It never ceases to amaze me how many exceptional people live in our area. Many of them keep a very low profile, but contribute a great deal to the communities in which they live. David Malcolm is a true example of such a person.
One of the few locals who can boast, he still lives on the property where he was born; David grew up on the family farm in Nestleton. “I was one of seven kids, and it was a simple expectation that you worked on the farm.”
David explained how difficult farming was, ‘back in the day’. “We had only horses, until one day one of our horses took off, and my dad bought a tractor.” He smiled as he relayed his experiences.
The kids split the farm up into smaller parcels, and David ended up with 60 acres, most of which he now rents out. He attended Blackstock Elementary school and went on to Port Perry High. “School wasn’t for me,” David explained, and the self-made individual went on to gain life experiences.
He worked at Johnson Controls in Port Perry and McDonalds in Oshawa, and finally landed a secure position at General Motors. In 1977 David married his sweetheart, Joanna Wolters, a nurse also from Port Perry. In 1989 he made a major career altering decision.
David had been selling fireplaces for Napoleon in his spare time, and after nearly thirteen years at General Motors, left to pursue his sales passion full time. “We had the market garden at the farm, which was doing well,” he explained. “If I was ever going to make it on my own, this was it.”
He took his fireplace business out of the house, and opened a small location on Reach Street. Six years later he moved the operation to Casimir Street, where he bought the building. “I always believed in owning the buildings that I worked in,” David said. It was a great philosophy, as it proved to be very successful in future ventures.
Overridge Fireplace, Furnace & BBQ , as the business was known, was readily accepted by the community, and David worked very hard to make it successful. Meantime, back at the farm, Joanna, was tasked with the pleasure of raising their six children.
David worked endlessly for the next fifteen years, and he opened 17 stores, in places like Whitby, Bobcaygeon, Coburg, Scarborough, Uxbridge, and a dozen more, keeping his flagship location in Port Perry as the company’s hub.
David explained how extremely fortunate and delighted he was, when one of his five sons said he wanted to work for him. “You can work with me,“ David replied, to his son’s request. “But not for me.” Perhaps only a choice of words, but certainly an indicator of the moral stature of this local businessman.
Over the next few years, all of David and Joanna's children became involved in the operation, and David slowly transferred ownership of the business into their names. “Now they run it and they do it well.” He paused, “It says a lot, when all your kids want to be in the same business that you started.” I could see pride beam across his face.
I wondered what retirement meant for David Malcolm. Certainly, with nine grandkids, there would be no shortage of things to keep him occupied. Surprisingly, I discovered he has a fantastic passion for art. His wife, Joanna, is certainly well known as an established artist in this area, but his love for the craft, came as a surprise.
Art forms, such as wire bending, multimedia and painting are being deeply explored by David. He recently bought an old mill in Blackstock, and is working to restore it, so he can turn it into an artist studio.
David went on to explain, his vision was to open a ‘Night Market’ next year. I questioned him further, and learned his intent is to divide the studio into smaller parcels, and rent them to artisans where they can create and sell their craft.
Charity is a word David and Joanna are very familiar with. They frequently donate their vacation property to organizations, in order for the cause to raise funding. Quite often he uses the resources of the stores to aid organizations in need.
Well established in the community, David Malcolm loves the Township of Scugog. His dad, Lawrence, who turns 100 in March, was the first mayor of Scugog in 1974. David and Joanna love to travel and enjoy life. We in the community, are proud of what they have accomplished, and grateful for what they give back. David Malcolm, a farm boy from Nestleton, who built a fireplace empire.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com.
First of all, let me thank the Standard News Corp. for taking over the publication of this column. Although I have been penning this piece since 2012, this is the first one to appear in this newspaper. Watch for it the first week of each month on page 5.
I have just read Boxing Day is no longer the biggest shopping day in Canada. Instead it has been replaced by the third Friday in November, affectionately known as Black Friday.
The first question that comes to mind is, why would anyone call it Black Friday? It certainly doesn’t have much of a happy ‘let’s go shopping’ ring to it, unlike Boxing Day, which makes you want to buy boxes and boxes of things.
I did a little digging into the history of Black Friday, and how it came to be Canada’s biggest shopping day. Of course, it isn’t really our day, as we borrowed it from our neighbours to the south.
It falls on the day after the American Thanksgiving. Black Friday has grown into one of the most notable days, where die hard shoppers have an opportunity to bolt, at top speed, through stores, in search of hundreds of bargains. Stores open at midnight on Thanksgiving or sooner, credit card companies reinforce their internet services, and malls employ serious security personnel.
September 24th, 1869, was the day two speculators created a boom-and-bust in gold prices. A stock market crash followed, prices fell 20 percent and the term ’Black’ Friday had been coined.
In 1905, the Canadian department store Eaton's, began the first Thanksgiving Day parade, by bringing Santa on a wagon through the streets of downtown Toronto. Eight live reindeer were added seven years later, and by 1916, seven floats representing nursery rhyme characters, joined Santa in the parade.
