The Hidden Gem of Orillia

While I’m usually visiting my friend in Orillia for some fun and relaxation, a couple of weeks ago I decided to beat the long weekend traffic by heading up a day early. My plan was to simply work on the Friday from up north; however, since my wife was also working, she ordered me out of the house so I didn’t distract her. As a result of my eviction, I decided to go work at the library, and when I got there it dawned on me what a great city Orillia is. Not just to visit, but to live and work in.

In terms of the library, I was completely surprised by how modern and new the amenities were. From updated computers, to quiet rooms that you could book, to free WiFi, and all sorts of amazing programs and activities.

But the library was really just the tip of the iceberg to the other benefits of living in the community. As mentioned in my last blog, Orillia has a large number of chain retail stores (Costco just opened up there), tons of shopping, and a variety of restaurants. In addition to a variety of amenities, the city also has a modern hospital that has recently expanded.

When it comes to transportation, the city is close to the highway, has public transit within the city, and if you need to get down to Toronto, there’s a number of options (if you can get to Barrie there is also GO trains and busses).

One other thing that I’ve come to notice in Orillia, is that there aren’t really many traffic jams. Even in the summer time, with people going to the beach or the cottage, traffic generally moves along smoothly. While there are still cars on the road, it’s never crazy busy like Toronto’s main streets or the 401, so it is also a less stressful commute. Another bonus for drivers is that for whatever reason, the gas is much less expensive than it is in the city, with the price being as much as 15 cents less a litre!

When it comes to real estate, the market also seems to be much more reasonably priced for both buying homes, renting apartments, and leasing office space.

Orillia is the OPP’s headquarters, so I have to think it’s a relatively safe community. I’m not sure what the employment opportunities are like, but it has just about any of the amenities that a larger city would have.

As I get a bit older, I realize that there’s certainly an allure to being able to work during the day and only be minutes from the beach or a boat for the evening and weekends.

A lot of people have migrated from Toronto to Barrie, but it might be worth looking another 20 minutes north to Orillia, for another potential hidden gem.

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Orillia: A Place to Visit

A few years back, a close friend of mine moved to Orillia for work.  While he often visits Toronto on the weekends, my family and I have also had the added benefit of visiting Orillia as well.  It is only an hour and 15 minutes north of Toronto, or 20 minutes north of Barrie!   While we often take advantage and spend a lot of time lounging around my friend’s pool in the summer, there are also tons of places to go in the area, with plenty of things to do…museums, parks, and farmer’s markets, to name a few.  Orillia is not a summer-only stop!  There is tons to do in all four seasons!

The pool aside, I love going to the local beaches.  The two main beaches are sandy,  have clean water, changeroom facilities and washrooms,  friendly lifeguards and are never unbearably crowded. The parks by the beach have some great playgrounds.  Of course, with lakes on both sides of the city, there are always people going on leisurely boat rides, fishing or just walking.

Looking for other summer activities?  There’s some great hiking trails, a go-kart track between Barrie and Orillia, and a drive-in movie theatre…perfect for a cozy date!

If you are visiting during the cooler months of the year, there are still lots of things to do:  a trip to the sugar bush for maple syrup and pancakes, great hiking trails, treetop trekking and fantastic tobogganing hills.

If eating out is your thing, there are a wide variety of restaurants to experiment with.  Choose from diners, chain restaurants, great independent spots and if that is not enough choice for you, you could always drive 20 minutes south to Barrie! I have to mention the classic:  when you are up in Orillia, you’re only minutes away from Weber’s, the burger joint on Highway 11 that signifies you’ve arrived in cottage country. Head in the opposite direction and you have Casino Rama – a great spot for dining, concerts, shows and gaming.

After your stomach is full, if you want to flex your retail muscle, at more than just your average chain stores, there’s a very robust main street. Of course, you can’t bypass the main street without going to the Mariposa Market for some delicious pastries and baked goods. In the evening, the area comes alive with some bars and restaurants playing live music to make it a lively and fun atmosphere. An opera house regularly has incredible shows and plays.

