HicksBiz Blog

Hicks' Weekly Dish: The demise of the Hardware Grill By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN October 8, 2019

Larry Stewart in the remodeled Hardware Grill in Edmonton in this file photo.John Lucas / Edmonton Journal BY GRAHAM HICKS All things must pass. The best restaurants start as exciting culinary adventures. They flourish, lasting much longer than the trendy, all-flash-no-substance eateries. But, eventually, the founders tire.  Other restaurants catch up. Competition increases. The biggest factor will always be the local economy. When it morphs – as Edmonton has done – from buoyancy to stubborn stagnancy, customers rein in their former free-spending ways. STORY CONTINUES BELOW All of the above would have played into the unexpected shutdown of Edmonton’s long-acclaimed Hardware Grill last month. But the biggest culprit, as detailed below,  was debt. The Hardware Grill closure sent shock waves through the city’s hospitality sector. This wasn’t just any restaurant. For 23 years, owners Larry and Melinda Stewart’s pride and ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Poland a big surprise By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN October 4, 2019

The historic Old Town of Warsaw, Poland, was rebuilt after being destroyed in the Second World War. GRAHAM HICKS...EDMONTON SUNEdmonton By GRAHAM HICKS Before leaving on a September-long extended holiday in Poland – both as tourist and as a volunteer English teacher – I had no idea what shape the Central European country would be in. Three decades after the fall of communism, Poland has had 27 years of steady economic growth, an average 6% annual growth in family incomes. Yet our primordial impressions of Poland are still from Iron Curtain days: Of grime, grimness, hopelessness, poverty, garbage piled up in the streets, brown-outs and black-outs. Nothing could be further from the truth! Today, Poland is Europe’s biggest and best secret. As the ninth biggest country (by size) in Europe, with about the same population as Canada (38 million), it has fully emerged  from its shell-shocked recent history – the devastation of the Nazi occupation of the Second World War, with ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Get rid of the middle man By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN September 6, 2019

Chris LaBossiere, CEO of Yardstick. It was a rather jolly meeting — the Yellowhead Brewery event-pub quite packed, the beer flowing. All kinds of technology/biz folks were renewing acquaintances. The occasion was the release of a report commissioned by the Downtown Business Association, called Accelerating Tech in Downtown Edmonton. The get together had a right to its jolliness. As was detailed in a recent Hicks on Biz column, Edmonton’s technology/artificial intelligence/machine learning sector has, at long last, reached critical mass. Enough technology-based companies are now making enough money to significantly grow in scope and employment. That said, there’s an annoying Catch 22 to technology-innovation  business development. Every time something starts up, governments (or government-funded agencies) feel an overwhelming need to throw a whack of money at it. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Agencies are allegedly set up to assist these hard-working entre ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Mild and tepid from Dookbaeki Korean By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN September 3, 2019

The seafood pancake - basically green onion cake served pizza-style - was greasy but tasty. Dookbaeki 2872 Calgary Trail dookbaeki.ca 587-524-4336 No reservations No listed delivery service Dinner for two (not including tip, beverages or taxes) basic, $30, loaded $55 Food: 2.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns By GRAHAM HICKS There are many excellent Korean restaurants in Edmonton. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Dookbaeki – sadly – is not among them. Beside Calgary Trail, north of the Edmonton Home Fair commercial strip, south of the Melting Pot and Japanese Village South, Dookbaeki specializes in traditional Korean soups served in heavy, black, stone bowls that keep their contents wondrously hot for a long time. This would be even better if the soup within had some flavour, if some thought had gone into Dookbaeki’s décor, if the restaurant did not need A) a good scrubbing and B) a new paint job/makeover. I’m sure there ar ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton real estate has not been kind By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN August 30, 2019

The average selling price for all Edmonton homes in March was $357,316, a drop of more than five per cent from $377,145 in March 2018.Postmedia, File / Perry Mah/QMI Agency By GRAHAM HICKS I am happy to be an Edmontonian. This is home. But Edmonton real estate has not been kind to homeowners. The average home in Edmonton is worth 6.8 per cent less today than was the case in 2014, five years ago. Had you moved to Vancouver or Toronto in 2014, bit the bullet, paid three times as much for the same house as you had in Edmonton … it would be worth 50 per cent to 60 per cent more today compared to its purchase price.  (All figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association.) STORY CONTINUES BELOW Going back 10 years, according to the city’s annual market assessment, my Edmonton residence is worth 15 per cent more today than in 2010.  That’s a whopping 1.5 per cent average annual gain!  (Property and education taxes are up 35%, but that&rs ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: From the ashes of Packrat Louie arises Lyon Restaurant By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN August 27, 2019