Macy's Department Store was so impressed with the Eaton’s venture, it decided to launch its famous Thanksgiving Day parade, in New York City. The parade boosted shopping for the following day, the anniversary of the original ‘Black’ Friday.
In 2018, 5.8 Million people in Canada bought only online, where as 5.1 million bought only in stores. 6.5 Million people did both, which means that 11.6 million Canadians went outside to shop. The average Canadian spent $335 between the US Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. In the US, people spent $5 billion dollars on Black Friday alone, and $38 billion over the five day Thanksgiving weekend.
I suspect the Black Friday concept is here to stay, and if we are going to adopt this day as our biggest shopping experience, we should create a Canadian brand. Maybe we can call it ‘Lorne GREEN’ or ‘Conrad BLACK’ day. ‘RED Kelly’ is another on my list, but my all-time favourite is our own, Lance BROWN Friday… shop ‘till you drop.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures or email him, at photosNtravel.com.
There must be hundreds of organizations, groups, clubs or events, unknown to most of us, and recently I came across one that totally threw me for a loop. It is the World Tiramisu Competition, held in Treviso, Italy, the first week of November. Ordinarily this would not be something I would take much notice of, except one of the judges lives right here, in our own little town.
Ivo Finotti was selected from 7,000 applicants to become one of the prestigious judges in this year’s event. I asked Ivo why he felt he was selected and he attributed it to his pitch, which really zeroed in on his roots, youth and traditions.
Ivo was born in the north of Italy, in Valle San Felice, a small village of 300 inhabitants, near the larger city of Rovereto. At an early age, his parents decided to immigrate to Montreal (they had relatives there), and Ivo’s father, a marble cutter, found work immediately.
“Our family is from Northern Italy, “Ivo explained. “So we couldn’t move into Little Italy in Montreal, as we didn’t belong. Instead we lived in Ahunstic, north of Montreal.”
During his stint at St. Pius X High School and obtaining his degree at Concordia, Ivo had an interesting series of part-time jobs. He worked at Hygrade Foods (now Maple Leaf) cleaning the place. “My hours were 11 to 7 [during the night]. It was disgusting, filthy work but the pay was amazing.” He smiled, as he relived his youthful days.
Another one of Ivo’s jobs was a peanut vendor in Montreal’s Jarry Park. The process is hilarious. “I would throw the bag of peanuts from 10 or 20 rows away. I was always on target, and as a kid you felt like a hero when you caught the bag. That was even more fun than eating the peanuts.” The reason for throwing the peanuts is to ensure they end up in the right hands.
While working on his MBA, he was invited to a party by a good friend, and there met Deborah Jones. Ivo drove her home, but forgot to get her number. He searched the phone book, but couldn’t find her. He remembered she worked at Eaton’s, so off he set in an effort to find her. He did and they went on a date. A week later, Ivo proposed, but he was turned down. He proposed several more times over the next six months, and finally Deb said yes. The happy couple were married in 1978, and three years later they moved to Toronto where they raised their two girls.
Ivo spent his life in the Internet technology business, and worked for a company which catered to systems for the Four Seasons Hotel chain. Ivo’s expertise was in systems driven software, but his talents were in customer relations. He recently retired and, together with Deborah and their Golden Retriever rescue dog, Max, moved to Port Perry.
While visiting with a friend, Peter Stec, Ivo learned that Peter was evaluating a dog for therapy. Ivo was intrigued and explored the interest a bit further. Four couples applied to the St. John Ambulance course for therapy dogs. “It was a tiring test and it took a few go arounds before we were accepted,” Ivo explained.
It was during this process Ivo heard about the Walk for Guide Dogs, sponsored by the Lions Organization in Markham. He participated for three years and wanted to introduce the concept to Port Perry. Working in conjunction with Scott Riley, at Pet Valu, a date was set for the first Walk for Guide Dogs. “ I didn’t know what to expect and certainly didn’t have any idea of how much Scugog residents are committed to charitable events,” Ivo explianed.
The walk took place on May 27th and the turnout was astounding. Not only did many more people show, than anticipated, but the dollars raised were much greater than expected. Ivo adamantly confirmed the event would take place every year, going forward. It is always held on the last Sunday in May, so mark it on your calendar.
For someone who has only been in North Durham for two years, Ivo Finotti has certainly embraced the community. Along with being co-chair for the Walk for Guide Dogs, Ivo is a resident member of the Heathy Lake Scugog steering committee. He loves to swim and walk (as he puts it, “It’s a great way to shed a few pounds.”), and is focused on starting his consulting and sales training practice.
The Christmas season, among other things, is a great festive foodie time of year, and having the pleasure of sitting down with a judge in the World Tiramisu contest put me in the spirit of the season. I would like to take this opportunity to wish each of you a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2019.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com.
North Durham is fortunate to have a variety of interesting residents within our borders, but few are as historically minded as Paul Arculus, retired teacher, historian, tour guide and author of nine novels (soon to be 10), all of which focus on the history of our area.
