HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's high-rise rental market is on a roll By GRAHAM HICKS first published EDMONTON SUN, January 18, 2019

A view of downtown standing on the 69th floor of the Stantec Tower which is now the highest tower in Western Canada as ICE District celebrates the final topping off of the tower in Edmonton, November 16, 2018.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS What do the Big Guys know that we don’t? Alberta’s economic indicators have been lousy since the great oil crash and are not predicted to get any better in 2019. The average value of residential homes in Edmonton has dropped for three years in a row. Yet the city’s commercial real estate market, as reported earlier this week, had a rosy glow in 2018. Within that sector, high-rise rental apartment buildings are the new gold standard. Pension funds, REITS (real estate income trusts) and other institutional buyers have been piling into Edmonton in recent months, buying up every high-rise rental apartment building that’s come on the market and offering premium dollars to do so. The paint was barely dry on the 260-unit Hen ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Partake offers the best of the old and the new BY GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN January 15, 2019

Partake is re-inventing classic European dishes like this version of a Salade Nicoise. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton Partake 12431 102 Avenue 780-760-8253 ouipartake.com No listed delivery service No reservations Mon. to Sat. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (1 a.m. Fri. and Sat.) Closed Sundays Dinner for two excluding tip, taxes or beverages: Basic, $30; loaded $60 Food:  4.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns By GRAHAM HICKS As darkness  falls over fine dining in Edmonton, a new dawn breaks. Partake is the brainchild of Dutch-born, French-trained restaurateur Cyrille Koppert (Urban Diner, Manor Bistro). It’s a cozy nook beside the Urban Diner on 102 Avenue just west of 124 Street, transformed into a Euro-bistro/bar. Koppert has gleaned the best from the ultra-informal dining trend that has enveloped Edmonton, such as small plate portions, a hipster bar, quick service, and less seating (30) to minimize staffing. Cyrille Koppert holds a cured pork haunch ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: EEDC boss treads water By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN January 11, 2019

EEDC CEO Derek Hudson speaks to the media following the organization's annual impact luncheon on Jan. 8, 2019. Paige ParsonsPaige Parsons By GRAHAM HICKS I have reported on the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) since its inception in 1993. This octopus of an organization, with many arms doing many things for the City of Edmonton, is weird but important. It has a board of directors, but the city is its biggest funder ($20 million of its $70 million annual budget) and the City of Edmonton is its official owner. Its CEO is the de-facto leader of Edmonton’s business community. That leader, whoever it may be, usually makes one important speech a year to that community — reporting on the economic state of Edmonton, defining what needs to be done for the community and in particular by EEDC, and how to get there. In other words, being a leader. I’ve gotta tell ya, the first major speech by EEDC’s latest CEO, at Tuesday’s EEDC Annual Impact Luncheon, w ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Chef Hung — extraordinarily ordinary By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN January 8, 2019

Chef Hung's tendon, shank and tripe beef-noodle soup was ordinary at best. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUNEdmonton Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle Edmonton 10336 81 Avenue 780-244-4004 Chefhungnoodle.com No listed delivery service Seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday) Dinner for two excluding tip, taxes or beverages: Basic, $25; loaded $50 Food:  3 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns By GRAHAM HICKS Don’t  believe the hype. Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle restaurant, at least here in Edmonton, is nothing special. It’s your basic Asian beef-noodle shop with marketing clout. Backed by Vancouver business conglomerate the Fairchild Group, Chef Hung now has five outlets on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, two in the  USA, a handful in Asia. The Edmonton Chef Hung, in Old Strathcona off Whyte Avenue, is the first in Canada outside B.C. Maybe just this outlet is the problem. Before partnering with Fairchild, Chef Hung i ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta’s Groundhog Day, 2019 By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, January 4, 2019

A train loaded with oil sits idle on tracks in Everett, Wash., on Sept. 2, 2014. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province plans to buy up to 7,000 rail cars to move Alberta oil.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Elaine Thompson By GRAHAM HICKS Welcome to Groundhog Day, 2019. Remember the movie, where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day, over and over and over? Getting oil out of Alberta is our Groundhog Day. Since Hicks on Biz debuted in 2011, at least 20 columns have been about oil pipeline bottlenecks. In 2011, there were warning signs, but nothing was done. By 2019, we’re in an oil-transportation crisis that’s grinding away at Alberta’s living standards.  Edmonton housing prices have fallen for the third year running. New vehicle sales are declining. Need anybody wonder why? It’s the same-old, same-old, year-after-year. No new pipelines get built! NOTHING happens! Pipeline announced, pipeline approved, pipeline approval overturned, pipeline p ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Tipping is outta control By GRAHAM HICKS first published EDMONTON SUN, January 1, 2019

By GRAHAM HICKS Tipping in the restaurant business and elsewhere  is getting ugly. It’s gone from an act of appreciation for excellent service to a cat-and-mouse game,  squeezing a maximum tip out of the customer through suggestion, guilt or credit card payment options. My family – 14 of us — enjoyed a holiday brunch. The server was friendly and efficient. But it was a buffet. Besides collect the dirty dishes, all she had to do was serve coffee and tea. The bill, when presented, included a mandatory “service charge” – i.e. an automatic 18% tip for large groups – or $66.51.  The aforementioned server, however, quietly mentioned it was a “group tip” distributed to all the restaurant staff.  If I wanted to give her an additional personal tip, she wouldn’t refuse. Blindsided and guilt-tripped, I added another $25.  Which worked out to a 25%  tip — over $90! Yes, it was voluntary.  Did I feel pres ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The crisis in Alberta is NOW By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, December 28, 2018

Hundreds of truckers joined the Truck Convoy in Nisku on December 19, 2018 to support the oil and gas industry in Alberta.Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK By GRAHAM HICKS You do not have to be a petroleum engineer to see where Alberta is heading in 2019. Down, down, down. Not an earth-shattering Depression-era or early-‘80s downward spiral. Just the same relentless grinding – the same double-clutching through endless muck – as has been happening since the Great Oil Price Collapse of 2014. It’s not about massive lay-offs, not in the private sector. Every job done by a human being that could be eliminated has been eliminated. It’s about 0% wage increases, a steady cutting of employee benefits, no more company pension plans, buy-outs of employees 55 or older … Graduates from NAIT or the University of Alberta in any of the “hard” sciences – i.e. engineering, computer programming – used to have jobs waved in their faces. N ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Farewell to fine dining By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, December 25, 2018

Drunken Ox at Night, Sober Cat in the Morning.Shaughn Butts / Postmedia Lay a wreath, make a moment of silence to mourn the death of fine dining in Edmonton. Fine dining – white linen tablecloths, napkins, crystal wine glasses, an array of cutlery, well-dressed servers serving with tongs – left us in 2018. Oh, there’s a scattered few  – Hardware Grill, The Harvest Room, La Ronde at the top of the Chateau Lacombe, Ruth’s Chris, Madison’s – but Characters is gone, Alta didn’t make it, and Gini’s Fine Dining in the west end is soon to close its doors. The top restaurants in town, led by RGE RD and Corso 32, are all startlingly casual. At Captain’s Boil, hot, fresh seafood comes in plastic bags for eating by hand. Which is sad, but inevitable. Formality is a trait that’s all but disappeared in Edmonton for everything but high-school grads. Even then, jeans, open-neck shirts and sports jackets are considered “f ... Read the rest of entry »