As of Nov 16 2011,
dates will be used
document to help
identify new and/or
Canadian Classic Food Products,
Sunset Country Resort Services,
Canadian Classic FishFry & Al Sebastian
These webpages summarize my unfortunate experience as an investor/partner with Al Sebastian in his Canadian Classic Food Products (CCFP) business. Canadian Classic Food Products is a Northern Ontario (Thunder Bay) based business whose primary product is a fish coating and beer batter mix called Canadian Classic FishFry coating mix along with a companion line of spices known as Canadian Classic Fish and Game Spice Rub. I've been told these products are much better than the typical breading type of products that are available. It's Al's business practices that are the source of the problems.
His mission statement sounds good, "We are a new and unique wholesale business located in Thunder Bay Ontario, founded on the principals of old fashioned quality, service, and value..." it's too bad it wasn't followed. After all, doesn't "old fashioned service" imply integrity and honesty?
My hope is that if you're approached by Al Sebastian to invest in Canadian Classic Food Products, Sunset Country Resort Services (SCRS), Canadian Classic FishFry or whatever "promotion" he's running in the future you'll take my experience into account, say no and please let me know about it.
I'm usually not a big fan of advertising, but occasionally something interesting pops-up.
Please let me know if you have seen any of these products during your travels or in your local store.
(Updated: May 13/13)
This webpage was started long after the adventure began, so I'll start off with a bit of history and eventually get caught up with the current situation.
I worked for the Thunder Bay Public Library at the time and I was dealing the public everyday. Al Sebastian became a regular visitor in the Fall of 2009 and started telling us about his big plans to relaunch his Canadian Classic Food Products fish fry batter and shore lunch business. As time went on I mentioned that I was a professional photographer, owned a small photography business and began discussions with Al concerning the possibility of supplying him with product and promotional photography in return for promoting my photography business to his resort clients.
Al began telling me about the details of his plan to relaunch his Canadian Classic Fish Fry business and claimed to have a business plan in place which would get him there for the 2011 season. Al eventually asked if I'd be interested in loaning him some money to enable to him to move his timetable ahead by one year.
In December 2009 I decided to loan Al the money in exchange for a 25% share of the profits* with the loan (+interest) to be repaid in full by September 2010. The repayment date was later verbally extended to December 2010. As of today (Oct 19/11), I haven't received any payments towards the outstanding dept (almost $20,000) or my share of the profits. I realized later that I should have agreed to a share of the sales not the profits.
Here's the URL for his Canadian Classic FishFry / Food Products website (www.classicfishfry.com) and by the way, if you're also looking for Al his full name is Albert Michael Sebastian and he still lives on Donald Street in Thunder Bay.
My intention is to keep this website online for the foreseeable future and update it as needed. The Small Claims Court judgement against Al will require renewing every 5 years, overall my expenses to continue harassing Al in this manner will be minimal. You'd be surprised how much traffic this site gets and how high it ranks in search engine results.
While I was at it, I've also registered the following domain names to help people find this page:
As you can see, they're all names or phrases that Al uses to describe his products and services.
Being a bit of a computer nerd I decided to write a program that scans the server logs and every so often something interesting emerges, such as:
* I realized much later that I should have gone for a lower percentage rate and had it based on gross sales which is much easier to prove in court.
- Cabela's head office in Sidney (Nebraska) have been looking around as well.
- Someone at this Toronto (Ontario) IP address [22.214.171.124] was visiting this site almost daily. It seems they've recently moved to a new workplace [126.96.36.199] but are continuing to visit this site several times per week. I guess old habits are hard to break. Who knows, perhaps they're Al's accomplices or his mysterious third party financial group looking for clues as to what's coming next or who I've been talking to.
- Another frequent visitor has appeared and this time they're right in my backyard. [188.8.131.52] is a Thunder Bay Shaw cable subscriber, maybe it's my "buddy" Al wondering what his clients are complaining about. After I became involved in this adventure Al told me he owed Thunder Bay Telephone money (that's why he used a prepaid phone card) and had to get his TV/Internet from Shaw.
- An interesting pattern appears to be emerging. There appear to have been several occurrences when the Thunder Bay and Toronto based visitors were looking at this site at about the same time. It's almost as if they're occasionally talking to each while viewing this site.
That's what happens when you trust someone who turns out to be a "professional".
During the early part of 2010 there were a few bumps along the way:
- Al was supposed to use the majority of my investment as seed money to leverage additional funds from government agencies, that never happened as Al came up with other ideas.
- One of his other ideas was something called "Sunset Country Resort Services" another was "The Fish & Chicken Shack". Where do these fit into the plan? I'm beginning to think Al has Champagne tastes and a bottled water budget. These other projects might be possible in the future, but why don't we concentrate on the core fishfry business and leave the dreamy stuff on the back burner until next year.
- Another idea that popped up out of nowhere was adding Jerky and Pepperettes to the product line. Al was all about expanding the product line to impress customers. What about concentrating on the basics instead drifting all over the place?
- Guess what? Let's add a selection of Premium Meats & Seafood to the bundle as well. Now all we need is a refrigerated vehicle to transport the frozen goodies, but Al knew where there was a "good deal" on a vehicle with a freezer/cooler.
- There were some packaging problems, Al didn't like the colours of the bags or something along those lines. These problems were eventually sorted out and the blame was placed on the supplier.
