HicksBiz Blog

Queen Elizabeth II crash a miracle: Hicks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Sat. March 30, 2013

We still don’t know how it all started.But we do know.Most of us have driven through white-outs, knuckles as white as the pelting snow, intensely aware that the slightest mistake on the steering wheel could send our vehicle caroming out of control with just a few thin strips of metal between us and eternity.In our imaginations, a massive ghost truck looms out the whiteness.There’s nowhere to go but straight into its headlights.RCMP still truly don’t know how it all started at about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 21, not until every collision report is complete and every driver and passenger interviewed.On the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, 20 kilometres south of Leduc, 50 kilometres north of Ponoka, just past a rise, in the midst of a white-out, heading north, one vehicle must have collided with another.Vehicle after vehicle came over that rise, sliding helplessly into other vehicles – sedans, SUVs, pick-ups, bigger trucks, tractor-trailers, fuel-tankers, buses, cattle-liners.The lucky ones, about half of the 85 ... Read the rest of entry »

A Taste of 118th Avenue, El Rancho and Battista's Calzone Co.: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. March 27, 2013

Battista’s Calzone Co.Corner 118 Ave. and 84 St.780 758 1808@battistacalzone►Food: 4 of 5►Ambience: 3.5 of 5►Service: 3.5 of 5►Lunch for two: $10 to $20El Rancho11810 87 St.780 471 4930►Food: 4 of 5►Ambience: 3 of 5►Service: 3 of 5►Dinner for two: $20 to $30There’s something about 118 Avenue’s restaurants and bakeries. From The Barbecue House at 97 Street to Uncle Ed’s past 50 Street are dozens of restaurants of every ethnic variation. The bakery cluster, from the Popular to the Handy to the Italian, creates more fresh bread choices than anywhere else in the city.The 118th Avenue blend of ethnic, artist and community has a small-town feel. But its low-income nature is a brake on gentrification, keeping rents affordable for family-run restaurants.These family restaurants are usually friendly, unpretentious and economy-priced. Trendy flatbreads or sliders don’t show up in these parts.Their village-style food, as typified by Battista Vecchio’s Calzone Co. at 118th and 84 Street and Dora Arevalo’s El Rancho Spani ... Read the rest of entry »

Independent Edmonton-based LogiCan flourishes: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun Sat. March 23, 2013

Before Christmas, using plastic products maker Drader Manufacturing as an example, this column highlighted a glaring regional business contradiction.Conventional business wisdom often declares that manufacturing (outside the oilpatch) in this neck of the woods is "impossible".If that's the case, hundreds of good businesses are indeed doing the impossible."That column hit a home run," responded Warren Sheydwasser of LogiCan Technologies. "Manufacturing can and does exist here. We manufacture electronic circuit board assemblies for companies all over the globe. LogiCan is a near-shore Edmonton-based company that has seen almost two decades of growth without a single loss."How does an independent Edmonton company flourish in such a ferociously and globally competitive business?How has LogiCan grown without a nearby, supportive, sector cluster? Other than MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) manufacturer Micralyne, no similar business exists in Greater Edmonton.LogiCan, in its own building in the Edmonton Resea ... Read the rest of entry »

Select is a treat: Weekly Dish review originally published in Edmonton Sun, Wed. March 20, 2013

Select10018-106 St.780 428 1629www.selectrestaurant.caFood: 4 of 5 starsAmbience: 4 of 5 starsService: 4 of 5 stars(gluten-free options)Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $50; Multi-course, $90——How exciting to witness re-birth.Just over a year ago, the Packrat Louie group, led by managing partner Jodh Singh, purchased Café Select.Café Select … in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, this café/bistro on 106 Street just around the corner from the Avord Arms was one popular space. Its signature dishes are remembered by many - a vodka-spiked tomato soup, mussels, steak tartare and coquilles St. Jacques.From the outside, it wasn’t much. And it still isn’t today.But to enter then, as now, is to walk into a cosy Brussels or Prague café, with beautiful dark wood, gilded mirrors and antique light fixtures.Over the last decade, the café had deteriorated. Discerning diners lost interest. Things were fading to black.Enter the Packrat Louie gang. “I knew the restaurant was for sale,” says Jodh. “I went to dine. It was ripe f ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is no leader: Alberta budget 2013: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, March 16, 2013

A few weeks ago, every mad dog in that online kennel known as the Hicks on Biz comment section was taking a chunk out of my sorry rear for the suggestion, the mere suggestion, that Alberta Premier Alison Redford was a pretty smart political cookie.Well, after that provincial 2013/14 budget announced on March 7, I apologize.The mad dogs were right.Her fiscal course for the coming year was politically expedient, but not what was right for Alberta.Redford took the easy way out.The 2013/14 budget was a watershed.Redford and her Conservative government could have introduced new taxes and at the same time kick-started the Heritage Fund.She had the perfect storm. The Alberta public was ready to accept short-term pain for long-term gain.Martha and Henry, Ralph Klein’s “severely normal” Albertans, have finally realized we can’t spend every penny of oil royalties and never save for tomorrow. With minimal new taxes and much the same spending, Redford could then have diverted 30% of oil revenues into savings, as envision ... Read the rest of entry »

