Interview with Nutrilicious, a small business in the Yonge Lawrence Village

Having profiled several small businesses in the area, I recently sat down with Registered Holistic Nutritionist Karen Gilman of NutriliciousWe chatted about her business, what motivates someone to start a small business, and the opportunities that the Yonge Lawrence Village provides.

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Hi Karen. Can you start by telling us how you got started?

I’m what you would call a “healthy foodie.” For as long as I can remember, I have been food-conscious. Once my girls were older, I had a bit more time and wanted to raise consciousness among other moms who are also concerned about the choices they make for them and their families.

I started by getting a Diploma in Natural Nutrition. This provided me with the credibility to inform and educate those to whom I had, for years, just casually given tips and suggestions. Once I was certified, I turned my attention to getting Nutrilicious off the ground.

And here I am today. Nutrilicous is all about providing advice, educating, and instructing on how to prepare healthy and delicious meals.

What’s it like to run a small business?

In my case, I don’t have a store front, so getting the word out was initially my biggest challenge. I had to quickly look around to see what other sources were at my disposal. I thought about who I wanted to reach and turned to the community – where I discovered several possibilities.

The Fairlawn Community Centre is a great venue to advertise. Moms are there daily, dropping off or picking up their children from programs.

Schools were another great resource. I do workshops for parents and their kids. My last workshop, on Healthy Vegetarian eating and cooking, allowed moms and daughters to learn and cook together. I still get comments from moms that one of their kids’ favourite meals is one that we prepared together that night.

Recently, I started to partner with other small businesses in the Yonge Lawrence Village. You can currently find me at Fairlawn Physiotherapy.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about food and nutrition?

People often think that eating healthy involves restricting foods. That is not the purpose of Nutrilicous. It’s about examining what you eat, knowing what you are eating, and perhaps adding to or tweaking your meals. My goal is not to restrict people, but to provide them with information about what they’re eating – and give them recipes that are delicious and healthy.

As an added bonus…here is one of Karen’s great recipes!

Granola Cookies

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, flour, coconut, cinnamon and salt
3. In a small bowl, combine together maple syrup, oil and vanilla.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips/raisins.
5. Using a tablespoon, form the batter into mounds and place onto cookie sheet. You may need to form them with your hands. Bake 15 minutes until lightly browned.

(Note: these cookies do not expand)

To learn more about this great small business in the Yonge Lawrence Village, please contact Karen Gilman at karen@nutrilicious.ca.

Buildin’ on up…in the Yonge Lawrence Village!

The growth and development of small businesses and restaurants in the Yonge Lawrence Village has had a positive effect in my neighbourhood – it has led to a vibrant real estate market.

To be sure, real estate in Toronto has been booming for many years. My neighborhood is no different. What is different, however, is that the Yonge Lawrence Village has quickly become the most desirable place to live in the entire city.

How did this happen? Many of the old, 1960’s-style homes (detached and semi-detached) are being torn down at a rapid pace, block by block. Larger homes and, in some cases, massive dwellings, are systematically taking their place.

Here some examples of old homes, new homes and a nearly finished house in my neighbourhood:

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Some may view this transformation as a loss of history, character and design in the neighbourhood. While I certainly understand their position, I actually see it as progress.

People of all backgrounds and income groups have become more interested in living in the Yonge Lawrence Village because of what it has to offer. While the price point of living in my neighborhood has obviously increased in recent years, the amount of choice for the average consumer has also skyrocketed.

This benefits everyone that lives here or would like to.

I hope that they keep on building in the Yonge Lawrence Village as long as they can. To paraphase an old movie line from Field of Dreams (1989): if you build more homes, people and businesses will come!

What Yonge Lawrence Village is not…

I recently received a comment about my last blog post, “What’s missing?

My classmate, Jim Bamboulis of Travel Mammal, mentioned that beyond the small businesses I feel are missing in the Yonge Lawrence Village, it’s also missing a certain vibe.

He’s right. If I were to compare the Yonge Lawrence Village to 3 other well-known neighbourhoods in Toronto, there are some striking differences.

Kensington Market

This is the community where many of Toronto’s first immigrants started their new lives. There are many markets and stores selling exotic produce, spices and wares. Bargains are everywhere to be had. There’s an abundance of ethnic restaurants to take you on a world journey. Local artists and small shop owners give it an earthy feeling. Most importantly, there are no pretensions here – the neighbourhood remains committed to its working class roots. Torontonians flock to it for its vibrancy and tough, uncompromising realism.

