Are We Really Getting Such A Great Deal?

Whether we shop in an on-line or bricks and mortar store, the goal is to get the best deal so that we can save as much money as possible. But how much money are we really saving? Deals are structured to lure us into the store and then purchase as much as possible. They come in many forms: the increasingly popular BOGO, Buy One Get One Free; the big signs touting 50-70% off; on-line and paper flyers offering multiples for one low price and the offer of a discount if we sign up  for a credit card at the time of purchase.

This often leads to impulse purchases as we find it very hard to resists the deal being offered. We feel pampered and privileged as if the deal has been customized and personalize just for us. However, the quality of the item that we are buying be it an expensive item like a piece of furniture or an appliance or an inexpensive item like socks or belts has deteriorated to the point that there is little or no deal to be had if the furniture or appliance must be replaced within five years and the socks or belts have to be replaced within a few months.

These days, high quality and built to last items are rare perhaps non-existent. We look to designer names and quality brands yet they too have lowered their standards while raising their prices. They have replaced luxurious leather belts with reversible synthetics; produced purses with cheap materials and zippers whose ends are not properly sewn; built shoes with inexpensive soles that must be discarded rather than repaired; transformed thick cashmere sweaters into thin garments and decreased the amount of wool in coats to an afterthought.

While moving clothing and accessory manufacturing offshore has given us great deals in the short term, it has cost us more money in the long term as we frequently have to replace items that we hoped would last at least a season.

My dream is to own three businesses: a shoe business that builds fashionable and functional women’s shoes in all widths with soles and heels that can be repeatedly replaced; a purse business that creates fashionable and functional leather purses with sturdy handles, straps, linings and zippers; and finally, a clothing business that produces cotton shirts and wool and cotton skirts, sweaters, pants and dresses that fit women ages 20-90 with various body types.

If you are interested in partnering with me or in investing in one of these businesses, please contact me. I believe that we will be getting a far better deal buying well made, high quality items in small quantities rather than poorly made low quality items in large quantities. We will be spending more money in the short term yet saving more money in the long term. The money that we save can be invested in people and experiences rather than in stuff.

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The Exotic East Comes to King West

Both locals and visitors to trendy King West have noticed an increase in the number of international eateries on the block between Tecumseth and Niagara on King West. This short block is home to two Italian restaurants, a French café and an Irish pub. The newest entry to this international community is Simit + Chai which has brought the exotic food and drink of Turkey to King West.

At Simit + Chai, you will find Simplicity in the atmosphere + Complexity in the flavours and ingredients of their bite size sandwiches. You can also find Solitude + Community at Simit +Chai. If you need to focus on your work or be alone with your thoughts, Dee and John, the warm and welcoming owners, will find you just the right space. However, if you want to feel part of a community, there is one to be found at Simit + Chai – both neighbourhood locals and Turkish people from all over Toronto who have found a café that offers the best tastes and smells from home. You will get caught up in the embrace of Simit + Chai as Turkish tradition is one of kindness, generosity and hospitality.

Everything is baked fresh daily at Simit + Chai. There are simits which are very thin poppy or sesame seed covered bagels filled with tomatoes, feta cheese and/or olive paste. Other bakery offerings include: Dee’s yummy brownies and dense chocolate cake; almond cookies and three types of muffins: courgette, fig and walnut and white poppy seed. The fresh daily bite size sandwiches offer exotic combinations of flavours and ingredients and appeal to the diversity and sophistication of both visitors to and inhabitants of King West: asiago + olive paste; brisket + goat cheese + fresh greens; feta + tomato + lemon thyme; mozzarella + pepper paste + mint; pastrami + fava bean past + dill; prosciutto+ hummus + red pepper paste; and smoked salmon + cream cheese + capers + chives. You can also satisfy your simit craving with a bag of simit bites – perfect for snacking + dipping. Take them home with a container of homemade hummus and/or pepper paste with walnuts.

One of the most inspiring facts about Simit + Chai is the story of Dee and John, a dynamic duo – she, a respected and accomplished electrical engineer and he, a prosperous and successful architect and construction company owner who have traded in their respective professions to start what will eventually be a chain of cafes. They are pursuing their dreams through hard work, dedication and a commitment to excellence. Dee has been balancing the intense and exhausting demands of being a new mother and business owner while John has been balancing being a new father and business owner along with the inevitable sweat and challenges of converting and renovating a space on your own including building brick walls and painting huge walls.

So the next time you crave Simplicity + Complexity, Solitude + Community, Savoury + Creativity or you want to meet some truly positive and inspiring people, walk, ride or drive to Simit + Chai on the south side of King Street just east of Niagara.

