Upcoming events

Mike Mclean reminds us that tonight there will be a meeting at Weston CI about the proposed developments at the hardwood flooring factory at 8 Oak Street. Send in a report if you go–YHCs are shirking their duties and getting beer instead.

Next Monday, councillors Nunziata and DiGiorgio will be asking for residents’ input on the 2015 city budget. City staff will make a presentation, and questions will be endured afterwards. The meeting will begin at 7 pm at the York Civic Centre (2700 Eglinton Avenue West).

Weston schools will not be closed

The TDSB released a list of under-enrolled schools this week under pressure from Liz Sandals, the provincial Minister of Education. Politicians will now be forced to consider closing some of them. The good news: Weston schools are not threatened. The bad news: several in Mount Dennis are, as are schools that host recreation programs attended by Weston families.

About 1 in 5 Toronto elementary schools has low enrolment, and about 1 in 3 high schools, does, according to the Globe. Not all of these schools will be closed, of course; the TDSB will consider—and try to punt on—each one.

All five Weston schools (Pelmo, Memo, CR, CI, and HJ) have high-enough enrolment to miss the cut. Other area schools, though, are in danger.

  • Dennis Ave: 59%
  • Amesbury MS: 56%
  • York Humber SS: 56%
  • Maple Leaf PS: 64% enrolment
  • Nelson Boylen: 13% enrolment
  • The Elms: 49%

Boylen, Amesbury, and the Elms all host community recreation programs such as swimming.

Weston public schools may have another kind of problem: over-enrolment. HJ Alexander is currently at 121% of its capacity. Pelmo is at 109%.

 

Best Place To Live in the World? Toronto – we have proof!

Most of us believe we live in a great city but now we have corroborating evidence. Influential British magazine The Economist has proclaimed Toronto the world’s best place to live based on a number of factors covering things such as personal safety, infrastructure, democracy and food security. While Toronto isn’t number one in any of these indexes, because it ranks consistently high on most of them, it is considered to be the best overall. For example it ranks #70 in cost of living but #4 in both liveability and business environment. As for personal safety, Toronto at #7 is safer than anywhere in North America or Europe except for Stockholm.

OK, Toronto, don’t let it go to your head; now go clean your room. Read the full survey here.

P&M: Ready for the Move.

Frank Kalamaris and his family run a well known and very successful restaurant right in the heart of Weston. P&M has been serving Westonians since Frank’s father George opened for business on April 15, 1975.

Every day is busy but empty seats are especially hard to find during the lunch rush with only 24 chairs crammed into the tiny dining room.

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Up to four people jockey for position behind the 18 foot kitchen / serving area. Instructions are passed back and forth in English with the occasional few words of Greek mixed in. From this tiny work area, customers are served generous portions of delicious food. Wider at the front, narrowing to barely 7 feet wide at the back where the dishes are washed, the atmosphere is one of respectful friendship and regular customers are known by name.

Frank recalls arriving in Weston when it was at the height of its popularity with people flocking to its shopping district from miles around. ‘In 1975 There was a Canadian Tire across the street, a Kresge’s department store, a Loblaws supermarket, jewellers, shoe stores, gentleman’s and ladies’ clothing stores.’

Nowadays Weston is a lot different but Frank is so sure that things are turning around, he has invested $1.2M in a new location just a few yards south at 1946 Weston Road. Until recently, this was the home of the Central Bar and Grill which had in its latter years fallen into disrepair and had a dubious clientele. Frank has done a total inside and out renovation of the building and it is now unrecognizable.

The key to Frank’s success is quite simple, ‘You have to respect the customer’ he says in his trademarked gravelly voice. ‘They don’t want to be a number, like in the franchised restaurants, they want recognition and respect and to do that we treat them like friends and family’ To Frank, it’s not about the money. ‘Lots of business people come to Weston to take money out; they invest nothing and end up lowering the quality and driving away business. Success means doing what you have to do to get customers to return regularly’, and in that Frank has succeeded wildly. With plans to continue serving top quality food cooked to order; (things like fresh cut French fries, Black Angus triple A beef), he’s now planning to make the numbers of his extended family of customers bigger; a lot bigger. With the extra room and a gigantic open-concept kitchen he can seat more friends and serve a bigger variety of dishes.

Frank plans to supplement the regular fare with more international dishes and weekly specials. For those with a sweet tooth, there will be a dessert station with a full dessert menu. The new restaurant will be licensed (currently under application); a service bar will be there for staff.