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(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Market#/media/File:Kensington_market.jpg)

Bloor-Yorkville

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bloor-Yorkville. This small enclave is home to more affluent Torontonians. It’s the place to go for style and culture in Toronto with its designer boutiques, trendy restaurants and posh hotels. This tony neighbourhood exudes a vibe of sophistication, luxury and perfectionism. 

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(Source: http://www.searchingtoronto.com/pictures/toronto-neighbourhoods/bloor-yorkville/yorkville-toronto-real-estate_large/)

Bloor West-Roncesvalles

Finally, there is Bloor West Village, where many professionals have chosen to raise their families. It too has a more ethic vibe. Home to many eastern European immigrants in the 1950s and 60s, there are many great delis and bakeries along the Bloor Street strip. It has a down-to-earth feeling, although not as raw as Kensington Market. 

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(Source: http://www.jordanchong.com/infotopic.asp?InfoID=747)

I admit it: the Yonge Lawrence Village may be staid and a little too conventional for some people. Is it edgy? No. Chic? Not so much, in my opinion. Does it have an ethnic vibe? Not necessarily.

But for now, I’m content to live a friendly, traditional neighbourhood. Will it change? I’m sure it will. Communities are constantly transforming and re-inventing themselves. In time, the Yonge Lawrence Village’s vibe will transform into something fresh and new.

Hopefully, I’ll still be living here – and get to see it grow and evolve.

What’s missing?

In my last few posts, I’ve profiled the businesses that have shaped the Yonge Lawrence Village. Many of which I frequent with my family regularly and love to visit.

But, even this proud resident admits there are a few things missing. While these are not deal breakers per se, they would add an important element and, perhaps, more visitors to my neighbourhood.

Here’s a short wish list from this proud resident:

1. Book store

The Yonge Lawrence Village doesn’t have a bookstore. It would certainly come in handy for this family of book lovers.

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2. Sports equipment

Trying to keep a little one active requires frequent purchases as they outgrow everything. It would be nice to just walk down the street to purchase a new pair of skates, baseball bat or a tennis racquet.

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source: waggeneredstrom.com

3. Cheese shop

What could be better than a little cheese? As I often say, “Yo yo Gouda!”

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source: thecheeseshopinc.com.

4. Spa

For a busy family neighbourhood, wouldn’t it be great to get a little bit of pampering? We could use a spa in my neighbourhood (well…I could certainly use one!)

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5. Hardware store

In this area of home owners with growing families, regular upkeep is necessary. A hardware store would come in very handy for those quick fixes – like my powder room taps.

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By now, I hope you have visited my community. What do you feel is missing from the Yonge Lawrence Village?

A Fair day at Yonge Lawrence Village

A few weeks ago, the Yonge Lawrence Business Improvement Area (BIA) hosted a Village Day and Sidewalk Sale on behalf of its merchant members.

There was fun for young and old.

Neighbours finally came out after the long winter months to enjoy the festivities. They caught up with friends, and enjoyed the food.

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The atmosphere was great, as residents enjoyed jazz music and steel drums as they walked along the main strip.

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The kids had plenty of great activities to choose from, including meeting wizards, face-painting and a huge bouncy castle.

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A great day was had by all! It’s just another benefit that small businesses bring to the Yonge Lawrence Village.

Stay tuned for the next event – Artwalk 2015, from October 15 to November 15.

To lease, or not to lease?

In the time that I’ve lived in the Yonge Lawrence Village, there has been a steady turnover of small businesses. The community has lost some restaurants, retail stores and a few one-of-a-kind shops specializing in greeting cards and art.

There are a number of storefronts for lease right now. Two of them are even located side by side, almost dead centre in the core of the shopping zone.

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So what’s happening?

It’s difficult to run a successful business (large or small) in a big city like Toronto. There is more choice for consumers than ever before. People aren’t as loyal as they used to be. And the day-to-day costs of running a business – rent, utlities and stock – aren’t cheap.

I would imagine these things, and others, have dissuaded some people with good ideas from opening a new business in the community.

Fortunately, there are still many individuals who are willing to give it that old college try.

They know that the Yonge Lawrence Village has great small businesses, a successful financial environment, and most importantly a friendly and interested clientele.

There are many risks involved in opening a small business. But without some risk, there is no chance of reward.

Fortunately, Yonge and Lawrence has had far more success stories than failed ventures when it comes to small business ventures. And I believe, in time, the empty locations will be leased.

The best of Yonge Lawrence Village – for kids

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For the second in my 2-part series on a day spent exploring Yonge Lawrence Village, I have planned a day that your kids will find unforgettable.