 

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The Chase Is On: Leading the Pack in King West

When was the last time that you walked into a coffee shop or restaurant and the manager greeted you by name having only met you once before? When was the last time that you ate delicious food and sipped a coffee, tea or alcoholic beverage in a place that offered you a variety of atmospheres that catered to every mood and moment: the calm and quiet of a library with overstuffed couches and comfy wing chairs with books to read or browse; a bright sunlit room with a view of a skating rink or playground and joyous laughter and conversation lightening the mood or an elegant dining room with tables suited for small, intimate gatherings or large, boisterous groups of family and friends celebrating a special occasion?

Located in the Thompson Hotel in trendy King West, Colette, the French-inspired jewel in the crown of the Chase Hospitality Group is all of this and so much more. With its savvy and sophisticated owner, Steve, taking the time to survey the minute details of the food, service and atmosphere of his restaurant through a guest’s eyes and Harry, his engaging and charming manager constantly on the move making sure each guest is being given first-class treatment, Colette is leading the pack in the increasingly crowded and competitive hospitality market in King West.

Colette is not the only restaurant in the Chase Hospitality Group that provides its guests with a positive and memorable experience. A globe-trotting colleague of mine who is not only highly regarded and well respected for her knowledge of and experience with markets and businesses in Canada, U.S., Europe and Asia but who is also seen as savvy, sophisticated and selective about where she dines with clients and friends has consistently raved about the food and atmosphere at the other Chase Hospitality Group restaurants in the heart of the financial district in downtown Toronto. It’s definitely worth the trip to King West to get a taste of French cuisine and hospitality at Colette. You are in for a treat!

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Why It Pays To Keep A Receipt And File It In A Safe Place

A receipt is a valuable piece of paper. It is a proof of purchase that you need to return an item for a store credit or a cash or credit refund. I learned recently that it is not something to be carelessly thrown away, left behind, stuffed in a shoebox or tossed in a pile to gather dust. Here is a story of why it pays to keep a receipt and file it carefully in a safe place in your wallet, in a file on your phone or in a special envelope reserved for receipts in your bag or purse.

If you live in Canada and are responsible for doing the food shopping for yourself, your family or your friends, you know that buying food to stock your pantry each week now involves a well thought out strategy: listing the items required, researching the best prices and planning the most efficient way to spend your money and visit the required stores in the least amount of time. These days, being a price expert and bargain hunter has become fashionable especially when it comes to sourcing the best quality fresh fruits and vegetables at the lowest prices. Accessing websites such as www.save.ca to scan grocery flyers is a must on Thursdays and Fridays. To get the best deals on meat and produce, a visit to at least two different supermarkets is mandatory.

I have to admit that while I have been frequenting two competitive stores to do my weekly shopping and often storing the first store’s full bag of groceries in my shopping cart as I go through the checkout line for the second store, the staff at the second store has never asked me where I bought any of the items in my bag even though the groceries were in plain sight.

On Friday, January 29, Loblaws had a one-day sale on Christie Triscuit crackers at the excellent price of $1.00 a box. Needless to say, the store that I visited at Queen’s Quay seemed to have displays of Triscuit crackers at the start and end of every aisle and by the checkout lines. By the time I arrived at noon, many customers had already taken advantage of this amazing deal. After some consideration, I purchased two boxes, put them in my shopping bag and proceeded to the second store, the best and cleanest No Frills in Toronto on Front Street just west of Parliament Street. I purchased my items, packed them in my second shopping bag and put both bags in my cart. As I was returning my cart, I was startled by a voice behind me. I turned to see a man standing there who politely asked me if I had paid for the two boxes of crackers in my shopping bag. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to not only write down all of the money that I spend daily but also file my receipts in an envelope that I carry in my purse, I was able to quickly and easily access the receipt for the crackers which proved that I had purchased them at another store.

I am sure that there have been times when you have been in a hurry and lost, forgotten or tossed away your receipt. Guard your receipts as well as you do your cash, cards and phone. It pays to have proof of your purchases especially now when grocery shopping demands visits to multiple stores to get the best value for your dollar.

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King West Has Lost One of Its Best

While it was a warm and wonderful Christmas week, our joy was tempered by the sudden closing on December 23 of the Wagamama Cafe, one of the original artisanal coffee and food establishments to open on King West in downtown Toronto. The Wagamama Café hugged the northwest corner of King at Tecumseth one block west of Bathurst. When it opened in 2000, there were few coffee shops in the area and condominiums were either on the drawing board or merely a developer’s dream. It was the first gourmet coffee, tea and pastry shop in the neighbourhood and soon became the place to go for a great cup of coffee, a cup of imported loose leaf tea, homemade soups, hearty salads and generous sandwiches on fresh baked bread and both Japanese and Canadian sweets. As the years went by, it became the ideal location for a business meeting, job interview, coffee klatch or a place to focus and get some serious work done whether it was reviewing a legal contract, editing a book or poring over the design of a new space or property. “Wags”, as it was affectionately known, attracted a diverse, eclectic and sometimes well known clientele including many of the writers and artists occupying the lofts and studios as well as business people from the corporate offices in the neighbourhood. It also became a daily hangout for the many residents of the Summit and other condominiums that were built and populated on King West throughout the first decade of the millennium.

