Tag Archives: Retail

Fantastic Fun in Philly

As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).

In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.

When you’re finished with the thrill rides,  there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.

If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.

Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, her and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several.  My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns.  After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.

After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history.  Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!

Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money.  Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.

Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag.  Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter.  An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.

Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks.  As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.

There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.

If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Supberbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.

As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks.  Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a philly cheese steak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.

If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person.  Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for it’s Philly cheese steak.  Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!

Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for they’re spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.

Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours.  We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.

I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.

 

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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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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 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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