Frank gave WestonWeb an exclusive preview of the renovated premises and even in an unfinished state, the new P&M’s is very impressive. Attention to detail and top of the line decor, furnishings and equipment will set this restaurant apart in Weston.

Frank stands behind the new bar.
Frank stands behind his new bar.
The left-half of the restaurant.
The left-half of the restaurant with the dessert station at the back.
Butcher block tables and ceramic decor.
Butcher block tables and ceramic decor.
The dessert station.
The dessert station.
Top of the line equipment in the new kitchen.
Top of the line equipment is being installed in the new kitchen.
Food preparation and storage area in the basement.
A huge food preparation and storage area is being set up in the basement.
The new premises under wraps.
The new premises at 1946 Weston Road still under wraps.

Frank doesn’t  know exactly when the new P&M Restaurant will open as there are a few finishing touches to be made and inspections to be completed. The Fire Department will need to calculate his seating capacity, but no doubt when the date is announced, many will flock to the new location. ‘I may need to have several opening days’, joked Frank, ‘But I would like to have Councillor Nunziata there; she has been very helpful in dealing with the City’.

When the usurious become penurious

My esteemed colleague Roy says that “Weston Village could be a showcase of how to do retail but currently it’s a showcase of how not to do it”, and, to be sure, we remain startlingly coffee and cupcake free.

But call me naive, or call me hopeful: I see the green shoots of regeneration in Weston. No, we are not yet the Junction or Streetsville. Yet over the winter, some good things have happened on the strip.

First, a cheque cashing store closed. The economist in me says that cheque-cashing operations are small businesses like any other, providing a service and making a well-earned profit. The moralist in me says that they are predatory vampire squids sucking blood from the poorest and worst-served among us. Split the difference?

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I was a little more bummed to see Sang Chinese food go. It was the first place I ever ate at in Weston, on the night I moved in. After I read about their consistent yellow cards, though, I didn’t go back. Call me particular.

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But now, the good news:

There is a (relatively) new department store on Weston Road, the second in a single block. I think this is fascinating. Across Canada, department stores are closing. Sears is in a spiral dive, Target took a bullet, and Zellers, Towers, Kresge’s and Eaton’s now only moan and rattle their chains. But on Weston Road, these shopkeepers think they can sail against those headwinds.¹

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And I have to say, I think they’ll succeed. The Canadian Outlet Store opened before Christmas, and it’s pretty great. It’s small and spotless, and the prices are good. It’s stuffed with everything from cell phones to clothing to table lamps, but it works. It’s a smart idea: there are lot of people within a short walk of there, many of whom are not very mobile. These one-stop shops could do very well.

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I, for one, think that this small change might be the beginning of bigger things in Weston. The stores at the competitive margins—payday loan shops and bad Chinese restaurants—are making way for new, much more interesting places.


 

¹ Four metaphors, one paragraph–that’s for you, Maureen.

Big Red Wave’s a Coming – Part Deux

Just in case MP Mike Sullivan thinks his re-election will be a walk in the park, a disquieting item came courtesy of a group that makes election predictions by aggregating poll results. According to ThreeHundredEight.com‘s latest nation-wide predictions, Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen would have an 86% chance of winning York South-Weston if an election were held today.

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ThreeHundredEight.com:Con.       Lib.       NDP.

Mr Hussen’s ability to win the Liberal nomination, despite stiff opposition should let Mr Sullivan know that he is not up against an amateur. Mr Hussen is backed by powerful interests including Weston-born George Smitherman.

Obviously, an election will not be held today, next week or even next month. However, Stephen Harper is making rent-a-crowd announcements almost daily and could legally call an election at any time. Many pundits think that he’ll abandon the scheduled October date and hold a Spring election before the more negative effects of low oil prices, foreign troop involvement and a vanishing surplus can be felt. If that is the case, Mr Sullivan and his staff need to get their skates on. While the Tories aren’t likely to be a factor in the riding, YSW is traditionally a federal Liberal seat and the Jack Layton effect is sadly no more.

Scumbags steal infant’s headstone

I was going to post this yesterday, but I didn’t want to ruin your whole week.

Martin Proctor reports that the lowest scum in Weston has stolen a tombstone from the gravesite at the St John the Evangelist excavation.

Photo by Martin Proctor
Needless to say, if you happen to see this in someone’s garage or backyard, I suspect the police would be interested. In the past, cemetery vandals in Ontario have faced charges of mischief, which, despite its quite mild-sounding name, can carry a prison sentence.
We should be so lucky.