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It has stood for 105 years as a measure of Thunder Bay’s history, a three-storey building with a restaurant that has fed generations of locals, many of them of Finnish descent. Others too, passing through or staying on the north shore of Lake Superior, have found comfort at the hallowed Hoito.
But now that building, once home to political activists, and its restaurant, the Hoito, are on the brink of financial ruin. With a debt load of more than $700,000, those working to keep the Hoito going are facing a hard fight. They understand what they’re up against and they know what could be lost.
“It’s filled with history,” said Kelly Saxberg, a member of the city’s Finlandia Association which oversees what was once the Finnish Labour Temple and is now a national historic site. “It’s a living museum.”
If you mention Thunder Bay to Canadians who live elsewhere, it won’t take long for them to mention the Hoito. The restaurant draws them all – workers, locals, tourists, even celebrities. Comedian Rick Mercer tried his hands at pancake making. Hockey legend Gordie Howe and his wife Colleen ate there. In 2009, Jordan Staal, then with the Pittsburgh Penguins, ate there and brought the Stanley Cup with him.