Our paths through life aren’t predetermined, never straightforward, and quite often our execution to our goal can go astray by the slightest of miscalculations and obstructions. Likewise, these unexpected breaks can make for the most interesting outcomes.
Such was the case for Martin Pauze of Lafontaine. At age 37, he is the co-owner of The Pool Hall in Tiny Township, just on the outskirts of Midland’s east side.
“I was a volleyball player for many years, did fairly well, I was even coaching for awhile," said Pauze. "And then during one of our practices, I busted up one of my ankles — jumping was kind of out of the question.
“So one day — I’ve always played pool as a recreational sport, I just have that competitive drive in myself — a friend of mine asked me ‘Why don’t you come out and play some pool?’" he recalled.
While he wasn't overly interested, he decided to accept the invitation.
“And then all of a sudden I went from being a player to the captain, to running the league, and then I became a mentor for a number of players, teaching them how to play and showing them pool etiquette," said Pauze.
In 2012, Pauze connected North Simcoe to the Canadian Poolplayers Association (CPA), eventually growing the CPA franchise locally from 14 to 44 teams. That same year, Pauze battled 200 other players in the National Singles Championships in Las Vegas.
“I’ve gone to the Worlds multiple times, I’ve represented our area and finished 17th in the Worlds for singles in the highest amateur pool tournament in the world, and there’s guys (in the local area) that are better than me that just haven’t competed in that," he explained.
“Midland alone has sent probably over 15 eight-man teams to Vegas to compete in the Worlds as well, so our track record is good," he said. "Every year we send a couple of teams if not more, including Masters, Ladies, Scotch Doubles. We actually had a Jack and Jills team— it’s a team of two males and females— come second in the Worlds.”
Billiards has been one of Midland’s most popular sports, dating back as far as 1881 when Nap’s Pool Hall was constructed within the downtown core of the lumber and grain village for the entertainment of residents and sailors alike.
Now, 140 years later, The Pool Hall remains one of the few billiards institutions in the area.
“The old location was on Vinden Street, and me and my partner (co-owner Cindy Cleaveley) took that over, but only for a few brief months until our new place here on Balm Beach Road was ready," said Pauze. "At the old place, (casual players) were very minimum. It was run just as a pool hall with not very much curb appeal.
“Since we’ve moved to Balm Beach Road… It was nothing to go there on a Saturday night — and no leagues were playing so it’s not just the pool players — and it was packed. I mean, our capacity is 175 and there were a couple of times I went around with a counter just to make sure we weren’t hitting it.”
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted The Pool Hall as much as every other sporting outlet, reducing the current capacity to 50 players for the 15 tables. It’s something which Pauze has fought to remedy on behalf of his customers.
“We’re going a little bit more than what the (Ministry guidelines are mandating),” says Pauze. “We’re disinfecting our balls, tables, and cues in between every use of play. Customers come in, they want to use the pool tables. We hand them the balls that have already been disinfected before they arrive, the tables and the cues as well.”
Once players’ games are complete, they return items to be disinfected while the table they used is placed out of service until sanitization procedures are complete.
“Also, we’re disinfecting the entire pool hall of any surfaces that have been touched every two hours.”
Pauze reasons, “It’s definitely a little bit more on our staff, and you know… we’ve got to do what we have to do to protect our clients.”
The added measures have attracted players from outside North Simcoe.
“We had a couple of outsiders from Barrie, Bradford and Brampton come in on a Saturday tournament that we ran, and they mentioned that they were very impressed with how our cleaning schedule is," said Pauze. "They actually stopped going to their local pool halls because they weren’t happy with the sanitization.
“(A player) said ‘We were really leery about coming into a pool hall; we wanted to check it out and see how things are, and we’re really happy with the sanitization.’ It’s a big deal for a lot of people.”
Pauze’s care for the community is evident in his efforts to contribute however he can.
“We’ve actually run a few different fundraising tournaments.Sometimes we’ll pick someone in the area, or someone will come up to us and say ‘Listen, this person is going through something really hard right now.’ So we’ve run a number of tournaments to try to generate some money for them and then donate it to them," he said.
“Right before COVID-19 hit, we were going to start running a tournament once a month, and anyone could come in and suggest — whether it be for their church or the Knights of Columbus, any group in the area that wanted to try to raise some money for a particular thing — we said we’ll host the tournament, we’ll run the tournament, and you guys advertise for it.”
Pauze stated that in their fundraising efforts, the Pool Hall had raised $2,600 for an ALS recipient and almost $3,000 toward a regular undergoing a kidney transplant.
“We’re always constantly looking for ways to give back to the community as much as we can.”
For information or hours of operation for The Pool Hall, visit the website or call 705-526-6663.