“I am so concerned that small town history in Canada will disappear so quickly with each generation,” said the retired school teacher. “If we do not capture it, our children will no longer have it.” Truer words were never spoken, and we are very fortunate Paul has undertaken the task of scribing times gone by for our area.
Born in Yorkshire, England, Paul moved to Canada, residing in Scarborough. He attended Teacher’s College, and after a few years of teaching elementary school and obtaining degrees from McMaster and U of T, decided to switch to teaching English and History, in the high school circuit.
“I was fortunate to receive several job opportunities. When we came to Port Perry to spend a day, I was made so welcome by Grant McDonald, Principal at PPHS at the time, and other local residents, that no other locale stood a chance. In 1970, Paul and his wife Isobel, moved here, and Paul began teaching at Port Perry High School.
Peter Hvidsten, owner of the Port Perry Star at the time, asked Paul if he would be interested in writing a historical column for the newspaper. Paul agreed, and his life as a historian was born. Paul wrote the column for ten years and began to record diachronic information, which eventually made its way into his books.
The most popular is Durant’s Right Hand Man, a book about Edwin Campbell, one of the founders of General Motors and the Chevrolet. I was amazed at how Paul captured the realism of the trials and tribulations of one of our largest corporations.
When Paul was working on his Masters in 1988, he compiled an 80 page history of Port Perry High School, in time for their reunion. His latest published book, Pine Grove Cemetery, is a virtual Who’s Who of dozens of local personalities that make up our history.
Once you start reading it, you feel as if you are sitting face to face with the likes of Joseph Bigelow, William Brock, Samuel Cawker and all the forefathers who built this great township.
Paul’s previous book, Blessed Are They, is a history of the Church and Parish of Blackstock. It contains little known facts, which would have undoubtedly been forgotten if they had not been penned by him. Most of Paul’s books are available at local bookstores.
Not only is Paul a respected author, but he also dons a top hat and gives local historic tours to residents and visitors alike. As he marches along the streets of town, relaying events of the past, people are mesmerized by his knowledge of the past and his humorous flair, when relaying it.
Paul is currently putting the finishing touches on his tenth novel, Nip and Tuck. It is a fact based account of the Port Whitby, Port Perry and Lindsay Railroad. I asked Paul where he came up with the title “I have been working on this book for the past ten years,” he replied. “I would tuck it away for a while and nip it in the bud when I gathered more information.”
Why would it take so long? Paul explained that all the railroad records were destroyed. Any accounts of historic significance would be from old newspaper archives. The Grand Trunk Railroad took over all the records and destroyed most of them. Whatever remained was trashed by CN when they acquired the rail network.
A friend, Bill Graham, had started a book called Greenbank and when he moved to Toronto, turned all the records over to Paul. There was a fair bit of information about the local railway, which was typical of many small railroads of the day.
The book is extremely intriguing, as it is filled with corruption and mayhem, and even a murder at Myrtle Station. “The problem,” Paul explains, “Was that successful, local businessmen, who knew nothing of railways, thought it would be simple to begin the venture. Unfortunately they were wrong, and it led to much financial strain on the local economy.” I can’t wait for the launch next month.
Paul has two more literary projects in the works. The first is a biography of Peter Perry, the man who lends his name to Port Perry. The second is a biography of newspaperman, George Gurnett, probably the greatest Mayor Toronto has ever seen. He was responsible for establishing the Constabulary (Murdoch fans will know this), as well as establishing health services for residents.
Paul has a third book in mind, which is the story of Elizabeth Christy and is based on a diary, to which he had access. ”There were continuous entries made from 1870 to 1900,” Paul explained. “Her father was a farmer and politician who owned 200 acres in Manchester.”
Paul and Isobel enjoy travelling, especially to England's southern coast. They try and go every year, if for no other reason than to relax, stay in touch with their roots and enjoy some fish and chips. When in Durham, they enjoy time with their three sons, their wives, and their eight grandchildren.
Towering well over six feet, with his deep voiced Yorkshire accent, I could not help but think if his hair was darker, he would be a double for Downton Abbey butler, Carson.
Pick up a copy of one of his books, at Books Galore and More, and lose yourself in times past and the people who make up our history.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and key note speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com
I am often amazed at the passion that drives a person; and in doing these articles, I have the opportunity to delve into the backgrounds of prominent individuals within our community. I recently sat down with Tyler Briley, a sculptor, whose focus is related to our veterans. Next month, being Remembrance Day, I thought it fitting to feature Tyler in this edition of the Story Behind the Person.
The Peace Tower, in Ottawa, is fittingly named for the peace which Canada maintains, both internally and abroad. The people responsible for that peace are our veterans, first responders, and those who sacrifice much, to ensure the rest of us can live free. One such hero, a soldier during World War I, suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and took his life. He was erased from every element of our history.