I often like watching a movie or two up in Orillia, as there’s only one theatre (a sixplex), but because it’s smaller than those in Toronto, it’s usually not as crowded.


Lastly, when you exhaust all that there is to do in Orillia, there are also little day trips you could take, such as driving up to Gravenhurst, Midland, or Port Carling.


Though it’s only a short distance away from Toronto, if you want to get away from the big city and take a break from it all, make Orillia your next stop!

https://www.orillia.ca

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The King of Ramen

Several months ago, I was watching a TV show called You’ve Got to Eat Here, which was highlighting a restaurant in the Toronto area called Kinton Ramen. Since then, the company has expanded to open several location in the GTA.

For those of you that don’t know what ramen is, it’s a unique Japanese dish that consists of soup, noodles, and a protein, all served in a big bowl at a bar or a small table.

The location that I’ve now visited a number of times is located on Yonge Street in between Sheppard and Finch. Every time I’ve been there, whether it’s for lunch or dinner, it’s always busy but despite the fact that every table is always taken, the line moves fast because people get served quickly, eat quickly, and then leave.

For the ramen, you have different options including thick or thin noodles and pork, chicken, beef, fish balls, and more for your options of protein. Everything I’ve tried arrives steaming hot, nicely cooked, and is super tasty. It’s also not an expensive meal, so two can dine for under $40.00 including tax and tip.

The staff at this location are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable about menu items, always willing to make suggestions, and work extremely efficiently. Within minutes of placing your order, your drink is delivered and if you’ve ordered an appetizer it comes hot and fresh, with your delicious ramen right around the corner.

Personally, I always chuckle when people are leaving, as all the staff shout “thank you” and “good-bye” in Japanese. The restaurant has a fun and lively atmosphere. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something different and authentic, whether it’s a quick lunch, heading out on a date, or just grabbing a bite.

Kinton Ramen North York
(647) 350-7887
http://www.kintonramen.com/canada/

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Doorway to Great Customer Service

Last week, I highlighted the company that installed my garage door and garage opener; however, I also recently had a very positive experience with the manufacturer of the garage door opener.  As mentioned in my last blog, I installed a garage door and opener about four years ago; however, over the last few weeks I started having an issue with the garage door opening at random times, whether it be day or night.

I called up Chamberlain to see if they could advise me on what the problem may be, and was immediately impressed with their customer service.  Whenever I’ve called their troubleshooting number, they’ve consistently picked up very quickly, and their staff are very friendly, extremely knowledgeable about their products, willing to help, and patient as they walk you through potential fixes and solutions.  They also always send me a follow-up email after the call, so I’d always have a record of the information and know what to do next.

In my case, during my first call the technician asked me for some information that I didn’t have available, so he waited as I climbed up a ladder to get the model number.  While there, he walked me through the process of clearing the memory and resetting the code in hopes of fixing my problem.  He also offered, and sent, the instructions to me, via email, after our call was completed so that I had directions in the event that I had to do everything again. Unfortunately, resetting everything didn’t work and so I had to call them back for more assistance on next steps.

The second time I called, I had an equally pleasant experience with the person on the phone, who also did their utmost to try and help me. I told them that I’d rather just replace the logic board (the brains of the operation) in my garage door because I was concerned about my garage opening in the middle of the night or while I’m not around.  While the technician I talked to was willing to replace the logic board, he told me he was 99 per cent sure that an intermediary step would fix the problem, and advised me to do this first.

Because I was so confident in this individual and the company behind them, I took a leap of faith and it turns out he was 100 per cent correct. It turned out the problem was not with the logic board, but another part.  Once I confirmed this, I called again, and without hesitation Chamberlain sent me the part with no fee and no cost despite my garage door opener being well out of the warranty period. The part arrived quicker than expected…less then a week…and ever since I’ve installed it I’ve had absolutely no problem.

