There was a time, the locals say, when the sweet smell of coffee permeated the village air in Chesterville.
Early risers would catch their first whiff of it as the town came to life day after day following a nighttime of hibernation, with folks stepping out of the shadows to face what was before them.
For Chesterville was the coffee king, with a flagship factory of the Nestle Canada brand, a sprawling 373,000-square-foot campus that employed hundreds of people in its heyday.
By the mid-2000s, however, those days were gone.
The Swiss-headquartered corporation pulled up its stakes, mere months after hundreds of thousands of dollars were funnelled into the factory for a raft of upgrades.
The dream was over, and the village was in near ruins. The Township of North Dundas, too, carried the weight of the loss, as suddenly countless residents were out of work.
What remained was a former titan of industry left to rot, and fade into ruin.
Interim owners and other users made use of various sections of the monstrous factory, but the bulk of the space was stripped of anything of value.
Taxes owed on the facility also got too heavy for the site’s last official owner, a Toronto-based trust, and North Dundas eventually moved to clear the backlog from its books.
The saga officially ended in 2015 when then Ottawa-based IDP Group reached an agreement with the municipality to buy the former factory, bringing it back to life as not only its company headquarters, but a space for other upstarts and business needs.
Since then, thousands of tons of garbage have been vacated from the space as the transformation, albeit slowly, is underway.
That’s what makes Wheaton Income’s intention to overhaul significant space at the site for cannabis production all the more appealing. For not since the days of Nestle has there been such optimism attached to the factory.
For their part, three principals involved in the site’s rebirth as a major pot producer stood before a crowd of more than 100 people at the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce’s annual general meeting last week to keep the momentum related to the project moving forward.
If even 75 per cent of what they said turns out to be true, it’s good news for a village long desperate for good news.
Turn your nose down at marijuana if you must, but know that this plan is a net benefit for all of North Dundas. It will be a jobs producer, in a region that needs them, and it will lead to the turnaround of a large piece of land in Chesterville that desperately needs it.
No longer should anyone count on Nestle coming back; move past that.
Put this new plan in your pipe and smoke it.