Miwa Yamada was the baker and creative force behind the Wagamama translated as selfish one in Japanese. She and her loyal team were anything but and had the best customer service and recognition in the neighbourhood. Whether it was to celebrate, confront, converse, collaborate or commiserate, the Wagamama was the place to go. A hot bowl of soup, a thick sandwich, a colourful salad or a large cookie, chewy brownie or delicious slice of cheesecake could cure whatever was ailing you. Unfortunately, Miwa passed away in October 2014 and with her, the Wagamama’s creative energy and spirit.

The Wagamama Café gave me so much in the many years that I spent there: a tutoring student, a coaching client, several friends and acquaintances and, most importantly, the love of my life.

I want to thank John, Miwa, Reiko, Lisa, Christine and the staff who worked there as well as the people whom I met there over the years. You gave me and so many others the priceless gifts of many wonderful times and lasting memories.

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A Memorable Meeting With An Inspiring Individual

Last Sunday, I was sitting with my partner by the fire in a rather quiet and relaxed Tim Horton’s on the first really cold and windy day of an otherwise unseasonably balmy December in downtown Toronto. It seemed like everyone who wasn’t either staying in the warmth of their homes, visiting family and friends in or out of town or basking in the sunshine at a vacation resort was braving the crowds at the mall taking advantage of the Boxing Day bargains.

A young man approached us and politely asked if he could occupy the comfortable seats across from us. He was carrying a knapsack and a rather heavy-looking duffel bag. As he sat down, we struck up a conversation with him. He told us that he was on his way to Ottawa to visit with his girlfriend. We asked about his work and he proceeded to share his interesting and inspiring story.

He told us that he had applied and been accepted to the top medical school in Canada. Instead of becoming a doctor, he had chosen, despite some familial discouragement, to pursue his dream of being an entrepreneur. Two years ago, he cofounded a marketing firm that currently has 5 employees and a growing roster of start ups both in Toronto and Vancouver. He has also been taking courses to ensure that he stays on the leading edge of the technology that impacts both his business and his start ups. In the new year, he plans to start a venture capital firm that will focus on micro-financing small Canadian businesses, one of a handful of Canadian firms that are now doing this.

While I am often loath to do this, I could not resist the temptation to ask him his age. When he told me that he was 27 years old, I remarked that he had  wisdom, maturity, business acumen, leadership and professionalism far beyond his years. He shared with us that he is currently running the business on his own as his business partner is in his first year of law school at Canada’s top law school. While his business partner is fully committed to the business, most of the day to day running and growing of the business falls on his shoulders.

It would be an understatement to say that we were greatly impressed and inspired by this individual. When we reflected on the conversation, we agreed that he had shared and taught us a great deal about what is new with start ups and millenials and we in turn had provided the gifts of experience and encouragement. This conversation has given us both momentum and motivation to make the remainder of this holiday season not only one of caring, connection and conversation but also one of prosperity, production and partnership.

We want to express our gratitude and best wishes for a successful year to Chris, a very interesting, informative and inspiring individual.

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A Big Thank You to a Kind and Generous Person

Even though it was December 14, it was teeming rain at 5:30p.m. on the western edge of downtown Toronto. I stood huddled with others in the bus shelter as the rain continued to increase in intensity. There should have been many buses or streetcars arriving but alas as often happens on rainy nights, there was a problem and the imminent arrival of a bus or streetcar was a pipe dream at least in the short term.

I was off to my weekly Monday night Mah Jongg game and as transporter of the game had to be at King and Bay in the heart of downtown Toronto by 6 p.m. As I continued to wait and wonder what to do, I saw a man open the door and get into a taxi. I asked very loudly: “I have no taxi fare, would you be so kind as to take me with you?” He told me that he was going to Union Station and would be happy to have me share his ride at no cost to me.

As we sat in the warm taxi, he shared his name and that it was his last day working as the Executive Assistant to the owner of White Pine Studios and that he was not only on his way to Union Station but also to a brilliant and exciting future in Vancouver or elsewhere and that his dream was to produce and write screenplays.

As I repeatedly thanked him for his kindness and generosity, he merely responded by saying that it was the right thing to do in the spirit of the season. Even the taxi driver said that he would have given me a ride whether or not I could pay him as he honestly stated that it is not only about money but also about kindness and generosity.

I believe that what you give to someone else comes back to you tenfold.  To the kind and generous person who shared his taxi with me, I wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas, a healthy, happy, abundant, accomplished, brave, brilliant, productive, prosperous, successful, sensational 2016. You deserve the very best.

A Big Thank You for ending my Hanukah in a memorable and miraculous way!

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