Making Bicycles in Motor City

A Calgary entrepreneur sets up shop in business-friendly Detroit

TO CONVEY THE SPIRIT OF HIS PLAN to make bicycles in Detroit, Zak Pashak feels a tour is in order. At the wheel of his worn Toyota Prius, the 32-year-old entrepreneur narrates as the sprawl of Detroit unfolds, revealing a city broken but not dead. We pass the obvious blights symptomatic of a long-depressed city: rampant vacancy, overgrown land and lots of people sitting on stoops with nothing to do. But there are also signs of life, including a patch of downtown streets that people have taken to walking again and new businesses spun from an emergent entrepreneurial spirit. Local leaders are hoping these seeds will help to pull the city out of its 40-year funk. It was partly this spirit, partly an “irrational fascination with Michigan” and partly a need for change that drew Pashak to the Motor City from his hometown of Calgary two years ago. Continue reading

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Wild Brewing

Toronto brewers make beer in the back-breaking style of old-world Belgian breweries

ON A GREY OCTOBER AFTERNOON at the Good Earth vineyard in Beamsville, Ontario, a crowd gathers around a cluster of steaming stainless-steel vats set up mere feet from the rows of swollen grapes. Iain McOustra, a brewer with Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewing Co. and one of the architects of this madcap plan, periodically stirs the boiled concoction of grains, hops, and water that has the hue of milky coffee and smells faintly like shredded wheat. If McOustra is giddy, it’s because he’s exhausted and exhilarated by this, the culmination of three years of research and planning to make a sour beer in the back-breaking style of old-world Belgian breweries. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Annie Pootoogook

She shot to fame, then vanished just as quickly. What happened to Nunavut’s greatest modern artist ?

MY SEARCH FOR ANNIE POOTOOGOOK begins at Feheley Fine Arts, an elegant red-brick gallery in downtown Toronto that deals in high-end Inuit art. The owner, Patricia Feheley, is a veteran in this business. Slight and stylish, she has the refined air you’d expect of a gallery owner. She became one of Pootoogook’s most fervent champions as soon as she laid eyes on the artist’s ink-and-crayon drawings in Cape Dorset more than a decade ago. She recalls going “absolutely crazy” for them: “It was the base honesty. She was drawing exactly what she wanted; she didn’t care what other people were doing.” The images offered a blunt, sometimes jarring, portrayal of modern life in an Arctic settlement: Ski-Doos and Coleman stoves, TV and sex, alcohol and domestic abuse. The style was fresh, uninhibited, modern. There were no dancing bears; none of the trite themes that the Inuit art industry has long relied on. Giddy with her discovery, Feheley left Cape Dorset with half-a-dozen of Pootoogook’s drawings, which she showed in an exhibition called “The Unexpected.” The pictures were a hit and all of them sold. Over the next few years, Pootoogook’s work would catch the eye of the contemporary art world and rocket the young artist to fame. Continue reading

Embracing Office Romance

Why bosses need not fear love among the cubicles

IT’S THE INFAMOUS DISASTERS THAT PRESERVE the chill around workplace romance: Bill Clinton and the intern, David Letterman and his assistant, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and the communications staffer. Even here in the real world, there’s no shortage of gossip about the CEO and the underling, shunted to a dreary regional outpost under mysterious circumstances. But what about a 25-year-old marketing manager and his colleague down the hall? They’re around the same age, they’re into the same music and they understand each others’ lives better than any outsider could. Need their employer fear these flying sparks in the vicinity of the serious business of work? Continue reading

Maple Leaf Foods Goes Lean

After surviving the kind of tainted-meat tragedy that brings companies down, Maple Leaf Foods is now fighting to stay alive in a par-dollar world.

IF MAPLE LEAF FOODS WAS A SCHLUBBY middle-aged guy, he would have recently told his buddies he was finally going to lose that 20 pounds, move out of his mother’s house and take control of his life. It’s the sort of bold and overdue makeover the food giant announced in October that will see it shed aging meat factories, modernize operations and catch up to its leaner, more productive U.S. competitors. The $560-million investment—the largest in the Canadian food industry—is the third and final phase of a sweeping $1.3-billion restructuring strategy the company launched in 2006, which has since reached every corner of operations, from hog rendering to baked goods and now, finally, prepared meats. Continue reading

Getting the Most Out of Perfectionists

Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, but managers beware.

THERE’S ONE IN EVERY OFFICE: the guy who’s forever working but struggles to meet deadlines; someone who nitpicks her colleagues’ work but won’t let anyone near her own until it’s gleaming. Perfectionism is that unoffending weakness oft-cited in job interviews, and a quality lately glamorized by all the frothing tributes to today’s most famous perfectionist, the late Steve Jobs. Continue reading

Investing in Oil & Gas Juniors

How to pick stocks in Alberta’s jumping junior sector

BEFORE FOUNDING Oil and Gas Investments Bulletin, a subscription-based newsletter about oil and gas juniors, Keith Schaefer worked for 20 years in the mining sector, helping public companies raise exploration capital. Now, on the other side of the fence, he spends his days reading charts and analyst reports in order to decide which, among the hundreds of juniors, he’s willing to throw money at. Schaefer prides himself on his plain-language approach, characterizing the current investing climate as “a little crazy.” “There are so many juniors right now, so many management teams and so much money being poured into this sector.” Continue reading