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Thank you, Leaside, it’s been a slice

Debate Kettel Vs. Ashworth Issue CoverAll good things must come to an end.

My first Business of Leaside column appeared in the January 2013 issue of Leaside Life. I agreed to contribute a monthly column after Harry Goldhar, former owner and editor, asked if I was interested in writing for the paper.

A couple of months earlier, not knowing Harry from Adam, I wrote a letter to the editor chastising Leasiders for complaining about the aircraft noise overhead. 

“I live on Bayview (nearest intersection Parkhurst Blvd.) and the traffic noise most times of the day is high. But you don’t see me complaining about it. Do the people of Leaside have nothing better to do than stay up past 1 a.m. to listen for planes flying overhead? It is NIMBYism to an extent I did not think possible.”

And so began my love/hate relationship with the good people of Leaside. Fifty-seven issues later I’m retiring my keyboard. 

A new adventure

My wife (Noela) and I are embarking on a new adventure, moving to Halifax where she’s taken a new job with a new company and I’ll continue to ply my trade as a business and investment columnist for several U.S. and Canadian publications.

Although excited about relocating to the East Coast — Noela’s from PEI — we’re going to miss all the friends we’ve made in Toronto during our 13-year marriage, almost nine of those in Leaside.

For all the criticism I’ve laid on Leaside’s doorstep in the five years writing my column, I truly loved living here. 

Be the change you want to see

This neighbourhood reminds me of the business book Built to Last by Jim Collins. In it, there’s a quote that I believe encapsulates what prevents Leaside from moving from good to great. “To be built to last you must be built to change.”

While we get a lot right, Leaside could be so much better by making a few improvements, the most critical being a greater willingness to accept and promote change accompanied by a more realistic version of community activism.

We live in a city of almost six million people. Intensification is inevitable. Traffic is not going away. Fight the battles you can win. Work with developers to get the kind of buildings that will stand the test of time and help create a neighbourhood where residents of all income levels can live in harmony.

My wish as I move away and watch Leaside from afar is a sincere hope that as the neighbourhood grows over the next few years, residents learn to welcome the change taking place because whether we like it or not, it’s going to happen just as sure as we’re all going to die someday. 

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Memories, I have a few

Jane Auster, Leaside Life’s excellent editor, asked me to recollect some of my favourite articles from the past five years and while there are so many to choose from, three stand out in my mind for three very different reasons. 

The first article (June 2016) that speaks to me wasn’t even written by me, but rather the university-aged daughter of our downstairs neighbour. Entitled “Leaside High students have lost their Perk,” Leaside High graduate Hilary Hardie did a fantastic job capturing the heartfelt loss that young people felt over the closure and ultimate demolition of the McDonald’s at the northeast corner of Bayview and Eglinton Aves.

Ironically, just a couple of weeks ago, another young friend of ours, Robert Zend-Gabori, who lived in the very same apartment where Hilary and her mom Carolyn Hayes now live, was lamenting how he missed going to the McDonald’s despite having never actually eaten there. It was Leaside’s version of Arnold’s Drive-in.

The second article is the March 2017 piece by Allan Williams announcing Harry and Ruth Goldhar’s retirement from the paper as well as its sale to current owners Stan Flemming and Jeff Hohner. Allan’s written a lot of good articles in the five years we worked together, including his wonderful series about the churches of Leaside, but it was his personal note at the bottom of the article that reminds me how much I miss working with Harry on the paper. 

“I learned a lot from his editorial changes, which he always took the time to explain,” Allan wrote. “I have very much enjoyed getting to know Harry and Ruth over the past five years – two wonderful people I can now count as friends.” I share Allan’s sentiments. 

Leaside Life is so lucky to have had two great owners in its six-year history. Some businesses never get one good steward, let alone two. Continue to support this excellent paper. It’s a unique and special undertaking. 

The last article that springs to mind is the March 2014 issue where Geoff Kettel and I stood toe-to-toe — not literally, mind you. Harry took separate pictures and then photoshopped them together — debating the fate of Bayview shops as a result of the big-box developments on Laird. 

Almost four years later, not much has changed. The Bayview strip continues to struggle with empty stores while Laird just gets busier and busier.

I’ve not always agreed with Geoff and Carol when it comes to the LPOA’s position on development issues, but as people, they’re first rate. And I’d be remiss not to mention it was the LPOA who provided some of the initial operating funds for the Bayview Leaside Business Improvement Area (BIA). That to me was one of the LPOA’s finest hours. 

The important thing was we always managed to keep it civil when choosing to disagree, which was often. I’ll miss their formidable opposition. 

I wish every Leaside business — particularly our advertisers who keep the printing presses rolling — nothing but the best in 2018 and beyond. It’s been a slice covering the Business of Leaside.

Thank you to Harry, Ruth, Stan, Jeff, and Jane for giving me the opportunity each month to speak my mind. It’s been a genuine pleasure.