Monthly Archives: June 2018

I Can See Customer Service Clearly Now!

For many years, I’ve been buying my glasses from a local eyewear store, Universal Optical. It’s located at Lawrence Plaza, on the northwest corner of Bathurst and Lawrence. Although I wrote about Universal Optical in the early days of SQM Picks, after recently visiting the store I thought it would be appropriate to highlight this business once again.

The owner of the business is a gentleman named Mayer. Mayer is all about customer service. He provides customers with the best product for their needs and at the lowest possible price, while still making a living. He’s got an extensive selection of eyewear and contact lenses, but as with most healthcare professionals, it really boils down to the amount of attention and care that he provides to anyone who walks through the door.

Care can be demonstrated in two ways. One is the way in which you treat people from a health standpoint. As an example of this, when I sent my dad in to get new glasses, the optometrist did a vision test and realized his prescription had changed, but also discovered that he had cataracts. Before the optometrist made new glasses, she wanted my dad to take care of the other issues first. The optometrist could have very easily just made the glasses, then have them remade, but she was willing to take that extra step for the benefit of my dad’s ocular health.

From the customer service point of view, the folks at Universal are always willing to go the extra mile. As an example, a couple weeks ago I dropped by the store because the lens from my sunglasses popped out. I didn’t even buy them from Universal Optical, but Mayer took the glasses, popped the lens back in, adjusted the sunglasses so they would fit me properly, cleaned the glasses, and gave me a new, protective case. He did all of this without charging me, and refused to even take a couple of dollars to buy himself a coffee! Of course, the reason he did this was because he’s a businessman who thinks in the long-term. Yes, he didn’t make any money spending two minutes to fix and clean my glasses, but he knows I’ll come back to him when I need a new pair, and will certainly recommend him to friends and family.

In a day and age where consumers often forget about the small businesses, Universal Optical is the perfect example of why you should still support your local businesses and the great service that many of them provide.

Universal Optical
www.universaloptical.ca
416-780-9112

 

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The Canada Day Weekend is Almost Upon Us…SQM Will Help You Celebrate!

Another long weekend is coming up, and at the ripe, old age of 151 years old, Canada has plenty of events and activities that will be taking place across the country.

Try one of these ideas for your precious three day weekend:

Camping: With black fly season almost behind us, the Canada Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer camping! Check out ontarioparks.com for dozens of options on where to set up camp, both close to Toronto and throughout the province. Whether you’re going to one of the provincial parks for a simple day trip, or staying overnight, there’s tons of different things to do outdoors. Camping is a great inexpensive trip for a big group!

Fireworks: Go traditional and nab some fireworks from stores like Phatboy Fireworks or Kaboom Fireworks, and enjoy yourself a colourful spectacle in the sky. If you can’t do your own, Downsview Park, Canada’s Wonderland, and Ashbridges Bay will be putting on a lightshow worthy of Canada’s birthday.

Swimming: By July 1st, all of the municipal pools should be open, so check out the schedule and either exercise those muscles with a nice, relaxing swim, or take in some sun followed by a cool dip in the water. Find the nearest pool to you here.

Sports: Love sports and happen to be in the Toronto area on July 1st ? There are three sporting events, with Toronto FC, Toronto FC2 (academy team), and the Toronto Blue Jays all playing.

Day or Dinner Cruising: Whether you’re in cottage country or near the Toronto harbour, you can try taking a day or dinner cruise. One popular cruise is the RMS Segwun– North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. The RMS Segwun currently tours around Muskoka Lake and has afternoon and evening departures (it’s also a beautiful trip to take in the fall when leaves are changing colours – but don’t worry, we will remind you in the fall).

Ottawa: It’s always exciting to be in the nation’s capital over the Canada day weekend! There will be fireworks and festivals- plus, it’s always nice to immerse yourself in Canada’s wonderfully rich culture at a number of art galleries and museums.

Ribfest: For those in the Toronto area, head on down to ribfest at Etobicoke Centennial Park, featuring music, magic shows, fireworks, and of course, ribs!

BBQ: Like the Americans when they celebrate July 4th with a BBQ, there’s nothing like grillin’ some dogs or steaks on the bbq. Looking for some inspiration? Look no further.

Whatever you end up doing over the upcoming long weekend, and wherever you end up doing it, I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

 

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A Taste of Pittsburgh

Since my wife is in charge of meal planning for all of our trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect food-wise but I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of amazing restaurants in Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

Primanti Bros: Whenever I asked about Pittsburgh, people have told me that I have to visit Primanti Bros. The place has been around for about 80 years. It started out as a small sandwich shop in the Strip District and because most of the clientele were truckers, they started designing their sandwiches with french fries and coleslaw right on the sandwich itself….for ease of eating while driving. The four elements that make up most of the sandwiches….. the bread, meat, french fries, and coleslaw…were all delicious. The sandwiches were all big, solid, excellent sandwiches. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night bite, I definitely agree that Primanti Bros. is worth a stop. Or maybe more than one….