The soldier is Sam Sharpe, a Member of Parliament for North Durham, who enlisted and recruited many of his friends, who fought diligently at Vimy Ridge, Avion, and Passchendaele. Upon his return, while recovering in a hospital in Montreal, he learned of the demise of many of his comrades. Because most of them had enlisted at the urging of Sam Sharpe, the guilt he felt was overwhelming. He committed suicide, and was immediately stricken from any records honouring those who fought in the Great War.
The government went so far as to slice a painting of Sam Sharpe, and leave it as trash, in an effort to hide what was considered a weakness, from the general public. So the untold story of Sam Sharpe remained, until five years ago, when the Honourable Erin O’Toole, member of Parliament and, at the time, Minister of Veterans Affairs, decided to change history. Erin called on art aficionado, Kent Farndale, who recommended Tyler Briley as an artist who could bring the memory of Sam Sharpe alive, once again.
Tyler set to work, searching for facts and history about his subject. “I have to understand what drives the subject I’m sculpting,” Tyler replied.
I asked him if his research had created a bond with the fallen soldier. “There is definitely a link between the two of us now,” Tyler answered.
Tyler set out to create a bronze bust of Sam Sharpe, and after its unveiling at an event in Port Perry’s Memorial Library, it was transported to Ottawa, for an official presentation, at what has since become a legendary event; the Sam Sharpe breakfast. I had the pleasure of attending the event, and was amazed by those in attendance. Senator Romeo Dallaird and Erin O’Toole hosted the breakfast, and speakers included Michael Landsberg of TSN and Joe Tilley of CTV. The common bond was the camaraderie forged by PTSD, and its related illnesses.
Why was Tyler Briley chosen to create this fantastic piece of art? During my interview I learned that Tyler also has a connection to PTSD, as a result of his career as a first responder with the Scarborough Fire Department.
Born in Leamington Ontario, in the heart of tobacco country, Tyler’s family moved to Scarborough when he was still an infant. A paper route got him through school, and a part time job at Shoppers Drug Mart gave him spending cash while attending R.H. King Secondary school.
“I started Carving when I was about six years old,” Tyler explained “I get lost in the piece. For me, it’s an emotional release. “I would carve all sorts of images onto broom handles, which needless to say, didn’t go over well with my mother”. To keep peace, his father gave him some soft rocks which he could carve, and he soon moved to soapstone. As Tyler honed his craft, he exhibited at shows and developed quite a following.
Tyler attended the University of Western Ontario, specializing in Geology, as he had a deep interest in fossils and archeology. From there he travelled out west for a year, working in a hotel in Banff. He returned to Toronto for a wedding, on a motorcycle road trip, and he decided to stay. In 1979 he married his wife, Debbie. The wedding took place a day after Tyler was hired by the Scarborough Fire Department.
Eight years later, the couple, along with their three children went for a Sunday drive and discovered Port Perry. They immediately fell in love with the town and moved here. Life was good, until a tragic turn of events began to weigh heavy on the firefighter. Tyler was injured on the job and after five surgeries attempted to return to work. Carrying large oxygen tanks during a chemical fire, caused Tyler’s injuries to resurface, and this time it would be a permanent sabbatical.
Doctors prescribed many treatments, but as a result of drugs and pain he drifted into a state of depression, becoming very anti-social. His eating habits also suffered and his weight jumped from 175 lbs., to 404 lbs. During a visit to yet another specialist, he overheard the physician dictate his notes. “I was shocked,” Tyler explained. “I overheard the doctor say that I had six months maximum to live.” He paused a moment to reflect. “I had no idea, but I certainly did not want to die.”
In 2014 Tyler decided, only he would be able to ‘fix’ himself, and decided to alter his entire being. The first thing on his agenda was to stop all the medicines prescribed for him. I asked if he had withdrawal symptoms and he smiled. “It is certainly the hardest thing I have ever done, especially because I was doing it on my own.”
He also stopped all alcoholic consumption and decided to pursue a vegetarian life style. Exercise also became part of Tyler’s daily routine, and his body began to heal. Tyler’s weight began to drop, and he lost 220 lbs. without the help of any weight loss plans, doctors, or special diets. Pure willpower and determination were his driving forces.
One of Tyler Briley’s sculptures, dating back to the early nineties, found a permanent home in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. “I decided to create a dedication to my grandfather, a cavalry officer from the First World War.”
When Tyler received the call from Kent Farndale to work on the Sam Sharpe piece, he was elated. Tyler’s research created a bond with the WWI soldier. “Every photo I found showed Sam Sharpe as a young, strong soldier. Certainly not the type of person you would expect to be suicidal,” Tyler explained.
He painstakingly aged the war hero in his bronze sculpture, into an image of a man who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The sculpture’s installation was set back, as a result of the current government’s priorities, but Erin O’Toole has fought diligently to have the piece installed prior to Remembrance Day of this year. The long overdue tribute will re-awaken not only Sam Sharpe, but all of the heroes afflicted by PTSD and related illnesses.
