HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: Saving Edmonton, saving Alberta By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 14, 2020

Skyline taken from the airport control tower at the Blatchford Redevelopment in Edmonton, December 4, 2017.Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Two interesting reports will be coming forward in the next few weeks, one to Edmonton City Council, one to the Government of Alberta. Whoa, don’t let your eyes glaze over! Don’t give up on Hicks on Biz! Reports, however dry and horrible and impossible to read, can profoundly influence the economic well-being of our city and province. And never before has Edmonton/Alberta faced such crossroads as today. If there’s not ingenuity and leadership and innovation, we are going to see a continuing decline in our real estate prices. Our children and grandchildren will reluctantly leave Alberta for career opportunities elsewhere. A slow, steady decline in entrepreneurial spirit will infect the province, to a point, where, like too many parts of Canada, the big deal will be to get a government job and never let it go. STORY CONT ... Read the rest of entry »

Weekly Dish: My word, Ma chef offers tasty food By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 11, 2020

Ma chef Korean Restaurant's "Rocky Mountain" bulgogi is a sight to behold! Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Ma chef Korean Restaurant 5818 111 St. NW (Lendrum Place Shopping Centre) 780-757-8889 Mon. to Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Fri + Sat to 9:30 p.m., Sun to 8:30 p.m.) Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tip and taxes: Basic, $30, loaded, $60 Food: 5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns No, that is not a typo. The Weekly Dish’s food rating for Ma chef Korean Restaurant is a perfect five Suns out of five. STORY CONTINUES BELOW From this clean, cheerful Korean restaurant,  in the Lendrum Place strip mall just up 111 Street from Southgate,  you’d expect comfort food for sharing with family and friends. Ma chef is that … and waaaaaay more. All six diners in our party were flabbergasted at the superb quality of the dishes coming out of chef/owner Jung Ho (Jacky) Lee’s open kitchen. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Patience is a virtue By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 7, 2020

After 27 years, Dr. Robert Foster's drug developed at the U of A, Voclosporin, has been approved as a treatment for lupus kidney disease. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton In the modest south Edmonton office of his latest drug-development company, Dr. Robert Foster can now chuckle about the day in 2007 when his net worth crashed from $30 million to $250,000. The pharmaceutical scientist, businessperson and professor lost his fortune with the collapse of Edmonton-based drug company Isotechnica. The company had been formed to commercialize Voclosporin, an immunosuppression drug Foster had created with a team of University of Alberta scientists and medical researchers. Isotechnica was as good as gone, but Foster never lost faith in Voclosporin’s medical potential. Today, after an incredible 26-year tale involving the cold-hearted realities of the international drug-development world, politics, betrayal, drug regulation and a never-ending search for investment cash, Dr. Foster has been vindicat ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: May Bistro Praha go on forever By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, February 4, 2020

The best steak tartare in Edmonton, at Bistro Praha. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Bistro Praha 10117-101 St. 780-424-4218 bistropraha.com No delivery service listed Parking in Scotia Place Parkade Mon. to Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sat. noon to 1 a.m. Sun. 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tip and taxes: Basic, $30, loaded, $100 Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Many restaurants in this town have been around since the 1970s. There’s a list below. STORY CONTINUES BELOW But none wear the years so well as the downtown’s Bistro Praha – 32 years in its original location in Rice-Howard Way until the Kelly Ramsay Building burned in 2009, re-opening two years later in the Empire Building, on 101 Street north of Jasper. When Bistro Praha re-opened, it was an exact copy of the original with better washrooms: The same sturdy wooden tables and chairs, the same giant European count ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Metro Edmonton is a political mess By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 31, 2020

Edmonton's downtown skyline is seen from the Blatchford project site on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.Ian Kucerak / Postmedia A new regional report is urging the 13 towns, counties and cities of Greater Edmonton to get their acts together and set up a regional public transit service. Yes, a regional public transit system is way overdue, and, overall, is a good thing. Except, being government-driven and involving 13 municipalities, it will happen years later than planned, will cost twice as much as anticipated, will have far fewer riders than projected, and will not reduce the number of cars on the road. (Always unacknowledged in these reports is human nature. When it’s super cold outside half the year, anybody with the means will use a warm, comfortable, door-to-door car, not public transit.) I digress. The reason regional transit will take so long and be so inefficient is that — as with anything to do with Greater (or Metropolitan) Edmonton — 13 municipalities debate and mus ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Back to basics at Century Mile’s Derby Restaurant By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 28, 2020