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina: This unique hotspot is open for lunch and dinner, and they cook right on open wood! Whether you’re looking for chicken, lamb, steak, or sausages, this place has it all. The restaurant works a little differently than many other restaurants, as you line up, almost like a fast-food joint, if you will, and they only take your order once there’s a table available. After you place your order, you then sit down, and they deliver your food right to you, like regular table service. When it gets later in the dinner period and they won’t be able to seat anyone else, they give the last person a t-shirt that says “end of the line” and that person’s responsibility is to inform anyone else who shows up that they will have to come back another time. The service is amazing, and the staff are extremely friendly…in fact, once they learned we were from out of town, they accommodated us even though the person in front of us had the “end of the line” t-shirt. On top of that, they were kind enough to gift us with our own t-shirt after I was joking around with them. It’s a terrific place with great décor and service, topped with delicious food. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth standing in line for. Also, this local joint is BYOB!

Kaya Island Cuisine: This restaurant is in the Strip District and serves up some hot and tasty Caribbean food. Near the end of my trip, I was a little fooded out, and wanted something a little different. Although we hadn’t planned on going to this restaurant, we changed our plans given that the menu had so many unique dishes. We actually ended up sharing the food, as they had a lot of appetizers that all looked amazing, including conch fritters, baby back ribs, Jamaican jerk wings, a spectacular salad known as the Caribbean rainbow salad, crispy fish tacos, and pulled pork quesadillas. All of the food came out very hot and fresh, very nicely presented, and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was big portion sizes, big enough to share among three people. The service was very good, and the atmosphere was fun, lively, and vibrant. It was the perfect meal to end our trip. It seems that, despite the popularity of the Strip District, most of the area closes down earlier on Sunday nights and Kaya was one of the few restaurants that stayed open. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Peace, Love, & Little Donuts: This is a small donut shop found in the Strip District, and I guess appropriately, they serve small donuts…about half the size of a regular donut. They actually take a plain donut and jazz it up with different toppings, which you choose off of their extensive menu. We tried the apple pie, banana split, s’mores, and the strawberry french toast, but you can choose from almost one hundred more. We stopped by after brunch one day and it was the perfect ending to our meal, with the four of us sharing six donuts. Although there is a little bit of a wait while they prepare each donut, it’s well worth the extra time, and they ended up being an awesome sweet treat.

The Church Brew Works: This is a microbrewery located in a very large, old church. The food is good pub food, all designed to go with beer. The atmosphere was truly amazing and certainly worth visiting. They also conduct tours of the brewery two or three times a day.

Whether it’s sandwich shops, pizza joints, or even some chain restaurants, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the Pittsburgh area. Happy eating!

 

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A Party Down in Pittsburgh

As often as I can, I try to get out of town on long weekends and the recent Victoria Day long weekend was no exception. In fact, this time I turned the three day weekend into a five-day road trip and took my wife and daughter to Pittsburgh.

I haven’t been to Pittsburgh in about 25 years, but remember enjoying my last visit. Initially, we were only going to stay a day or two, go to visit Fallingwater and the Hershey factory, when I realized that Hershey was about three and a half hours in the opposite direction. So we changed our itinerary. It turns out that we had no problem finding tons of things to see and do in Pittsburgh! The city is very vibrant, home to many innovative companies, products and services, has truly fantastic restaurants and plenty of sporting events for the athletic enthusiast. I can honestly say that one out of every four people in Pittsburgh were decked out in black and yellow in an ode to the Pirates, Penguins or their beloved Steelers. This is a city that wears their love of the game on their sleeve…where everyone can see it!

Pittsburgh is a tourist friendly city! When we were trying to find a specific area of a large cemetery, to avoid having us get lost, the groundskeeper gave us an escort over to the exact location… in his cart. The next day, we stopped to ask a police officer how to find the Duquesne Brewery Clock (the largest single face clock in the world – two times the size of Big Ben!). Moments later, we found ourselves with a police escort right to its location!

Over our four day visit, some of our favourite sites included the Heinz Center, the Strip District, Randyland, and Fallingwater.

Of course, during our days of sightseeing we needed energy and found no shortage of great restaurants. For lunch and dinner, whether it was Primanti Bros., an Argentinian steakhouse, or some fun and whimsical donuts at Peace, Love and Little Donuts, you could simply eat your way through the city and walk away a happy camper.

Sports fans, don’t look any further than Pittsburgh, which has an NFL, NHL, and a major league baseball team. During my trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in town, and while they weren’t successful on the field, the ballpark was beautiful to see and it was a beautiful spring night for baseball.

Lastly, I have to mention a one-day excursion down to Fallingwater. Built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful country home is about 1.5 hours away from Pittsburgh. It is a a gorgeous drive and should not be missed.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight a few of the places on my trip, but needless to say, if you’re up for a fun and adventurous road trip, Pittsburgh should be next on your list!

 

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