Tyler Briley has progressed, to include painting into his repertoire of art forms. We, in North Durham, are privileged to be able to see his work at the Kent Farndale Gallery, in the Port Perry library. The opening reception is October 27th, and the exhibition runs until November 23rd. A fitting tribute to all the veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice, to provide a world of peace and prosperity for the rest of us.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com
We, in North Durham, are fortunate to have so many organizations interested the betterment of people in the forefront of their mission. One association, prevalent in many various events, is the Rotary Club. This year, for the second time in his life, Terry Coyne takes on the presidency of this great group of individuals, who do so much for our town.
Having just finished the third annual Ribfest, which was a complete success, Rotary is already looking for new challenges. They proudly fulfilled their recent commitment of raising $150,000 for the Oakridge Hospice and supporting the Port Perry Library, Camp Scugog, UOIT, Durham College, Lakeridge Hospital, and Operation Scugog, to name a few.
Rotary was formed in 1905, and now boasts 1.2 million members around the world. Their biggest claim to fame was the almost total eradication of polio, through constant fundraising and dedication. The two major fundraisers for the local organization, are the Port Perry Rotary Spring Gala, and the Port Perry Waterfront Ribfest, both of which require a tremendous amount of volunteer time.
If you had an opportunity to visit Ribfest, you will have noticed the close attention paid to details. Tables were constantly wiped and refuse was separated into recycling bins by volunteers. They even brought a falconer in, to keep the seagulls at bay. Five Ribbers accompanied 23 other vendors, all positioned around the 994 chairs at 134 tables. 170 volunteers were there to guarantee a flawless event, and 12 bands entertained the crowds.
The event was successful and Terry, with fellow Rotarians and spouses, presented a cheque of $50,000 to the Oakridge Hospice. Another presentation was made to the Hospital Auxiliary, of more than $8,000, from donations at the gate. The money will go toward increasing the comfort of patients and their families.
So who is the man serving a second term as president?
Terry Coyne was born in the small town of Thessalon, about an hour outside of Sault Ste. Marie, on the north of Lake Superior. His mother, who worked at Eaton’s and his dad, employed by White Rose Oil, moved the family to Sault Ste. Marie, where Terry attended elementary and high school.
Always the entrepreneur, Terry, while in public school, bought seeds from a catalogue and sold them to people in his neighbourhood. In high school he delivered telegrams, bagged groceries at Loblaw’s and worked as a yard checker for the CPR. He had to track the railway cars that entered and left the yard.
After attending the Lake Superior State College, now known as University of Superior, Terry was offered a position with Algoma Steel, as an electronic repairman. In the late sixties, Terry met a nurse from St. Thomas, who was visiting a friend in the Sault, and in 1970 he and Nancy were married.
Ten years later Terry, Nancy and their three kids, packed up and moved to Simcoe, Ontario, where Terry started to work for American Can. From there he was transferred to Whitby, where he and a friend, founded Terdun Materials Management, a firm which did quality control for American Can.
With a recession looming in the wings, Terry and his business partner purchased Pineridge Sports Shop, on Queen Street in Port Perry, where Brocks for Kids is today. The store sold everything from skates to golf clubs, uniforms to running shoes.
In 1993 Terry sold his holdings in Terdun and looked after Pineridge full time. He decided to change direction, after an American firm flooded the Canadian market with sporting goods. He began to focus on the promotional side of the business and moved the store to the Bank of Montreal plaza on Scugog Street.
In 2006 Terry relocated Pineridge Impress, as it was now known, to North Port Road.
That was also the time Terry joined Rotary in an effort to improve his networking and business contacts. In 2010/11 he became president of the group and is a true advocate for the organization.
The Port Perry club is 30+ members strong, and is always looking for people wanting to contribute time to the community.
Along with helping less fortunate around the world, Rotary has a seat at the United Nations, and is an advocate for world peace.
Closer to home, the group also organizes an exchange program where young people from local areas are given opportunities to stay in a foreign country for a year. The organization partners with: the Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham; Lakeridge Health, Port Perry, to rebuild and update our community hospital; Community Care Durham North, to provide comfort and cheer at Christmas, and many others.
Terry Coyne is planning on spending more time with Rotary and his family, which now include five grandkids and a grand dog. Congratulations to Terry and the Port Perry Rotary Club, for making our community a better place to live.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
Walking along Queen Street, in beautiful Port Perry, offers an opportunity not many towns can boast: a picturesque setting on a pretty lake, and some of the finest shops anywhere.
One of those stores is Dana’s Goldsmithing, a fine jewellery shop which has recently undergone a fantastic renovation. Unlike many establishments who merely redecorate and ‘freshen up’ the premises, Dana decided to change the entire model of her jewellery business, and make it extremely customer focused.
As soon as you step inside, you are mesmerized by sparkling display cases visible all around you. Staff greet you from behind the counters and offer you consultations in the showroom or private meetings in the offices upstairs. All the technology is visible through a glass wall at the back of the retail section of the store. Visitors can view the new 3D printer, as well as the laser welder. The second floor, also totally renovated, has offices and more modernized design spaces.
