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Heard on the Street May 2017

Heard on the Street May 2017

After spending more than a dozen years on Pelee Island running Conorlee’s, a successful delicatessen and bakery, Matt Costello and Ricki Oltean are ready to make a move back to the mainland. They’ve put their business, with attached three bedroom home, on the market and hope to sell during the approaching summer season. “It’s partly because of the children and their schooling options and partly because we just want to try something new,” says Costello. “We’re preparing to open for our 13th season and we will keep operating until we can find a buyer.” Listing agent Cathie Penner of RE/MAX Preferred Realty Ltd., Brokerage adds “it’s a fabulous business at the north end of the island and it’s easily a turnkey operation for the right buyer. It’s perfect for active retirees looking for a new business venture in a beautiful setting.” Costello visited the island a number of years ago and then went back when he was offered a job. “I met Ricki and fell in love with both her and the island,” he recounts. “It’s been absolutely awesome, but it’s time for a change.” The business also offers catering, fine dining, bed and breakfast options and is open all year except for a three month break in the winter. It’s listed with RE/MAX for $395,000 (PennerProperties.com).

Rebuffed when he tried to lease space in the ground level of the city-owned Pelissier Street parking garage, Luis Mendez has shifted gears and still plans to open a second location of his True Fitness Windsor business in the city core. The city plans to turn the ground floor back into parking which left Mendez scrambling to find an alternate home. “It took a while to find the right space in the right place,” admits Mendez. “But, we did and I am very enthusiastic about our future downtown.” He says he expects to open True Fitness in the former Miller Canfield law offices at 443 Ouellette Avenue by July 1st. Mendez offers personal training services as well as full exercise and training options in an upscale setting. He opened his first True Fitness location at 4897 Tecumseh Road East three years ago and believes downtown workers and residents are ready for a full-service fitness centre. “There’s nothing else like it downtown,” claims Mendez. “The Y closed and moved out to Central Avenue so there are no real options downtown.” Mendez has 15 personal trainers on his roster and more than 200 clients. “We think there is a market for our services with the number of professionals and other people who work downtown,” he states. For more information, visit: TrueFitnessWindsor.com

Windsor’s latest Metro grocery store is no more than a month away from its official opening in the former Target store at Devonshire Mall. It’s expected that the massive retail space will generate more than 100 jobs bringing the company’s total workforce in Windsor to over 600 people. Redevelopment plans at the mall, expected to cost more than $70 million, also include a new and expanded food court with new dining options, an expanded seating area as well as added retail choices. “This is an exciting time for the centre,” says General Manager Chris Savard, while adding, their “program reaffirms Devonshire Mall’s commitment to remaining the premier shopping destination in the Windsor area.” Construction is already underway and is expected to be completed in phases by the end of 2018. The mall will remain open during the redevelopment.

Heard on the Street continues HERE

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Heard on the Street April 2017

Heard on the Street April 2017

Serial entrepreneur Mark Boscariol has plans to open a brewery and brew pub in a downtown space formerly occupied by Chanoso’s Restaurant, 255 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor. The brewery will take over space in the newly-renovated basement with the pub occupying the 80 seat ground floor. Boscariol says he expects to be open in September, but is still casting around for a name for the venture. “I’m usually pretty good at coming up with a catchy name, but I’m drawing a blank on this one so far,” he says (at the time of writing). Boscariol has hired Ryan Hughes, who will continue in the same role at Craft Heads Brewing Company and Motor Craft Ales, as Brewmaster. Boscariol describes to Biz X that he will start with eight taps, including three for his own brews with the remainder dedicated to local craft beers. Eventually, he expects to have 16 taps, all for local beers. “I’m a huge fan of our local micro-brews and I believe they deserve to get as much exposure as possible.” His own beer selections will be exclusively available at this new venture as well as at The Willistead, Boscariol’s Walkerville eatery on Wyandotte Street East.

Social media posts in March reveal a new place to eat in downtown Windsor will soon open its doors. On A Roll Sushi & Sliders at 63 Pitt Street East, owned by father and son team Lucky and George Stratis, will be an intimate sushi and cocktail lounge serving lunch, dinner and late night diners. Get updated information on the grand opening date on Facebook under On A Roll Sushi and Sliders.

