18 months ago, Paige Chapman had never heard of Haliburton County.

Now, she and her partner, Mike Garland, are spearheading an initiative in the Highlands providing affordable housing to approximately half their staff members at the Minden and Haliburton Tim Hortons restaurants.

The pair moved to the area from Saint John, New Brunswick in February 2023. Paige said she’s leaning into the family business, with her parents owning four Tim Hortons franchises on the east coast.

She told The Highlander a deal to take over the two local restaurants will be finalized next month.

They’ve already began immersing themselves in the Highlands community – renting a condo in Haliburton village. After experiencing first-hand how difficult it is to find somewhere to live in the County, and how expensive it can be, Chapman said she and Garland started to talk to her employees about their living arrangements. They were shocked by what they heard.

Smile cookie campaign for VDO

“We’re really passionate about housing and making sure people have a safe space to live that they can afford. We found out pretty quickly that wasn’t the experience some of our employees were having,” Chapman said.

As part of the deal for the two franchises, the pair are purchasing three properties from previous ownership, which have been used in recent years to house staff. Seeing the need, they’ve bought two additional homes for the sole purpose of offering living space to staff at less than market value.

Chapman says 30 employees are living in the homes at less than half market rent, with 10 more arriving next week. The couple are hoping to close on a sixth property next month.

“It’s impossible to run a business when you’re short-staffed, and just improving the culture about working somewhere like Tim Hortons, that has been important to us,” she said.

Garland said their goal is to have five houses each in Haliburton and Minden. While priority will be given to Tim Hortons staff, they want to help other businesses attract muchneeded workers to the area.

Devon Woodrow, manager at the Haliburton location, said having an affordable place to call home has been lifechanging for him.

“It’s like night and day difference in terms of stress, anxiety… I’m so grateful to have this opportunity,” he said.

Ang Lopez has lived in Haliburton for 11 months after moving from the Philippines. Because of the lower rent, she’s been able to save some money, and even send some home to her family.

“I just feel so blessed – if I had to pay normal rent here, there wouldn’t be much [leftover]. I feel so relaxed and it helps with my mood knowing I don’t have to worry [about housing],” Lopez said.

Chapman is also looking for other local causes to support. Earlier this year she gave money to Scott Stewart to help fund a lacrosse camp he’s hosting for youth in Haliburton. She has also committed money raised through Tim Hortons smile cookie campaign, running April 29 to May 5, to non-profit Volunteer Dental Outreach.

All proceeds from the sale of the cookies will go to VDO, with Chapman aiming to raise $20,000 between the two stores.

“We’ve seen firsthand what VDO has done for some of our team members – we had some people with dental problems, they didn’t have a dentist and, even with insurance, they couldn’t afford the costs they were quoted. So, they went to VDO and couldn’t speak any higher about the level of service and care they received,” Chapman said.

VDO has treated well over 1,000 patients and completed more than $3 million in free dentistry since opening in 2011.

Now that they’re here, Chapman said she and Garland are excited to lay down some roots in Haliburton County.

“We’ve already grown to love the community, everyone is so community-oriented, it’s exactly what we were looking for in a new home and place to invest in,” she said.