This year marks Dana’s 26th anniversary of her shop on Queen Street in Port Perry. “We have made changes and improvements along the way, but nothing as major as this recent upgrade,” Dana explained.
The store was closed while the renovations were taking place, and during the final weeks, Dana spent most of her days and nights overseeing the final touches.
“Our focus is totally on customers and offering options to fulfil their needs,” Dana described.
There are certainly many items to choose from in the showcases, but customization is what the new store emphasizes, and that is what the majority of clients are looking for. The new technology Dana has invested in, along with her expert skill in design, allows her and her staff of 12 to create unique pieces of jewellery to satisfy the wants of potential customers, at affordable prices.
The process is detailed and comprehensive, but the end result is still affordable. Hand sketches are transformed through computer aided design software into realistic images. They are then transformed into 3D models through the new printers. From there a metal mold is created, which leads to a finished product in primarily gold or platinum. It may sound simple, but in reality it requires an understanding attained only from years of experience and knowledge.
Dana, born in Port Perry, had no intention of getting into the jewellery business when she was young. Her family owned an insurance brokerage in town, and Dana worked part time at Canadian Tire, and Pathways on Pleasure Valley, while attending Port Perry High School. As fate would have it, she was one credit short of getting into a kinesiology program, and decided to take a year off and try something different. She heard of an opening in a jewellery arts program, and thought she might enjoy that.
It was only supposed to be a year, but the jewellery business hooked this young entrepreneur, and Dana stayed with it for the full three years. She earned her keep by repairing jewellery for her friends, and upon graduation decided to open a business, which she operated from the basement of her parent’s house.
It was not long before she outgrew her location, and moved into a 200 square foot space on the ground level of a dentist’s office on Queen Street. Business grew quickly, and two years later, Dana was able to buy the building her store currently occupies. At one time the building was a bank and Dana retrofitted the safe with the latest technology to ensure the security of her products.
Maintenance and repair was a constant in the old, rundown building.
“Balancing my life was the toughest part,” Dana admits.
Her two children were involved in sports, and Dana made it a point never to miss any games or competitions. The kids are now grown, but there still does not appear to be enough hours in her day. “I am so grateful to the people who work with me. They are loyal and dedicated, and over the years we have become a family.”
Dana has given back to the community at a far greater rate than anticipated. Her Christmas ornament has, over the past 17 years, raised more than $90,000 for the hospital foundation. She was heavily involved in the Dragon Boat festivals, and generously gave to the second ice pad expansion for the Scugog Arena. She was also a major player in the Town Hall 1873 ‘Shooting for the Stars’ restoration campaign. “I don’t know anywhere else quite like Port Perry. The people are wonderful and it is a very energizing community.”
The store is a full service jewellery business. There are no third party products, and no cluttered advertising material. It is all about the customer and their needs. Even the diamonds sold in Dana’s store are ethically sourced from Canada.
The casual, less pretentious feel of the newly renovated store, makes customers feel relaxed and offers personal interaction. Patrons may not realize a lack of counters separating them from the staff, but they soon see there are no areas where customers can’t go. There is nothing restricting people from seeing every aspect of the operation.
The slogan, ‘We make it personal’ has been molded into every facet of the store. Every policy in place was examined, and if it didn’t make the customer experience personal, it was revamped. iPads and flat screens add to increased efficiency, and social media marketing has certainly taken off. Best of all, the proof is in the pudding, and customer reactions to the changes have been positively overwhelming.
The woman behind Dana’s Goldsmithing is the reason for its success. Dana has balanced her life to create a niche, very rare in business today. Sixty plus hours a week is not uncommon for this entrepreneur. With a big smile on her face she explained, “Everything you do, every decision you make, helps you grow as a person, and without those experiences you may not be who you are today.”
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
The prosperity of a community is usually measured by the quality of its citizens.
The willingness of residents to participate in community events directly reflects the success of the municipality. We are extremely fortunate to have many people who work endlessly for the betterment of the community, and near the top of this list is Stephen Gray, who is, among other things, the CEO of Medical Associates of Port Perry, which includes the North Durham Family Health Team. As if that challenge was not enough, Stephen is also on the board of the new Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham.
Born in Birmingham, England, Stephen, the only boy, with three sisters, moved to Calgary when he was still quite young. His father was a plumber and gas fitter and his mother a legal secretary. As with many immigration policies from European countries, the Gray’s options for relocating were Canada and Australia.
During school, Stephen worked several part time jobs, including paper routes, manning the desk at an auto parts store, and flipping burgers at McDonalds. Upon graduation, Stephen found his true entrepreneurial self and, along with a friend, opened a photo finishing store. The business thrived and soon the duo owned and managed four stores.
Stephen realized the photo finishing business was coming to an end with the digital age and decided to return to his studies, working on his CMA degree. In 1996 Stephen met Merrilee Brown and the two connected. In fact, Merrilee invited Stephen on a date in Edmonton. The couple developed a long term relationship, between Ottawa and the west for more than a year, until Merrilee (now Dr. Brown) took a position in Stony Plain, Alberta.