Members of Windsor’s Greek Orthodox Community expect to move into their new community centre and church at 3052 Walker Road in Windsor, by December, says Panos Sechopoulos, President of the organization. Members have been holding church services at the Greek Orthodox Church on Ellis Street and spreading their community activities between the church’s basement and other halls across the city, since losing their original home on Highway 3 to the Herb Gray Parkway in 2009. “It’s been a long process,” says Sechopoulos. “And I think the members are looking forward to the move and seeing the new building.” Built at a cost of about $7.5 million, the new building includes community rooms, a church, a member’s lounge and classrooms. The community received $14 million from the province for its old 12 acre property and later bought the Walker Road site for $4.3 million.

A farewell event at the Canadian Anglo Club at 1211 Lauzon Road in Windsor takes place on the weekend of May 20-21, marking the end of an era, informs club President Geoff Lambert. “The club has been in operation for about 45 years, but with dwindling membership figures and a general drop-off in support, the members decided to cut their losses and sell,” says Lambert. The building and adjacent property was sold a year ago to Dr. Matthew Duronio, who operates a dental practice at 1169 Lauzon Road. The club has been leasing the building for the past year but will close down following an open house in May. “We will most likely follow that event with an auction to try and sell everything in the building,” Lambert mentions. Plans to dissolve the membership corporation are proceeding, he says, and any remaining proceeds from the sale after expenses will be shared among qualifying members.

Heard on the Street April 2017 continues here.

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Heard on the Street March 2017

Heard on the Street March 2017

Almost 20 years after it was first proposed by businessman Peter Lui and supported by local realtor Al Teshuba, a Chinatown district along Wyandotte Street West or University Avenue West may come to fruition. It’s now among many suggestions in a City of Windsor strategic plan to create districts within the city to help build distinct identities across all the business improvement areas. But, almost two decades ago and then again more recently, all the idea needed was an agency to take the lead and about $150,000 in seed money to get it started, says Teshuba. It needed promoting, it needed flags and banners and after one year, the merchants and business owners would get a chance to continue it beyond a year by chipping in about two percent of their property taxes to keep it going, Teshuba indicates. But, Teshuba remarks, overtaxed merchants had little appetite for paying out any more money and the idea faded away. In 1999, Lui’s dream included a hotel, commercial and retail developments, restaurants and Asian Gateway arches with part of the development built across the top of the Windsor-Detroit rail tunnel on Wyandotte Street West. Lui, who is now semi-retired, had even put down a deposit to buy a portion of that land, but when CN Rail pulled out of the deal in November 1999, the dream died. CN eventually turned the rail tunnel over to CP Rail which, in partnership with Borealis Infrastructure, planned to build a $350-$400 million double-stack rail tunnel. Lui resurrected his Chinatown plan in 2008, but again it came to nothing. In 2015, the rail tunnel proposal was shelved indefinitely by CP and Borealis.

There’s no word yet (at time of writing) from Devonshire Mall officials as to when its HMV store will close. The company went into receivership in late January, owing $56 million to suppliers and with no possibility of reversing a trend, which has seen former customers favour streaming, downloading and online shopping. A store employee, who declined to be named, said no closing date has been announced to staff. The store will not be adding any new merchandise and a sale offering up to 30 percent off continues until closing. The company, which was established in 1986, operates 102 stores across Canada.

A new family-fun centre at a transformed Amherstburg Verdi Club is expected to be fully open by June. A partnership between Terry Jones of The Jones Group and Brad Hearn of Hearn and Sons Construction will see the centre renovated to include six bowling lanes, six outdoor volleyball courts, a restaurant, party rooms, a large space for laser tag and a games arcade. General Manager Doug Clarke anticipates everything to be completed by early summer. It’s expected that when fully operational the centre will create about 70 full and part-time jobs. The sports-bar themed restaurant is already open. Closure of the long-time Verdi Club continues a trend, which has seen Royal Canadian Legion branches, Knights of Columbus halls and private clubs, such as the Teutonia Club, close their doors because of dwindling memberships.

Heard on the Street continues here

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Ninth Consecutive Tax Freeze in 2017

With Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens promoting a ninth consecutive tax freeze in 2017, it’s instructive to make a comparison to Toronto, Ontario’s biggest city

Toronto City Council recently voted 32-10 to back a push by Mayor John Tory to raise property taxes by no more than inflation, which is currently at two percent. All city departments and agencies have been directed to find 2.6% worth of reductions in next year’s budget. Comparatively speaking, Windsor City Council asked its departments to submit budgets with 10% reductions across the board. Tory has left the door open to consider a series of revenue enhancers identified by a consultant in June, which would channel money to the municipality through a hotel tax, a parking tax, a sales tax, a beverage tax and a development tax.

