A Breath of Fresh Air in Lakeside Tourist Town
It’s a quaint little town of about 5,000 people nestled on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world.
Despite its 100-plus years of history and relatively small population, Gimli is defying the odds and flourishing at a time when many small towns across the country are struggling to retain their population and attract new business.
It’s a bustling beach resort in the summer months, and hosts many attractions that would be the envy of any big city across Canada – the annual Icelandic festival, which celebrates the town’s Icelandic heritage, the annual Gimli Film Festival, a world class Blue Flag-designated beach, and many boutique shops, co ee joints, and galleries.
One of the newest spots on the Gimli scene is Ship & Plough Tavern, which opened in the summer of 2013. In a short time, it has developed a reputation as a must-see place to catch some live music or have a meal out.
“We’ve been warmly embraced by the community since we opened our doors,” said Ship & Plough owner Scott Carman. “We seem to have lled a gap in the market. I believed there was room to raise the bar when it came to entertainment options in Gimli, and it seems I wasn’t wrong.”
Raising the bar, according to Carman, means serving quality food and drinks, o ering the best customer service, and creating a unique pub-style atmosphere.
“We strive to be the best; I want the Ship & Plough to be seen as a forward-thinking operation in the industry and in our community,” Carman said.
The menu at the Ship & Plough features a number of made-in-Manitoba items, including Braman’s Greens, la Cocina nacho chips, Peak of the Market veggies, Elman’s pickles, Bothwell cheese, Lake Winnipeg pickerel, and much more, including Crown Royal whiskey distilled in Gimli.
“We’re the only game in town that’s putting such an emphasis on local,” said Carman. “In doing so, our ingredients are the freshest possible, and at the same time we’re supporting our friends and neighbours – the fishers and farmers who frequent us. It’s a win-win situation that supports the Manitoba economy.”
The pub’s name itself – Ship & Plough – pays homage to the fact that the Interlake region of Manitoba is an economy based on fishing and farming.
The pub also boasts quality beer on tap, including Guinness, Stella Artois, and a house beer called Shipwreck Ale, which is specially made by Big Rock Brewery. And, of course, local brews such as Half Pints, Fort Garry, and Farmery all feature prominently on the menu.
A cocktail is named after famed lmmaker Guy Maddin, who frequents the pub. The drink is described as ‘dark and murky – in the style of his films.’
In 2015, the Ship & Plough was named one of the best places to eat in Manitoba by Canadian Geographic magazine. In 2016, it was named one of ‘17 cool joints to eat at this summer’ by Travel Manitoba, on their website manitobahot.com.
While the Ship & Plough opened with an emphasis on food, it quickly became one of the province’s premiere live music venues. It currently hosts live music – which is usually free – every weekend. It also puts together a winter music series of ticketed shows, which locals can buy as a season package.
“There was clearly an appetite for live entertainment,” said Carman. “Now, three years later, we’ve hosted some of Manitoba’s best – Scott Nolan, Romi Mayes, Little Miss Higgins, the F-Holes – as well as bands crossing the country on tour.”
This year’s winter music series is already underway, with shows still to come from Lindsey White, the Black River Drifters, Jaxon Haldane from the D. Rangers, Micah Erenberg, and a joint performance by Mark Reeves and Keith Macperson.
“Gimli is such a seasonal town,” said Carman. “This series of shows in the o - season gives the locals something to do when the town is quiet. It’s a great night out that everyone can look forward to once a month.”
If live music isn’t your thing, there are many other options.
The Ship & Plough often hosts comedy nights with some of the top comedians from the Winnipeg comedy scene, and the pub’s weekly schedule is filled with other events like karaoke night on Wednesdays, pub quiz on Thursdays,
as well as open mic nights and poetry events hosted by the Lake Winnipeg Writers Group.
“In a town like Gimli, you have to be a little bit of everything to appeal to everybody,” said Carman. “You can’t just be a sports bar or a music venue or a restaurant. The market is too small. You have to plan events that appeal to different segments of the population, and try to bring everyone together.”
It’s that kind of approach that seems to be paying o for Carman and the Ship & Plough crew. Ask any of the locals around Gimli, and they’ll tell you that the new pub is the talk of the town.
“The Ship & Plough has literally changed my life,” said Cheryl Ashton, a Gimli resident and former director of the Gimli Film Festival. “It’s a place where you can go and feel comfortable, knowing that you can meet like-minded people and be able to strike up meaningful conversations. Before the Ship & Plough, there was no place like it in Gimli.”
Chad Ermel, owner of Flatland Coffee Roasters in Gimli and part owner of Dogwood Co ee in Winnipeg, agreed.
“It’s got this great vibe that you’d expect to nd in the Exchange District or on Corydon or in Osborne Village,” Ermel said. “It’s hip to the music scene and what’s happening in the culinary world in terms of sourcing local products.”
The Ship & Plough also bills itself as a ‘safe space.’ The owner is openly gay, and he strives to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and safe, regardless of their age, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
“I wondered what it would be like opening a place like this in a small town in rural Manitoba,” said Carman. “But, honestly, the community has embraced me and my business. I couldn’t be happier with the way we’ve been received by the locals, and that means the world to me.”
Carman describes Gimli as very progressive.
“There’s a can-do attitude in Gimli,” he said. “We’ve got a supportive town council, a great artistic community, and lots of creative thinkers. There’s lots of opportunity here and I think Gimli hasn’t even come close to reaching its full potential.”
The Ship & Plough is open year-round. The pub is active on all social media – you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
With the busy Christmas season just around the corner, you might want to pop in and pay them a visit. They have a variety of souvenirs for sale – Ship & Plough T-shirts, Ship & Plough pint glasses, as well as gift cards available in any denomination – for that special someone on your shopping list.
For more information about the pub, call them at 204-642-5276 or email info@ shipandplough.ca.