Merrilee had completed her research work in Port Perry, and fell in love with the town. She had secured a position here and in 1998 the couple packed their belongings into a U-Haul and started a three day trek across the country. A year later Merrilee and Stephen were wed, and bought a house on Scugog Island.
Stephen, now in the accounting business, took on a position with Penny and Associates Business Management, providing controller services to companies. In 2002, he once again kicked into his entrepreneurial mode and started Cameron’s Coffee Company. The company did well, and Stephen sold the business just after he was offered a position with Medical Associates of Port Perry. “I was approached to apply for the position, and with my accounting degree, innovative history and managerial past, I felt I could contribute greatly to the community.”
In 2008 Merrilee and Stephen moved from the Island into town. By now, they had two children, and all the activities this busy family was involved in, made moving closer to work and schools a necessity. Stephen’s career was skyrocketing with the expansion of the medical building in 2010.
The following year they added the North Durham Family Health Team, a group of health care professionals working with the physicians of Medical Associates of Port Perry, to deliver expanded medical services to Port Perry and the community.
Currently there are 40 physicians in the Medical Associates; which is twice the number from when Stephen started. Together with a staff of 120 employees, several tenants such as Physio, Audiology, Dentistry, the Lab, Port Perry Imaging, etc. keeps him on his toes at all times.
“I love my job, primarily because I get to work with amazing people, and secondly I get to provide a service to our community that is needed,” Stephen explained.
Along with work, Stephen is an avid skier and loves to golf, although time seldom permits it. Mountain biking is another activity Stephen is engaged in, and tries to get out on the trails as often as he can. Stephen and Merilee, along with several couples, launched ‘Couples Who Care.’ The group is now up to 20 pairs, and they provide financial support and mentorship to teenagers under the care of the Durham Children's Aid Society.
When I asked Stephen what he loved about living in a small town, he immediately answered, “There is a natural, organic connection to people that is fostered in a small community, and I love being part of that.”
Recently, Stephen has joined the board of the Oak Ridges Hospice, a community-based charity, committed to establishing a new residential hospice in Port Perry, expected to be the first of its kind in Durham Region. This hospice home will enhance palliative support services in our community, and will lead the way for bringing this model of care to other locations in our Region.
Stephen Gray certainly fills his time with dedicated projects that enhance our community. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Medical Group Managers Association, and is involved in various local charitable organizations. Last year, he was awarded the prestigious Community Outreach Award. We are fortunate to have Stephen Gray as part of our community.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com
Last week, while at the CMTC Convention near the airport, I met a talented individual, who lives in Port Perry. I asked her for an interview, and was pleasantly surprised at her charm, receptiveness and willingness to meet me in town and do the interview.
Jessica Lord, although not yet 20, has accomplished much more than most people twice her age. She has recently completed season five on the award winning and extremely popular tween show Next Step, and has recently returned from Paris, where she filmed 26 episodes for an upcoming Disney series, called Find Me in Paris. I was surprised to learn she is heading back to the French capital for the filming of season two, another 26 episodes.
So how does one leap from the small town of Port Perry into the lead role in an international television series? I was very interested, because I’m sure there is a hit series out there searching for me to star in.
Jessica was born just outside of Manchester, England. She moved with her parents and brother to Canada and settled in Port Perry. Her Yorkshire accent is very distinct and puts an interesting and entertaining twist on the way she talks.
She attended Port Perry High School, and worked at Pita Pit and Hank’s Pastries, where many of you would have seen her.
“Dance has always been part of my life,” Jessica explained. “I started ballroom dancing when I was four.” Her smile indicated there was more to that comment, and it turned out, her mom enjoyed ballroom dancing in the UK and took Jessica along to her weekly sessions.
“I danced by myself at first and really enjoyed Line Dancing and Jive,” she explained, and it must have seeped into her bones, because she never looked back. Dance studios gave her the basics, but Jessica was looking to develop her own style and practiced routines, which she choreographed herself.
Her mentor, Jennifer Barton, gave her the drive and ambition, so Jessica decided to switch high schools and attend O'Neill Collegiate in Oshawa, putting more emphases on her art form. Jennifer told Jessica about the fantastic arts program at Centennial College, offering a great dance program, which ranged from hip hop to ballet.
It was during her stint at Centennial that Jessica decided to attend the Canadian Model and Talent Convention in Toronto.
She caught the eye of a talent manager from Los Angeles, who jumpstarted her career. He arranged for a Toronto based agent, who organized an audition for the Next Step show, and she was cast in a minor speaking role in 2015. Two years later, Jessica landed a major role in the show and starred in 18 episodes.
For those of you who don’t have teen daughters or granddaughters, Next Step is a fake reality show, which follows a group of teens who attend a dance academy. It showcases their lives, at and away from the dance school, and is one of the biggest hits on television today.
Jessica was signed up for the next season of Next Step, however, as part of her school curriculum, she participated in a co-op program and had to ‘shadow’ Amy Wright, a choreographing and casting agent, well known around the world in her industry.