Toronto already draws funding from a lucrative and controversial land transfer tax. Windsor’s tax critics have lampooned the city for increasing Transit Windsor fares, and money grabs from EnWin Utilities through annual $4-million dividends from energy ratepayers, sky high sewer surcharge fees and a fixed water meter fee of over $200 a year.

Meanwhile, critics of Council have noted that services are suffering because of the tax freeze obsession that does not exist anywhere else in Ontario, including Toronto. For instance, the Council majority recently rejected a bid to provide periodic bulk garbage pick-up. The city has also eliminated parking lot maintenance and 2017 parks department budget trimming includes cutting gardening service at refurbished Bert Weeks Garden and Willistead Park.

The leadership of the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA has been revamped with the appointment of a new Chairperson in Tamara Kowalska and Interim Co-ordinator Sami Mazloum. Kowalska, the Executive Director of the Windsor Youth Centre at 1247 Wyandotte Street East, indicates the first task for her and Mazloum is to recruit more members to the board of the BIA, which is bounded by Gladstone Avenue on the east and McDougall Street on the west. Mazloum, whose father is Lebanese, has been canvassing the businesses within the BIA and hopes that some members will join the executive at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) early in the new year. “It’s always nice to communicate in a language you feel more comfortable with,” says Kowalski, noting that several businesses in the district have Lebanese-speaking owners/operators.

Mazloum says he has discovered a real ethnic mix in the street’s proprietorship, including Iraqi, African and Mexican. Mazloum is working on a six month contract that started on October 1. He is Communications Co-ordinator of the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor, and previously worked in the constituency office of former Liberal MPP Teresa Piruzza. He will have the opportunity to apply for the BIA job full-time next spring. City Councillors Rino Bortolin and Chris Holt sit on the board.

Hear on the Street continues HERE

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Heard on the Street October 2016

Heard on the Street October

Sam and Zora Popadic have prepared and served their last scrumptious dishes of goulash, dumplings and chicken paprikash at the Blue Danube, 1235 Ottawa Street in Windsor. Thirty seven years after purchasing the Hungarian restaurant and lounge in 1979, the workhorse couple retired in early September. The business had been listed for sale with real estate agents, when a man from Toronto, formerly from Dubai, walked in off the street, announced that he had seen the listing on Kijiji, and asked Zora to show him the place, including a pair of two bedroom apartment units upstairs. He left and came back with “an offer we couldn’t refuse,” smiles Zora.

The new landlord, who has two partners, has rented out the two lofts, including one two bedroom unit occupied by the Popadics for all 42 years, while the second unit remained vacant. The new owner has no immediate plans for the restaurant and lounge space. The Popadics, who met at W.D. Lowe night school, learning English, raised two children, Slavica and Steven, in the apartment. The siblings have pitched in at the restaurant over the years. “I ran the show out front and Sam (trained as a Chef in Hungary before immigrating to Canada) ran the show in the kitchen,” says Zora, a native of Macedonia. They survived the volatile restaurant business through mule-like determination and an adept ability to change with the times. “We re-modelled every three or four years through a designer out of Hungary,” says Zora, noting that it was critical to retain decorations reminding customers of Eastern Europe. Ironically, the German speciality wiener schnitzel was one of the favourite dishes. Showing their flexibility, the Popadics also added vegan dishes to the traditional rib-sticking menu, and son Steven took care of social media updates. Other than working 12 hour days six days a week, servicing walk-in customers, funeral, wedding, anniversary, baptism, and birthday parties,

Zora believes their secret to success was keeping loyal customers coming back. “We want to thank all of our customers, suppliers and employees,” states Zora. “We didn’t make a lot of money, but we made a lot of friends.” The Popadics have purchased a home in South Windsor and plan on spending their time babysitting five grandchildren and travelling. Meanwhile, there are no known restaurants specializing in Eastern European cuisine left in the city.

She’s BACK! Joan Charette has rejoined the Walkerville Business Improvement Association (WBIA) as Events Coordinator, some 20 months after stepping down as WBIA coordinator. “Some members (of the BIA) asked me to come back just as Events Co-ordinator,” says Charette, who held the position of coordinator of the BIA for 16 years. She accepted the scaled down duties, she says, “because putting on events was my favourite part of the job and I feel there is unfinished business there.”

Charette has a lot of ideas for enhancing existing events such as the “Holiday Walk” in November and the “Art Walk” in July, as well as launching new events. Other coordinator duties, such as promotion, advertising, website management and taking minutes at meetings will be handled by various BIA members. “The board has strong members, the committees are well organized and that helps a lot,” she indicates.

Heard on the Street continues