HicksBiz Blog

Highly respected developer set to make the old Kelly Ramsey Building space into a downtown office tower jewel: Hicks on Biz in the Edmonton Sun, originally published June 22, 2013

John Day is one of my local heroes. You’ve never heard of him — he shuns the limelight. But you’ve seen his influence. The phoenix that rose out of the ashes of the Uncle Albert’s restaurant fire on the corner of historic Old Strathcona’s Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail? That was John’s development. Small-scale beauty The developer who finally tore down that Jasper Avenue blight known as the Cecil Hotel, replacing it with a beautiful, unusual, small-scale building in which is housed the downtown Sobey’s? That was John. Who did the delicate, painstaking surgery on the Garneau Theatre by the High Level Bridge, overhauling the historic theatre, keeping it as a theatre, replacing its tired street frontage with sparkling new retail space occupied by shops revitalizing the Bridge District? Of course. It was John Day. When the successful bidder for the burned-out shell of the historic Kelly Ramsey buildings in Rice-Howard Way was announced, a mighty cheer went up among ... Read the rest of entry »

Innovative developer John Day speaks of his projects, development philosophy and sense of community

Innovative Edmonton developer John Day, on the eve of his latest and biggest re-development ever, sat down with me last Tuesday (June 18), to talk about his development projects, development philosophy and sense of community.. The new project is the 23-story officer tower, only the second to be built in the city since 1990, in the heart of the downtown on the site of the burned-down Kelly Ramsey Building (actually two separate buildings stuck together, with adjoining hallways) in Rice-Howard Way. The details of that project, a unique combination of historic and ultra-modern architecture, were recorded in my Hicks on Biz column for the Edmonton Sun of June 22, 2013 and the Sun online. As a law school undergraduate during the time when historic Edmonton was being razed to make way for the downtown building boom of the late '70s through early '80s, John admits he didn't really notice the disappearance of the city's ornate past. "It was more the demolition I was seeing as a young lawyer during th ... Read the rest of entry »

Restaurant Crawl: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun June 19, 2013

Ratings from a Dishcrawl-organized restaurant tour on June 12.  One overall rating per establishment, based on sample dishes, service and ambience.  Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub: 3.5 Suns  Koutouki Taverna South-Side: 3 Suns  Creations Restaurant at the Sawridge Hotel: 4 Suns  Century Grill (Hawaii 5-0 dessert): 4 Suns Dishcrawl is an intriguing, for-profit company that organizes what’s best described as restaurant crawls. You register online, pay $50, meet your 40 new best friends at a pre-assigned restaurant on a pre-assigned date, go on to visit three more restaurants and are home by 10:30 or 11 p.m. The other three restaurants are not revealed until the gang gathers. Last Wednesday’s theme was location-centric, four restaurants bordering the Whitemud/Gateway Boulevard interchange, all within walking distance of one another. Which was ironic, given it’s the least pedestrian-friendly part of all Edmonton. How would it work? Might Dishc ... Read the rest of entry »

Iconic Edmonton Hotel Saved: Hicks on Biz column originally published Edmonton Sun, June 15, 2013

This plot line involves four Edmonton characters – Mike Mrdjenovich, Richard Wong and the Chateau Lacombe. As for the last, I can barely bring myself to type his name – or his variety of fake names – because he has caused so much misfortune to so many people. But Kevyn Frederick is pivotal to this story. There’s no need to add “hotel” to the Chateau Lacombe. It’s an Edmonton landmark, the iconic, 24-floor circular – some would say tin can – building overlooking the river valley from the downtown, with its signature La Ronde revolving restaurant at the top. Richard Wong needs no introduction. He’s the last of the “old-school” hoteliers in Edmonton, deeply entrenched in the community, a leader, unable to say no to any cause. Richard is a hospitality guy to his core with the best network in town. Other than as the dad of boxing champ Jelena Mrdjenovich, Mike Mrdjenovich is not so visible. A classic entrepreneur, Mrdjenovich boot-strap ... Read the rest of entry »

From Bad to Magnificent: Weekly Dish column originally published in Edmonton Sun June 12, 2013