First, I want to highlight that in a day and age where customers are constantly being placed on hold for long periods of time, this company clearly understands the value of people’s time, and even though they are a large organization my calls were still answered quickly.  Second, the customer support employees / technicians are able to understand something as specialized as garage doors, and easily walk the customer through fixes in a quick and easy manner.   To have multiple associates that are both pleasant and knowledgeable about the product is a unique quality in a company, so  Chamberlain must have top-notch systems and training programs in place.  Last, this company stands behind their product, which isn’t always the case in today’s manufacturing world.  Very few companies would send you a replacement part without hesitation or cost, but that’s exactly what Chamberlain did for me.

There is a reason Chamberlain is as big and successful as they are. My applause go out to Chamberlain and their entire team.  Well done and keep up the great service!

Chamberlain
800-528-5880
http://www.chamberlaingroup.com

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Opening Doors to Great Customer Service

It was around five years ago when I was in the market for a new garage door that I met Steve Minakakis. Steve is an extremely talented one-man company, who owns and operates Maple Leaf Garage Doors. He happened to be living in my neighbourhood at the time and immediately came over, brought some brochures, and suggested a few different options. In addition his prices seemed to be on par, if not better, than several other companies. Steve had said he could do the job fairly quickly and so we chose him to install our garage door. He proved himself to be extremely responsive, available, and easy to work with.

Steve was also in charge of installing my garage door opener and in a unique demonstration of kindness, he offered to let me purchase the item myself and save a few dollars, as opposed to having him purchase it and charging me more for his services. Steve made several recommendations and told me where to buy the exact model, so I had no problem finding what I needed.

On the day he came to install everything he arrived promptly and on time, conducted his business efficiently and quickly, and within a few hours he was completely done. Not only did he get the job done, he set it up in such a way that it fit my needs. It looked good, had excellent safety and security measures in place, had a battery backup and a keypad, and it came with a remote.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I started having trouble with the opener. There seemed to be a ghost inside of it and as a result, my garage door had been opening on its own in the middle of the night or at different times of the day.

I ended up first calling the garage door opening company, Chamberlain, and they did some troubleshooting with me. With their help we finally narrowed down the problem. Even though the opener was out of warranty, Chamberlain sent me a replacement part free of charge. Since there was some wiring involved, rather than do it myself, I called up Steve for his expertise.

I asked Steve if he could come over at his earliest convenience. He had told me it might be a week or so, but I was pleased to discover that Steve had been able to swing by the very next day. I stepped into the garage after a long day’s work, and he had clearly been there because all of the parts had been replaced and the old parts were taken out and neatly put aside.

I immediately called up Steve and asked him how much I owed him, and he assured me that it had only taken a few minutes of his time. He said that I could help him out by leaving a review on HomeStars, so I did as well as highlight him and his services on the SQM Picks blog.

Steve has the right recipe to a happy customer: a good quality product, reasonable pricing, fast and efficient work, great customer service, and he doesn’t nickel and dime his customers. Steve looks at the bigger picture of growing his business by taking care of the little items that matter to the customer. I highly suggest Steve and his wonderful work ethic for any of your garage door needs.

Maple Leaf Garage Doors
416-856-8452
http://www.mapleleafgaragedoors.com/

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The Grass is Greener with Scotts Lawn Care Products

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken great pride in my lawn. I vividly recall the day when we first bought our house, almost 10 years ago. The previous owners were an older couple and didn’t seem to take much care of the grass or do much landscaping. That first spring I spent countless hours pulling the weeds, fertilizing, seeding, and watering. I was satisfied when my neighbours commented how the house went from having the worst lawn on the street to the best.

While I do the work myself such as cutting the grass, landscaping, and taking general care of the lawn. I’ve had some challenges over the past two or three years. In particular, I’ve had chinch bugs. For those who don’t know, they’re very tiny bugs that eat the root systems of your grass. Then eventually your grass dies leaving nothing, but a brown patch..