- It turns out Al didn't have a vehicle, the van in his parking spot wasn't road worthy. Al claimed that Louie from LA Quality Foods (Frank's Locker Service) was supposed to let him use a van for the summer and Al was going to reimburse Louie for the use of the vehicle. The loaner vehicle never showed up and Summer was approaching, so I volunteered to use my vehicle until he could get something arranged. There were all sorts of excuses for this screw up and we ended up using my vehicle (& trailer) for everything.
- Al didn't offer to cover my vehicle expenses and I didn't ask about it. I figured that was my contribution to getting this business off the ground.
- With all this messing around, is it any wonder that we ended up months behind schedule and didn't get any product out the door until sometime in June. Most fishing related businesses would have had their summer supplies already ordered by now.
- Al claimed he was spending a lot of time at the Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre. According to their website, "The Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre is funded through a partnership between the Province of Ontario and the City of Thunder Bay. We exist to offer free and confidential small business counselling services to both new and existing small businesses.". According to Al, he was one their best and most promising clients. Either Al was stretching the truth or someone needs to have a serious look at how the Entrepreneur Centre is operating.
On the road
Since Al didn't have a vehicle I wound up spending roughly every 2nd weekend during the summer on the road with him all over this part of the country. We covered Fort Frances, Kenora, Red Lake, Ignace, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Geraldton, Nipigon and several other locations throughout Northern & Northwestern Ontario. I turned down several paying photography jobs in order get this project off the ground.
Using my vehicle and trailer was not part of the original agreement, my involvement was supposed to be limited to being the money-guy. We split the cost of the gas 50/50, but nothing was offered for vehicle wear and tear (and we spent a lot time on the road, probably in the neighbourhood of 5,000 kms).
We moved a lot of Canadian Classic Fish Fry that summer. I was surprised how well it sold and impressed by how much the customers loved the products. I began to hope this endeavour might work out after all.
It seemed like whenever Al talked to local distributors about handling the product he came back with something like ".. they don't know what they're doing... they don't know how to sell my stuff...". I began to wonder what he was up to, these companies have been around for decades and I figured they must be doing something right.
Al was always going on about how important trust is and how his "previous business partner" (Don Harris of Sebastian's Fine Foods, which was based in Westfort) had left him with a pile of debts and good old honorable Al was making sure everyone would get paid. As time went on I began wondering if the "woe is me" story I was hearing had the names reversed and maybe it was Don Harris who might have been the victim.
FYI: I had an interesting chat with Don at a much later date. It turns out that Don's experiences and financial losses in connection with Al Sebastian's Canadian Classic Fishfry plans were much worse than mine. Don was definitely the victim from their association.
Al was also always talking about how he liked to use other peoples money instead of risking his own money, be the middle-man as he put it. Al mentioned fairly often that his reason for being in the fish coating business was to support his fishing habit, at the time I thought he was joking. I'm the money guy in this situation and this is what he's bragging about (should I be getting concerned yet)?
The following series of E-Mail messages regarding a sales/promotional trip planned for the May long weekend turned out to be the typical pattern for the rest of the "adventure". It changes from things are going great..., to there's no money... or something/someone screwed up,...
On 5/14/2010 10:30 PM, Canadian Classic Food Products wrote:
> Hi Rob,
> Give me call this weekend, we'll have tea. We need to talk about the long weekend (May
> 24th). I haven't formulated a game plan and will not do so without discussing things with
> you first. I don't want to commit you to doing something without your prior approval. So,
> lets make a plan to establish a set criteria and agenda with clearly defined tasks to be
> completed during our weekend adventure. We have an established list on my site so lets try
> to complete it. We just need to discuss how and where we're going to do it, cost sharing,
> logistics, etc.
> Oh yeah, things are going great. Better than expected. I'll tell you all about it when I
> see you. Give me a call. I'm up early.
> Regards, Al
> Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 20:28:30 -0400
> From: Rob Chandler
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: this weekend
> hi Al
> Just thought I'd touch base and see how things are shaping for this weekend's trip.
>On 5/20/2010 7:15 AM, Canadian Classic Food Products wrote:
> Hi Rob,
> It's not looking good for this weekend. I'm out of money until James comes for the van.
> He's waiting for a deposit on a job contract. It will be any day now. That's O.K. because
> I can keep working from here to get some more sales. More good news. I have another
> meeting with one of the two Canadian Tire General Managers this morning. He is now helping
> me to put our products in all 478 stores. He is directly responsible for 2 Thunder Bay
> fishing tackle manufacturers having their products in Canadian Tire. Both Thunder Bay
> stores are supporting the idea. They know how to get it done so they want to help.
> I have a bit of work ahead of me yet. I need to do a few things that will cost money that
> I don't have yet. New nutrition panels, new recipes, new label designs. All this is very
> near completion. If things go as planned our products will be in Canadian Tire stores
> early in 2011 with an initial order of roughly $1.25 million before the end of this year.
> You know that I don't want to ask but time is of the essence. James is buying the Van as
> soon as he comes up with the money. He's been here 3 times about it because he really
> needs it. Can you loan me $2,000.00 until the Van is paid for. If so, I can get everything
> done and on the website before the end of the month. Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops are also
> waiting for samples and our proposal.
> There have been lots of unexpected expenses but I suppose that was to be expected. When I
> start creating something unrestricted, well, you can see first hand what can happen.
> Any how, let me know if you are in the position to do anything. If not, I'll just have to
> wait until I have the money. Now, or a week from now, it's going to happen either way.
> Regards, Al