Jessica’s job was to read off-screen for actors trying out for various roles. The project was a Disney series set in Paris. The writers were from Toronto, so the casting was done here.
After a few days of quietly doing her job, one of the writers suggested Jessica audition for, not only a role in the series, but for the lead.
Totally flattered and shocked, she did the audition, and to the surprise of the writers, her singing and dancing talents were a welcome addition to her acting ability.
The tape was sent to France, where the producers and directors reside, and a few weeks later she learned that the part was hers.
Disney knows how to spin a good story, and this one is no exception. A ballerina in 1905 Russia, who is performing in Paris, falls in love with a peasant boy, of whom her family disapproves… naturally. Her parents threaten to send her back to Russia and she runs away with Henri (her love interest). Henri, unaware that his family comes from a long line of time travellers, gives Lena, the ballerina, a family heirloom necklace. Naive of its enchanted powers, she is whisked through a time portal to 2018 Paris. Trying to cope with a new and very different world… I will stop there to avoid spoiling any details for you.
Filming for six months in Paris was gruelling, and not near as glamourous as you may expect. Jessica is back in Port Perry for a few weeks before heading out for another six months of hard work.
“I love acting,” she explains. “I hope in the future I will be able to direct as well, as it offers an all-encompassing aspect of what I do.”
I’m sure many opportunities will continue to come her way, each with great success.
“I try and get back to Port Perry whenever I can,” Jessica said.
I’m sure you will see her on the big screen, or strolling along the streets and shops of our great little town.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures, at photosNtravel.com
Living in a small town gives us a great opportunity to meet our neighbours, especially when they invest in local business, and through their entrepreneurial skills add opportunities for our community.
One such business leader is Dorie McDonald, owner of Sunnybrae Golf Club, located on King Street in Prince Albert. For the past three years, since Dorie acquired Sunnybrae, she has not only operated the golf club, but has immersed herself in Scugog life.
Raised in Gormley, just west of us, Dorie was the middle of seven children. Her father started James A. Rice Limited, and Dorie was raised in a construction family. Her grandparents were the founders of well-known Rice’s Flowers in Richmond Hill.
Her hospitality career started by scooping ice cream at Sam’s 24 Flavours, a well-known ice cream parlour, at Stouffville Road and Woodbine Avenue. High school at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park in Willowdale, a long commute, combined with her part time job at Thornhill Golf Club kept her busy.
Dorie had always planned to go into the hospitality business, and after high school, took her formal education at Ryerson. During that time she worked at Deerhurst, managing the golf course, and for a couple of years managed the Clog & Thistle Marina in Owen Sound. After Dorie graduated, she spent three years at Aurora Highlands Golf Club. From there she joined the family construction business, learning every aspect of it, from the ground up.
In 1988 Dorie married Graham McDonald, a successful flooring contractor. Together they have three sons; Douglas in finance, Bobby in Education Technology and James in the Flooring Business. Dorie is grateful to have a close relationship with her entire family. Mary Rice, her mother is often at the Club working with Dorie.
After thirty years in the company business and managing Aurora Highlands and Bradford Highlands, the opportunity came up to purchase Sunnybrae Golf Club from the Lee family. As operating golf courses was in her blood, she was enticed. “The prospect of purchasing 175 acres, close to one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen was too tempting to refuse,” Dorie explained.
Sunnybrae had been operating since 1962, and was started by the McIntyre family. The first order of business for Dorie was to make Sunnybrae a Community focused, friendly and welcoming operation.
“People have many memories here, and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome at Sunnybrae. Your golf club should be the extension of your living room”.
The Sunnybrae staff of 35 caters to the needs of visitors, clients and guests, sparing no attention to detail. Dorie will never admit how giving she is to anyone in need, as her humbleness is readily visible. She always has time for conversation, volunteer work with many groups, and her positive attitude is contagious. She considers her patrons as guests, not customers. “My real passion is the community and helping others”
Dorie McDonald loves to travel, or we should clarify, her husband loves to travel! Air travel scares her immensely, but it is the only way to go anywhere. She’s been fortunate to visit many places around the world. She has walked various parts of the Camino three times. For those not familiar with the Camino de Santiago it is an eight hundred km trek, usually done over 30 days.
What does the future hold for Dorie McDonald? One goal is to maintain Sunnybrae as a successful golf club, with banquet facilities for weddings and events. Another, is the development of 39 townhomes, at the corner of Hwy 7A and Old Simcoe Road, with one of her business partners. That project is to start in the very near future. Prior to starting this site, Dorie visited all the neighbouring homes and businesses to explain what she was about to undertake, and obtain their approval and address their concerns.
She is also in the process of beginning the groundwork for a Hotel at the Smart Centres site in Port Perry. It is still in the early stages of development.
Whatever Dorie McDonald undertakes, you can be sure it is for the betterment of Port Perry and its residents. Every project will have her complete involvement, with her love of people at the heart of it.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.