Saccomanno’s 10208-127 Avenue 780-478-2381 (Dinner Friday and Saturday only, reservations only) Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Weekend dinner: Fixed price, $35 per person. Lunches: Slice of pizza and pop, $5 ——— I was at Saccomanno’s Pizza Pasta Deli a year ago, and it was not a pretty sight. Grandpa Frank Saccomanno was getting tired. Son Joe helped out, but Joe is a teacher, not a grocer or restaurateur. The big space on 127 Avenue near 97 Street, across from CN Rail’s regional headquarters, had long been a gathering point as a grocery store and trattoria for the north-end Italian community. But Frank and his wife were tired. The store didn’t look so good any more. The trattoria was still good but lacked variety and was losing its sparkle. Today …. Rebirth! Having grown up in the store, grandson Francesco, in his mid-20s, has decided the life of a restaurateur, deli-and-grocery owner is fine by him. Frances ... Read the rest of entry »

An Edmonton Success Story: Hicks on Biz column originally published Edmonton Sun, June12, 2013

You see them in every restaurant kitchen. Recent immigrants, or temporary foreign workers, mostly from South Asia or the Philippines. Chances are they were well-educated in cooking schools in their home countries, worked in five-star restaurants abroad, or on cruise ships. But they didn't belong to the lucky gene club, weren't born in an affluent country like Canada, had to start from scratch in a very foreign, cold country ... with opportunity. We are so lucky. The cream of that crop, once Canadianized, are spreading their entrepreneurial wings, creating new business, employment and wealth creation in Edmonton. Fourteen years ago, chef Ramesh Devangodi arrived in Canada from South India, penniless but ambitious. This past week, Devangodi, with partner Parmeet Narula, completed the purchase of the Cheesecake Cafe franchise at 100 Avenue east of 170 Street. It will be added to the four restaurants Ramesh and his wife Sonia already own under the New Asian Village and Haweli brands. The Cheesecake Caf&e ... Read the rest of entry »

Red Ox Inn Consistently Excellent: Weekly Dish column originally published Edmonton Sun, June 5, 2013 June

Red Ox Inn 9420 91 St. 780 465 5727 theredoxinn.com Food: 4 of 5 suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 suns Service: 3.5 of 5 suns Dinner for two excluding beverages: Basic, $85; Loaded, $120. There’s no secret to restaurant longevity. Consistently excellent food with consistently excellent service is 90% of the game. The Red Ox Inn has been open for 15 years, follows no trends, is a simple unpretentious dining room with just 36 seats. On weekends, it’s usually full. We booked for four a month ahead. Only the 6 p.m. seating was left. Why? Because the food is consistently excellent in this out-of-the-way spot at the top of Connors Hill (close to the folk festival hill), the service impeccable. The Red Ox Inn is all the more remarkable in that owners Frank and Andrea Olson, after 15 years as chef and maître d’ respectively, promoted sous-chef Sean O’Connor to chef in order to focus on the recent opening of the Red Ox’s baby sister establishment, Canteen, on 124 Street. The ... Read the rest of entry »

The High Cost of Obesity: Hicks on Biz column, originally published in Edmonton Sun, June 1, 2013

I promise, this time round, I will not ask “why’d you let yourself get so fat?” When I wrote that blog column in 2008 for the Edmonton Sun, it drew over 1,000 comments. And I won’t comment on obesity expert Dr. David Macklin’s theory that some individuals are genetically programmed to be more addicted to sweet, salty or fatty foods. This column, being business oriented, will simply look at the actual costs, money and otherwise, of the fat epidemic in our society – that one in four Canadians/Albertans are now officially obese, defined by being extremely overweight in relation to their height. And that one in every 11 kids, according to the Canadian Institute for Health’s “Obesity in Canada” report from 2011, is overweight. The simplest definition of adult obesity that I’ve come across: If you’re 5 ft. 3 in. and weigh over 170 lbs.; 5 ft. 7 in. and over 185 lbs.; 5 ft. 11 in. and over 200 lbs.; 6 ft. 3 in. and over 230 lbs … unless ... Read the rest of entry »