Tag Archives: Shop

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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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 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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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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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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