From Canada to England and Back

September 2017

The beginnings of Alexandra Bono and John Murray’s relationship stem back to 2002, when they were the last members of their high school friend group in Toronto to get summer jobs. This brought them closer together, and they spent many hot summer days hanging out at their friend’s pool.
John grew up in Thunder Bay and finished grade 9 at Fort William Collegiate Institute, but by grade 10 his family had relocated to Southern Ontario.
“We were in the same English class in grade 11,” Alexandra tells me. A moment later she turns to John, “or was it your brother who was in that class?”
They determine that the English classmate was, in fact, John’s brother, but the confusion is understandable as John’s brother is his identical twin.
“John asked me if I wanted to go Go-Karting,” recalls Alexandra when I ask about their first date.
For a year during post-secondary the two were long-distance as John was in Vancouver and Alexandra was still in Southern Ontario. After she finished school Alexandra joined John in B.C. and the two set off on a cross-country road trip.
“We spent many days on the road together and we only got in one fight,” Alexandra tells me with a laugh, “it was right at the end, in front of our destination.”
John proposed on Canada Day in downtown Toronto. “He was acting really weird that day,” recalls Alexandra. “He wouldn’t take his hands out of his pockets, which was odd because he never has his hands in his pockets. He also kept complaining about how many people were around.”
“There were people everywhere!” says John. “I wanted to propose during the fireworks, but it didn’t end up happening. I had to find the right moment.”
“He proposed that night in the hotel room. It was very romantic,” says Alexandra.

They were married in Mexico in 2006, and shortly afterwards they had a big celebration in Toronto with friends and family.

“I made the wedding cake,” says John. “It was a sugar showpiece.”

John has been cooking since he was 18. He took Hotel and Restaurant Management at Humber College in Toronto, and went on to do culinary training in Europe.

Alexandra and John lived in England for 8 years before moving to Thunder Bay and opening Red Lion Smokehouse in 2014. While they loved living in England, during the last half of their time spent there they started thinking about opening up their own business in Canada.

“We didn’t want to move from one massive city to another one,” says Alexandra of their choice to make Thunder Bay their home and the home of their restaurant. They saw opportunities in Thunder Bay and a niche for their English-pub-style restaurant in the waterfront district’s vibrant and ever-expanding food scene.

Another main reason to relocate to Thunder Bay is their love of what Thunder Bay does best: the outdoors.

“John has family roots in Thunder Bay, and he has a huge family camp that we love to spend the summers at. It’s great that the city is in close proximity to camp and to nature,” says Alexandra.

“Thunder Bay shines in the summer,” adds John, but he goes on to tell me that he and Alexandra go winter-camping in the colder months. Clearly, Thunder Bay winters don’t scare them off and sun or snow, they want to take full advantage of the breathtaking scenery and the amazing wilderness that Northwestern Ontario has to offer.

The couple has also taken up other winter activities, like skating, skiing, and snowshoeing.

John tells me that a few teachers he had while attending Kingsway Park Elementary School when he was a child have walked into Red Lion and recognized him as one of their students from years back. It surprises him every time.

Alexandra and John, along with Betty and Veronica (their two cats), feel very at home here in Thunder Bay where they can be close to nature.

Cassandra Blair has a Masters of Arts in English Literature and is a regular contributor to Bayview.

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