The Gift of Great Customer Service

As you know, I’m always trying to highlight small businesses and neighbourhood businesses and that’s the case with this particular blog post.

On the northwest corner of Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue, there’s a small strip mall with approximately 25 stores. One store that has been there for ages is called All in The Cards. It’s a small gift shop that also sells greeting cards, but also happens to have a post office.

I believe the owner’s name is David, and he and his staff are always very friendly and polite. Even the younger staff greet you as soon as you walk into the store. This seems to be a challenge these days for many retailers, but David’s crew is always friendly and smiling. In addition, they’re always helpful whether you’re looking for a gift, in need of a greeting cards, or have something to mail.

One of the things that I like about their particular post office, is that if they can find a less expensive way, with good or better service speed, to send a package, they’ll suggest different tricks of the trade. As a result, the employees there have saved me quite a bit of money, and my packages always arrive safe and sound.

Recognizing that it is a neighborhood business, if you live in that area or ever happen to be driving through, I suggest stopping in for any of your gifts, cards, or postage needs!

All In the Cards
416-398-0579
www.allinthecards.ca

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Diamonds And Customer Service Are Forever

This story starts approximately 17 years when I first proposed to my wife. At the time, I decided it might be best to have her involved in picking out a ring, so I could be sure everything was to her liking. When I had proposed, I used a stand-in ring and the plan was to go ring shopping together.

When our friends first learned we were engaged, aside from congratulating us, everyone recommended friends or acquaintances of theirs from which we could buy a ring.

My first interaction with Ron Pollock, owner of Ron Pollock Importers, almost ended with us not doing business. I had given him a call, only to find out I could see him by appointment only. Given my busy schedule, I had to move him to the bottom of my priority list as I had preferred a place where I could walk in at my leisure.

Over the next couple of weeks, I went to a couple of people but wasn’t impressed at all. Almost on que, I received a phone call from Ron, who asked when I was going to come in. Given that I’m always impressed when a salesperson dedicates the time and energy to follow up with a potential customer, I decided I would give Ron a try.

Ron was very pleasant, knowledgeable, professional, and his high quality jewelry (and diamonds) was very reasonable priced. As a result, we ended up buying “The Ring” from him, and since that time we’ve bought other items as well.  We’ve also recommended him to many other friends and family members, who have also been extremely happy with his service and his jewelry.

In more recent times, he’s also been accommodating and willing to help out my dad and my aunt when they need one of their old watches cleaned or repaired. Even though it’s not necessarily high-end jewelry, Ron is always willing to help out or pitch in whenever he can, to keep his customers happy. 

Whether you’re looking for a traditional engagement ring, customized pieces, repairs, or even appraisals, I definitely recommend Ron and his team for all things jewelry.

Ron Pollack Diamond Importers
27 Queen Street East, Suite 905
(416) 362-4822

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Taking It On The Road!

Similar to last week’s post, we’re still looking for exceptional companies to highlight. The responses have been fabulous so far, so we’re extending the invitation to keep nominating the very best. In particular, we are interested in hearing about your favourite businesses that are outside of Toronto and especially in other countries around the world.

Please tell us about your favourite:

  • Pizza place
  • Restaurant
  • Brunch spot
  • Retailer
  • Local merchant (small business)
  • Tourism destination
  • Hotel/resort
  • Clothing store
  • Grocery store
  • And any hidden gems that you are willing to share!

In addition to the name of the business, we’d also like to know why you’re nominating them. Did you have a memorable experience there? Did they go above and beyond the call of customer service duty? We’d like to know!

Please email your favourites to: davidL@sqm.ca

In the weeks ahead, we will share your suggestions and recommendations, and rest assured you will be mentioned in any blogs that feature the business.

Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments and for reading SQM Picks. Your insight has been a great help in helping SQM define what true customer service means.

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Help Us Help Your Favourites!

I hope that all is well and that your summer is off to a great start!

Over the next few weeks, we’re interested in hearing from you as we want to continue highlighting outstanding businesses around the world.

With so many readers from across the globe, we’re looking to you, our readers, for your input. In particular, we’re looking for exceptional businesses including your favourite:

  • Pizza place
  • Restaurant
  • Brunch spot
  • Retailer
  • Local merchant (small business)
  • Tourism destination
  • Hotel/resort
  • Clothing store
  • Grocery store
  • And any hidden gems that you are willing to share!

In addition to the name of the business, we’d also like to know why you’re nominating them. Did you have a memorable experience there? Did they go above and beyond the call of customer service duty? We’d like to know!

Please email your favourites to davidL@sqm.ca

In the weeks ahead, we will share your suggestions and recommendations, and rest assured you will be mentioned in any blogs that feature the business.

SQM is looking forward to hearing from you all, and as always… thanks for reading SQM Picks!

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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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