Morning

Start with a hearty, healthy breakfast at Scratch Kitchen. This relatively new neighbourhood establishment has quickly become one of my family’s favourites. Chef Michael Tucker plans his seasonal menus carefully and makes everything from “scratch” in-house, including breads baked daily, Berkshire pork and locally sourced ingredients. That’s great news to the ears of this neurotic Mom!

Mid-morning

Make sure you book your child for a dance class at Tandem Studios. Opened in 2007, it provides a fitness class for parents – while their children take dance at the same time. It quickly became a hit in our neighbourhood, and has been expanding ever since. There are a variety of classes your little ones can take. It all just depends what they’re in the mood for.

A visit to PJ Pets is a great place to visit before lunch. My son has spent hours there, looking at the fish, turtles and birds. The friendly, helpful staff will never turn a little one away, no matter how long they linger…and ask their parents if they can take a pet home!

Lunch

Go to The Belly Buster Submarines. The 1970’s look and feel always brings back memories of my childhood. The subs are the best my son, husband and I have had in the city. The bread is super soft, and the bacon is extra crispy. The toppings are always fresh, and there’s a great selection of deli meats you can add to your sub.

For dessert, it’s just a short walk to Robyn’s Cookies. You can access it through the back door of Melonhead Children’s Hair Care, or around the corner off of Ranleigh Avenue. We discovered it when my son had his first haircut, and the sweet smell of freshly baked cookies filled the air. It quickly became our bribe of choice that would convince my son to sit still during his haircut! The chocolate chip cookies are his favourite. Yet, it’s the garbage cookies (containing all sorts of wonderful treats on them) that have become a staple at every birthday party since we discovered Robyn’s Cookies.

Mid-afternoon

Book them into an art class at Freehand School of Art for the afternoon. They will be able to create their own masterpieces in a fun and positive environment. It’s the best place for budding young artists to learn more about painting, drawing and sculpture – and discover some hidden talents to boot!

Dinner

The Abbot Pub and Fare is an excellent place to go to dinner with your little ones. This family friendly pub is loud, boisterous and has a large menu. There are plenty of things for the kids to eat, including burgers, vegetarian chili and fish and chips. Ample amounts of crayons are always on hand, too.

As well, don’t forget to stop at Paradise Comic Books on the way home. It has been in its current location for over 20 years, and is one of the best comic book stores in Toronto. All their favourite comics, as well as graphic novels, books and figurines, are available for purchase.

I hope your kids enjoy their special day at the Yonge Lawrence Village. I look forward to seeing them around the neighbourhood!

The best of Yonge Lawrence Village – for adults

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The Yonge Lawrence Village, a quaint stretch of Yonge Street in Toronto, is an area that I would recommend you spend the day exploring. Its unique shops and restaurants are some of the best in the city.

For the first in a 2-part series, here’s my ideal way to spend a day in my community. It gives you the opportunity to uncover hidden treasures – while still shopping small.

Morning

Start the day off at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto. The facilities are great, and the vibe is friendly and inviting. All classes are drop-in.

Now that you’re feeling reinvigorated, treat yourself to Butter Avenue. Run by a sister and brother duo, Tina and Calvin offer some of the best macarons and French pastries the city has to offer. Enjoy a foamy latte, or professionally selected tea blend, while you indulge on one of their beautiful, delicious pastel coloured macarons. The atmosphere is light, airy and contemporary, so as not to distract from the works of art displayed behind the counters.

Mid-morning

It’s never a bad idea to get a quick mani/predi at Nice Nails. The staff at this family run establishment is kind and incredibly accommodating. They’ll never forget you after your first visit.

Once you have received a bit of pampering, you’re ready for some serious shopping!

Walk down a few doors to Melmira Bra & Swimsuits. They have a fabulous selection of swimsuits for the season. Their attentive staff will ensure you find the best style to flatter your figure. They also offer professional advice and special fittings to ensure you walk out with a garment specifically suited to your body type.

For that special guy in your life, The Coop Ink is a must. Quickly becoming a lost art, they’re regarded as one of the best tailors in Toronto. You’ll find beautiful casual or formal shirts. Ask about their custom tailoring, too.

And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see Don Cherry – who reportedly gets his suits here!

Lunch

Stop for lunch at Patisserie Sebastien. They bake authentic French bread and pastries daily. For a light lunch, their quiches are superb with light and flaky crusts. Be sure to grab a brioche to take home with you.

