin’s love for local and his strong background in entrepreneurship and sales will be a boon for Thunder Bay and the businesses that call it home.”

Darrin has coached minor hockey in Thunder Bay for over 30 years, including the Lakehead University Thunderwolves, and says he’s most proud of his own boys (Evan and Nolan), who are both pursuing hockey dreams — one finishing up high school and the other playing Canada’s game at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Darrin says in life, coaching and business he always reminds himself and others that “adversity doesn’t build character, but it reveals character.”

Local Thunder Bay businesses can now add their business to the online community directory at

Find online, on Facebook or on Twitter. Or, connect with Darrin online through LinkedIn.