The Citadel Theatre's Kite Runner an epic drama on all fronts: Review by Graham Hicks, March 15, 2013

Theatre review by Graham Hicks The Kite Runner, adapted by Matthew Spangler, based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini At the Citadel Theatre (Shoctor Stage) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada March 9 to 31, 2013 Ensemble cast Tickets and information: Thank you Citadel Theatre, for once again presenting a theatrical masterpiece, a contemporary masterpiece in a least expected setting. The Kite Runner is epic, spanning an emotional/ethical arc of friendship, betrayal, weakness, saintliness, rigidity, hypocrisy, lost innocence,  twisted brutality. These qualities of the soul are fit within a panoramic psycho-geographic landscape that echoes the interior conflicts and passions - an idyllic Afghanistan, tumultuous Afghanistan, wretched Afghanistan and San Francisco, USA, through the eyes of a refugee Afghan community. There is the masterpiece of the writing, shared between the author of the original novel, Khaled Hosseini, and the craftsmanship of stage-adapter Matthew Spangler. That so ma ... Read the rest of entry »

Cafe Crepe Symphony shouldn't be so secret: Weekly Dish originally published in the Edmonton Sun March 13, 2012

Café Crepe Symphony 10115 100A Ave. (Rice-Howard Way) 587-520-7111 Call for reservations Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 3 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars Dinner for two (without beverages): Basic, $20; Multi-course, $40 (Gluten-free available) ——— It’s tucked away in a Rice-Howard Way nook, beside the popular Tres Carnales, with a construction depot for the LRT Jasper Avenue overhaul right outside its doors. But the Café Crepe Symphony should not be such a secret. It ought to be as busy as Tres Carnales next door, Sugarbowl in the Bridge District or DaDeO in Old Strathcona. Its crepes – for that is what the Crepe Symphony does – are that good. So often, all one wants from a restaurant is something grease-free, light, refreshing and inexpensive. Yet the options are so limited. Enter, at least for those close to downtown, the Crepe Symphony. The menu is straightforward. Savoury c ... Read the rest of entry »

Profit in a not-for-profit world, the business of curling's Brier: Hicks on Biz originally published in Edmonton Sun March 9, 2013

Curling is Canada's most peculiar sport.The Tim Hortons Brier, entering into its final playoffs and championship games Saturday and Sunday at Rexall Place, is expected to sell at least 200,000 tickets.It will have been televised its entire eight-day run, on Canada's most watched sports network, TSN.The Brier, says Canadian Curling Association events director Warren Hansen, will cost $3 million to $4 million to produce.It will earn, from ticket sales and sponsorship/TV revenue (including government incentives) $4 million to $5 million.Most sports with such a big audience, as a rule of thumb, split net revenues on a 50-50 basis with its performers, i.e. the athletes.But the Brier will spend just $500,000 on the 12 teams. It will cover all their expenses, and provide prize money for the winning teams.That's 10% of net revenues in this case, not 50% as in other major professional sports.Curlers, even at the Brier level, are not fully professional. The sport is an income-producing hobby. "In a good year," says for ... Read the rest of entry »

Some advice for Normand's Bistro: Weekly Dish originally published in Edmonton Sun March 6, 2013

Normand’s Bistro10177 99 St. (Citadel Theatre building)780 425 1008normandsbistro.comFood: 3 starsAmbience: 3.5 starsService: 3 starsDinner for two, basic (without beverages) $60; multi-course $90Normand’s Bistro has now been open on 99 Street, across from the downtown library in the Citadel Theatre building, since last fall.It’s veteran restaurateur Normand Campbell’s’ third restaurant. For decades he has owned Normand’s Restaurant and a few years ago became a partner in the Glenora Bistro.Norman, please consider this review as constructive criticism of your latest venture.One, the menu has to change. The location, for a target theatre-going audience that has an hour to 90 minutes to eat before a show, begs for lighter fare.Two, the cooking has to improve.Normand, your menu is old school. The entrees are heavy and traditional, all short rib, steak, duck leg and pork belly, osso bucco and salmon. There’s a few pizzas, a few salads, but little choice. The pricing is at the upper end, $28 for the beef short rib ... Read the rest of entry »

Poor investment decisions, or victims of fraud? Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, March 2, 2013

You might read this column with skepticism, arms folded, chin tucked, frown lines creasing your forehead. If you’re an investor, the golden rules of investing were long ago hammered into your brain. The first three: Don’t lose money, don’t lose money, don’t lose money. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep most of your money in boring safe investments. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t go near the risky stuff. If the investment looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Finally, refer to the first three rules. So why should we care about an estimated 26,000 Albertans who invested in, and then lost, at least $2.1 billion in dozens of intrinsically high-risk, mostly real-estate, investments, sold within the Alberta Securities Commission regulatory umbrella as “exempt” financial products? Because, says Don Logan of the Alberta Investors Protection group, there’s a world of difference between a poor investmen ... Read the rest of entry »
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