Unfortunately, the only telltale sign that you have chinch bugs is when you start to see patches of grass that look dry and it quickly dies. Before you know it, it’s too late to do anything. While there are products on the marketplace that will supposedly kill the chinch bugs, most people will tell you it’s very difficult to get rid of the problem.

Last year, I managed to get rid of the chinch bugs loitering around my lawn, but a good third of my front yard was ruined.  As a result, I had to put down lawn seed and I typically use Scotts lawn care products. While hindsight is 20/20, I thought it was going to be much more work to put down sod, so I got a big supply of triple mix soil and a couple bags of lawn seed to see if I could rehabilitate my grass.

After a few fruitless tries, I sent up the white flag and called Scotts directly to see if they could help me out because despite all my efforts the lawn was looking absolutely wretched. I guess they got some entertainment in the way I approached them, and I ended up getting a call from Scott from Scotts. He is not in any way related to the owner of the company, but certainly knows the lawn care business!

Scott took some time to give me some helpful tips and suggestions. He told me they wanted me to be happy with the product and that it’s not usually the product, but how it is handled. Based on what I told him I was doing, it sounded as if I might not have watered it enough or used enough topsoil, and so he gave me some hints on how to effectively use the product.

Scott said I also might get a call from customer service, and that they might send me some more lawn seed. True to his word, the very next day I got a call from someone at their head office. They apologized for my disappointment with the product, even though I had made it clear that it had been my fault for using it incorrectly. The woman who called insisted on paying me back for the product and even sent me a cheque so I could buy more lawn seed.

Between them going out of their way to give me some helpful hints and reimbursing me for a product that was clearly not faulty, they’ve kept me extremely happy as a customer. Given that the hot summer continues to pose challenges to my lawn rehabilitation efforts, there is no doubt that I’ll be purchasing more lawn care products from them in the weeks and months ahead.

Between their excellent customer service philosophy and how amazing they are to deal with, I recommend Scotts for all of your lawn care needs.

Scotts
1-866-436-7645
www.scotts.com

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In Way Over Your Head? Raul Santos Has You Covered!

Many months ago, I wrote about a contractor by the name of Armindo Rego, who had done some work at my house. Armindo had done a great job when we first moved in 10 years ago, and I’ve stayed in touch throughout the years. Over that time, Armindo has helped me with all sorts of projects, including referrals to other people in the trades, depending on what I need done. I always go to him for recommendations because I’ve come to trust him so much.

A couple of years ago I needed someone to inspect and repair my aunt’s house and he suggested Raul Santos from New Way Roofing System Ltd. Raul came out to my aunt’s house to see what he could do and whereas most people could have said my aunt needed a whole new roof, he only suggested a couple of minor repairs. Because he understood pricing for a senior citizen the work only cost me three or four hundred dollars. Since he did such a great job I always kept him in the back of my mind for any work I needed be it at my house, a friend’s, or family.

Recently, I knew I was going to have to replace our roof, so I called up Raul. Raul’s team works quickly, but they don’t rush. They did a professional job by taking the old shingles off and making repairs to the roof before they put on the new shingles. On the two days that they worked, each and every time they left everything was tidy and clean. You wouldn’t have even known that they were there if it weren’t for my spiffy looking new roof.

The guys from New Way Roofing Systems are polite, professional, and hardworking. They did a great job on my roof and I am very pleased with it. A number of people commented on how nice our new roof looked!

A roof is one of those home repairs that you hate to do, but it is a necessary evil. You don’t get any pleasure out of the roof other than it keeping you dry and protected. You simply don’t get the same enjoyment compared to putting in wall units, a gas fireplace, or a brand new TV. However, having my roof repaired was a painless process this time around.

Between Raul and his great workmanship, my roof looks awesome and people continue to tell me how nice it is.

New Way Roofing Systems
Raul Santos
416-230-2534

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