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Former Little Christo’s factory in DeSable to become three new businesses

After sitting vacant for several years, the former Little Christo’s pizza factory in DeSable will soon be a hub of business activity once again.

Charles Duffy, co-owner of CA Ventures (along with Austin Roberts), said the deal to buy the building finalized in January.

The 33,000 square-foot building is located off the Trans-Canada Highway near the Old Tyron Road.

Duffy estimates that, for the most part, the building has been empty for about 20 years.

Duffy said the plan is to offer three services – The Iceman ice manufacturer and distributor; cold and dry storage and exchanging, refurbishing and refilling 20-pound propane cylinders. Duffy and his wife are co-owners of The Iceman.

Duffy said the propane service is unique in that it will involve providing the services on the Island rather than shipping the tanks off-Island to be serviced and then shipping them back for customers.

“We’re trying to break into that market a little bit and do it from P.E.I.,” he said.

“Most Islanders, they like to support Islanders. So, if there is an opportunity here to support us, that they’ll take advantage of us. And, they like to see their money staying on the Island,” he said.

Duffy expects to hire 20 people at the facility.

Each of the services will have a trade name, but the overall business is going to be called The Ice Box.

The renovations included a new roof, new siding and a couple of new loading docks, while the inside of the building was “surprisingly in very good condition,” Duffy said. Once renovations are completed, Duffy said the plan is to begin operations in late May.

Duffy said they’ve had their eye on the building for a while. An aspect they liked was the location.

“We’re right on the Trans-Canada Highway – probably central between Summerside and Charlottetown and just off the bridge. So, for dry storage and cold storage, it’s ideal from the trucking sector. There’s some cold storage on P.E.I., but it’s mostly east and west.”

Charles Duffy co-owner, along with with Austin Roberts, of CA Ventures

Austin Roberts’ wife Ramona is in charge of human resources at the business.

On April 3, the business received a $2,007,935, five-year term loan with interest from the province under the Island Investment Development Act to purchase and renovate the property.

Another business the Roberts are involved with – RWL Holdings Ltd. – also received a five-year term loan under the act for $5.2 million with interest in order to put in a second line at its potato pre-processing and wash facility in Travellers Rest.

The Roberts (Kinkora Holdings Inc.) are co-owners of RWL Holdings with two other farms – Valley Grove Enterprises Ltd. and Hilltop Produce Ltd.

Andrew Lawless of Hilltop Produce explained the plan is to have a second line that washes potatoes and has “state of the art recycling of the water” as well as metal detectors and Newtec optical sorters and a chemical imaging machine.

“It’s amazing the technology that’s out there, and the more we can utilize it, the better off we’re all going to be,” he said.

Lawless said the second line will create 10 new jobs (including high-skilled jobs) in addition to the 30 people that already work at the facility.

He added that construction may start in the fall, although nothing has been finalized. He estimated it would take a year to build the second line.

Last week, the loans were brought up by Progressive Conservative Party MLA Steven Myers in relation to Ramona Roberts, who ran for the Liberal Party in the riding of Borden-Kinkora in 2015. He claimed that the loans were to secure Roberts as a future candidate. Roberts was defeated by the PC Party’s Jamie Fox by 443 votes.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan defended the loans and praised Roberts and her husband as great leaders in their community. Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer said the loans are based on the ability to repay and management expertise. As well, he said the staff at Finance P.E.I. wouldn’t know what someone’s political affiliation was when they were evaluating loans and making recommendations.

On Friday, Ramona Roberts declined to comment on the matter.

With files from Ryan Ross

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