Mid-afternoon

On the other side of the street is Manor Interior Design Inc. They have exquisitely painted furniture – I picked up a great piece from them in the winter of 2013. They have the most beautiful mirrors, chandeliers and cocktail tables to accessorize your home. And, if you need any help, their in-house design consulting team is pleased to give you advice.

To pick up a one-of-a-kind piece, pop into Ardith One, Canadian Pottery & Crafts. Here, you will find knowledgeable staff and the perfect piece (created by talented Canadian artists) – either for you, or for a friend as a special gift.

Dinner

Hungry after a day of shopping and browsing? Wildfire Steakhouse & Wine Bar is the place to end a great day! The ambience is wonderful, the service is excellent and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and wine list. As for the food…let’s just say that it’s fantastic!

This is my ideal day in the Yonge Lawrence Village. What would yours be?

 

Mom and Pop vs. Chain: Your Choice

In the Yonge Lawrence Village, there is no shortage of mom and pop shops, as well as, restaurants and coffeehouse chains. Residents have their favourite hangouts, and will regularly go back to them.

Which do you prefer?

Bobbette & Belle decided to open their second location in the Yonge Lawrence Village (Their first location opened in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood in 2011.) Specializing in “artisanal pastries” and superb coffee, it has quickly become a popular destination for young families in the neighbourhood. On the weekends, it’s getting harder and harder to find  a seat – in this small, elegant french inspired patisserie!

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Meanwhile, The Burger Cellar is in its fifth year as a go-to eatery for great food with a family ambience. The owner, Alan Voves – a former chef at popular Toronto establishment Barbarian’s Steak House – offers the clientele three different choices of meat for his signature burgers (AAA Black Angus, Organic bison or Prime beef). And they have a wide variety of salads and sandwiches. For the after-work or after-dinner drinks crowd there is a large bar. It’s become a huge hit with adults – and kids – alike.

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Small businesses like Bobbette & Belle and The Burger Cellar (as well as smaller establishments like I Deal Coffee and The Burger’s Priest) are favourites among my family. They compete with larger chains in the Yonge Lawrence Village, including Starbucks, Second Cup, McDonald’s and Hero Certified Burgers.

There is more than enough room for all businesses, large and small, in my community. They’re all competing for a slice of market share, which is a good thing for the local economy. As well, they offer different menu options for the clientele, who may be looking for a relaxing sit-down meal with friends and family – or a fast meal on the go.

I know what I like. What do you like?

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Living in a small community…of 3 million people

I live in Toronto, a city with nearly 3 million people. Yet, I often feel as if I’m more a part of a small community than Canada’s largest metropolis.

Yonge Street is a short walk from my front door. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle, and congestion is a daily occurrence. Yet, it also contains a small community: The Yonge Lawrence Village, a short stretch from Lawrence Avenue to Yonge Boulevard. There are many small businesses located here — and that’s something you would not necessarily expect to experience in a large city like Toronto. (In 2014, the Village earned the top spot as Toronto’s best neighbourhood. Read here.)

In fact, it’s the small business owners who have helped shape this small stretch of Yonge Street – and provided it with a unique character and true sense of community.

All that Yonge Lawrence Village has to offer

There’s no shortage of great restaurants along the strip. Many of them family owned, where regular patrons are greeted by name and various milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. are celebrated.

The same goes for your daily shopping needs.

You can jump into The Friendly Butcher. The “friendly” staff will tell you where the meat was sourced, cut it to your liking, and offer recipes on how to prepare it.

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The best smoked salmon is a few doors up at Kristapsons. This institution has been serving the community since 1953, and their smoked salmon is often present at many family celebrations.

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And, if you didn’t get around to doing a proper grocery shop during the week, there are small stores along the way that offer fresh fruits and vegetables. They always give you a friendly smile on your walk home from the subway and offer suggestions on what arrived fresh earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, Adrian’s is a staple for children’s footwear in the Yonge Lawrence Village. It is where I ran in a panic after my son destroyed his new runners 6 weeks into senior kindergarten. They remembered his shoe size – and wisely advised me to go up a half size if I wanted the new pair to last the entire school year!

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All that small businesses have to offer

This is the personal service and touch you will find in many small businesses along my strip. The owners are friendly, caring and make you feel like family. It builds a long-lasting relationship that makes you want to shop in the Yonge Lawrence Village.

Join me on my walks in the coming weeks as I profile some of the small businesses that have shaped my community.

In turn, tell me about your community and the small businesses that have come to shape it. Let’s compare and contrast our experiences together.