One delicious plate of liver 'n' onions, smothered in gravy at the Century Mile Casino's Derby Restaurant. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Derby Restaurant, Century Mile Racetrack and Casino 4711 Airport Road, Nisku 587-416-6453 cnty.com No delivery service listed Restricted to 18 years or older Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., closed only on Christmas Day Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tip and taxes: Basic, $28, loaded, $40 STORY CONTINUES BELOW Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns When the super-friendly waitress plopped her elbows down on the (raised booth) table to tell us about the specials of the day, the flashback happened. When I was a kid, on any special occasion, the family would pile into the station wagon to head to the local mom ‘n’ pop restaurant. The middle-aged waitress (we didn’t know what a server was) was boisterous and welcoming. She always had a pencil tucked behind her ear. She’d been t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Cannabis goes bust By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 24, 2020

Cannabis plants are shown at Sundial Growers facility in Olds.Dean Pilling / Postmedia It’s a business story as old as time. Canada’s cannabis green-gold rush has gone bust. It happened with Bre-X, with the dot.com bubble, with Nortel, with the American lending/real estate crash of 08-09. Everybody gets super-excited over one or two companies, or a sector. Investors pile in. Rationale goes out the window. The shares double, triple, quadruple in value. Buy, buy, buy! We’re rich!!!! And then it happens. Feast to famine. Hero to zero. The company cannot possibly produce the revenue to sustain such sky-high stock prices. The smart money starts to sell, the selling stampede starts, investors pile out. Usually the company (or companies) end up worthless and/or bankrupt. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Sadly, the stakes are higher in the Edmonton area. It’s not just a few thousand foolish folks who invested in cannabis companies without doing their research. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: The best ribeyes (for the price) in Edmonton By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 21, 2020

The LUX Steakhouse much-publicized "dry-aged" ribeye steak is not the best value proposition in the market. GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN By GRAHAM HICKS The trendy gang so looks down its nose at the classic steak dinner – a 10 to 16-ounce sirloin/ribeye/T-bone  with mashed or French fries, a carrot or two and broccoli on the side. But reality pushes its way through the anti-steak/anti-Conservative/vegan-loving minority so much louder in the media than its numbers warrant. The majority of Canadians love their meat!  And they especially love steaks, if only they could afford them! Eight specialty steakhouses in Edmonton compete for the silent meat-loving majority. STORY CONTINUES BELOW A steak dinner out has to be a special occasion. The average price for a rib-eye on a per-ounce basis at the steakhouses compared for this column, was $3.75 an ounce. The immediate experience that inspired this column was not great. LUX Steakhouse & Bar is the most enduring s ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: You too can be successful in Edmonton By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 17, 2020

Skyline taken from the airport control tower at the Blatchford Redevelopment in Edmonton, December 4, 2017.Ed Kaiser Ed Kaiser / Ed Kaiser/Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Maybe this is not the best week to promote our dear but oh-so-cold city as a fine place to live and do business. But it’s true! A psychological turn-around is happening out there, backed by hard statistics. The “plus” factors of buying a business in Edmonton are now outweighing the negatives. A practical way of betting on a recovery of Northern Alberta’s economy is through the purchase of an existing business. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Many are for sale, mostly energy-related. The owners who started and grew them are ready to retire.  A 2017 EEDC (Edmonton Economic Development Corporation) report suggested 50 per cent of owners of independent companies in Greater Edmonton would sell in the next five years. Hundreds of these businesses, suggests Edmonton business consultant Aroo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Calle Mexico predictable but good By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN January 14, 2020

Calle Mexico's tostadas, dressed with the usual ingredients. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Calle Mexico South Side 7704 104 St. NW 825-512-5932 Callemexico.ca Delivery: Skipthedishes.com Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tip and taxes: Basic, $30, loaded, $60 Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns By GRAHAM HICKS If a restaurant’s food is good, but thoroughly conventional, is it to be praised or criticized? STORY CONTINUES BELOW Visiting the latest and third location of Calle Mexico, I found myself in this very quandary. The menu at this most recent edition of Calle Mexico – in the former Atlantic Trap & Grill on 104 Street a few blocks south of Whyte Avenue – is as stereotypically American-Mexican as every other Mexican fast food joint in town. You have eaten all this stuff since you were a kid. Tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chips, salsas, nachos, guacamole, shredded por ... Read the rest of entry »