Lyon's lamb shoulder rack is excellent and, at $20, extremely good value: Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Lyon Restaurant 10335 83 Ave. NW 780-433-0123 Lyonrestaurant.ca Reservations: Lyonrestaurant.ca/reservations no listed delivery service Mon. to Sat. 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., closed Sundays Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience:  4 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tips and taxes:  Basic, $40; loaded, $90 STORY CONTINUES BELOW Welcome back, Packrat Louie! Lyon Restaurant is, in reality, the latest incarnation of the fabled Packrat Louie restaurant in the historic former warehouse in the heart of Old Strathcona. Legendary Swiss chef Peter Johner opened Packrat in 1993. Its reputation, until recently, never faltered. Johner retired in 2006, selling the large restaurant (dining room, lounge, patio) to local investors represented by operating partner Jodh Singh. Singh kept the Packrat Louie kitchen up to standards over the y ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Is the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion for real? By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, August 23, 2019

The Trans Mountain Corporation's Edmonton Terminal, Wednesday June 19, 2019.David_Bloom David Bloom / David Bloom/Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS Can we believe it? Believe the Trans Mountain Pipeline twinning project is actually going ahead? Can we believe, in three or four years, that the new pipeline will move our pent-up heavy oil production to overseas countries that need the stuff, where buyers will pay better prices than the American refineries who are our only customers at this time? Once complete, 590,000 more barrels of dilbit (diluted bitumen) a day will start to flow down the Trans Mountain’s second pipeline, adding 20% more pipeline capacity from the oil sands.  Which is huge. Certainly, it  feels like things are happening. Driving back to Edmonton on Hwy. 16 from Valemont, the highway was near clogged by dozens of big trucks, each hauling four to five mega-diameter lengths of pipe. This stuff was too big to be used for anything but the Trans Mountain project. ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: The Jollibee phenomenon By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, August 20, 2019

The Valdez family from Leduc waited in a three-hour lineup to eat at the new Jollibee: Left to right, Nathan, 9; dad Ray; The Jollibee mascot, Maechiel, 12; Reychelle, 15; mom Ritchiel. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS / EDMONTON SUN Jollibee 3803 Calgary Trail jollibeecanada.com 586-405-1333 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week No specified delivery service Ratings – (within fast food category) Food : 4 of 5 Suns Ambience:  3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Fast-food dinner for two:  Basic, $15, loaded $25 By GRAHAM HICKS I’d wait a week or more before visiting this phenomenon known as Jollibee … unless you are prepared to wait in line for THREE HOURS! Wowee zowee, you’d think this Jollibee is some kind of superstar, a Connor McDavid, an Oprah Winfrey or the most famous Filipino alive, boxer Manny Pacquiao. Are all these Filipinos lined up to get a superstar’s autograph? Nope. At the end of the long and patient wait is simply the Jollibee brand’s ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Political shenanigans are nothing new BY GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, August 16, 2019

Ralph Klein and his wife Colleen kiss after his speech kicking off the 1997 election campaign. Klein won the 1992 provincial election after That  Great Hack documentary is really causing a stir. Everybody’s talking about access, ownership and unauthorized mining of all that personal data floating around the Internet. A data analysis company, Cambridge Analytics, was hired by the Trump-for-President campaign in 2014. Thanks to some kind of relationship with Facebook, Cambridge analyzed members’ personal data without the permission of the individuals concerned. Millions of Facebook users, considered as potential swing voters in key states, were targeted with a stream of pro-Trump, anti-Hillary Clinton ads on their Facebook feeds. Some political analysts, and certainly the documentary makers,  believe these tactics swung the election in Donald Trump’s favour. Cambridge used the same tools and techniques to influence the outcome of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. I ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Say Uncle; bringing Grandma's cooking up to date By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN: August 13, 2019

If the beef was less chewy, Say Uncle's stroganoff would have been a winner. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS/ EDMONTON SUN Say Uncle 10184 104 St. 780-540-5369 sayuncle.ca Reservations by phone No listed delivery Mon. to Sun. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. (earlier on Sundays) Food:  3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience:  3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, excluding beverages, tips and taxes:  Basic, $25; loaded, $40 By GRAHAM HICKS I can see what Say Uncle’s culinary team is trying to get at, but they are not quite there. It’s about creating a dual identity: a comfy restaurant with an extensive craft-beer selection by day, a funky, bright, clean bar with deliberately rustic snack food by night. The food is interesting and quite adventurous. Think of your grandmother’s cooking made contemporary, highlighting root and leafy veggies, lots of fermentation, tenderized cheaper beef cuts, sours and pickles … including pickled eggs like the ones that sat in the big glass ... Read the rest of entry »