Stratford News

Meet Our Downtown Neighbours

For Erin Young, owner of The Spa Near the Tracks on Cooper Street, life is certainly busy, rewarding, and centred around family – well, two families, really! Erin and her husband Darren were blessed with a beautiful daughter 8 months ago, and the young family could not be happier.

She also manages to run a successful business with the help of her “other family” of nine fabulous employees.

Being busy is nothing new for Erin, as she became an entrepreneur at a young age. “I started e-spa on Albert Street when I was 21,” Erin states. “After 1 year, I moved the business to Cooper Street.” Shortly after the move, Erin changed the name of the business to The Spa Near the Tracks. “since then, we have expanded through the whole building and have just renovated to add a hair studio with three chairs.” she beams. “We have excellent spa staff, registered Massage Therapists, and a nice retail area. “In fact, the spa, its estheticians, and RMT have been selected as Stratford’s “People Choice” several times.

As if a family and a business weren’t enough to keep this energetic young woman busy, she has also been very active and generous in the community, and has proudly donated spa services to numerous charities and organizations. Erin loves being outside, and thankfully once in a while, this busy mother and entrepreneur does manage to take some time to enjoy the outdoors!

Next time you need to take a break from your busy life, pop in and meet Erin, a fantastic Downtown Stratford neighbour, for a relaxing time at her spa!

Model turns mogul

Stratford native Emily Lyons, centre, is shown with models from her event-staffing and promotion agency Femme Fatale. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY FEMME FATALE)

Stratford native Emily Lyons, centre, is shown with models from her event-staffing and promotion agency Femme Fatale. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY FEMME FATALE)

Beauty may be skin deep, but intelligence, determination and good instincts go right down to the bone.

Stratford native Emily Lyons is proof.

The former model is the brains behind the beauty at Femme Fatale Media, the award-winning event staffing and promotion agency she founded in 2009.

“I always wanted to do something really big, and get noticed,” said Lyons Tuesday from Toronto, where the business is based.

With a long list of high-profile clients, a string of industry awards and hundreds of the most talented models in the country under management, it’s safe to say she’s on her way.

Success didn’t happen overnight, though.

At age 19, a sense of curiosity prompted her to move from Stratford to Australia, “because I knew there was something bigger out there.”

She was a nanny for a few years before moving back to Canada, where she did some modelling work in Toronto.

But it was a gift from her sister Julia (who died in 2011 after a courageous battle with cystic fibrosis) — a book entitled Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love – that helped to stoke her entrepreneurial spirit.

So she made the leap.

“I didn’t have any business experience whatsoever,” she recalled. “And I thought, if I can just support myself, then that’s good enough.”

What she lacked in experience, she made up for in determination.

“I loved it so much that I started reading everything I could, researching whatever I could. I’d stay up until four in the morning researching and Googling how to do business plans, how to do this or that,” she said. “Every single moment I had I spent on my business, and every bit of money I made I put back into it.”

“I didn’t sleep for the first two years at all,” she added with a laugh.

The hard work and sleepless nights paid off.

What began as a small operation with a few girls has grown into a Canada-wide operation, with hundreds of models (women and some men), professional dancers and hosts working out of Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa.

They appear at everything from nightclubs and trade shows to product launches, entertainment venues, fashion shows, charity events and corporate gigs.

And they’re more than just pretty faces, suggested Lyons.

“Pretty faces are good, but if they don’t have the personality and they don’t have the drive and they’re not reliable, they’re no good to me,” she said.

Intelligence and likability are also key, she added.

She’s been rewarded for that attention to detail, and an ability to not only attract the right people but also to meet the needs of diverse range of companies with whom she’s worked.

Over the past four years, Lyons has built up an impressive portfolio of prominent clients, including Warner Bros., National Bank Financial, Rockstar Energy, MTV and Playboy.

During the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, her staff helped to host an event with fellow Stratford native Justin Bieber and rap star Snoop Dogg. She was involved with Drake’s birthday party, and had models at a UFC fight in Toronto to promote the movie The Hangover 2.

In each of the last three years, the company earned the Toronto Nighbclub Award for best promotional models, and last year it claimed the Top Choice Award for top event staffing.

Accolades from family, and especially her mother Gail Lyons, a nurse at Stratford General Hospital, are important to her as well.

“My mom is so proud,” she said, adding that she told her recently that she could see her daughter as one of the dragons on Dragon’s Den.

She’s certainly aiming high.

After being approached several times about doing a Femme Fatale reality show, Lyons said she’s now “seriously entertaining the idea” and is even meeting with a producer about it.

It fits in with her goal of doing something big and getting noticed.

“The attention does feel good, but I want bigger,” said Lyons. “Much bigger.”

By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald. Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meet Our Downtown Neighbours – Flowers on York

Paris in the Fall

“Paris in the Fall” is a 500 piece puzzle by Cobble Hill, available at the Book Vault Inc. Stratford, Ontario.

If you have never met an expert in the world of flowers, then you haven’t yet been to Flowers on York in downtown Stratford. Owner Nancy Gornyicki and head designer Lorri Zehr have a combined total of over 50 years of floral design experience, bring their own unique set of experience and passion to their business and to the community. Flowers on York has been open to the public for just six months, and it has already become popular with locals and visitors who are looking to add a little beauty to their lives.

A lifelong resident of Stratford, Nancy wanted to share her love of flowers with others, and is excited to have opened her full-service flower shop in her home town. “It is fitting that the new store is located in the city centre,” Nancy’s enthusiasm for all things floral has lead her to teach a floral design course for Conestoga College. She has also kept herself busy in the community by serving on the Perth Active Living, Civic Beautification, Parade of Lights and the Communities in Bloom Committees.

Lorri, through her dedication to her craft, has always been able to create unique and wonderful designs for clientele. She has a versatile ability to create traditional modern fresh dried and silk flower arrangements. Lori is proud to be able to provide people with am out-of-the-ordinary gift, perfectly fitting for the occasion. “More importantly than stocking quality product, out top priority is customer service,” she states. “Many of our clients have become part of the Flowers on York family.”

Whether you are in search of that perfect bouquet of flowers, would like to take a floral design course, or would just like a taste of spring, stroll over to Flowers on York to meet a couple of your great community neighbours!

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2013

Stratford, Ontario - 14th best place to live in Canada 2013

Stratford, Ontario – 14th best place to live in Canada 2013!

Stratford is 14th on Canada’s Best Places to Live in 2013 list according to Moneysense Magazine’s rating of more than 200 cities!


What makes a city great? When we were determining our 8th annual list of Best Places to Live in Canada, we looked at all the data we could find to name the communities that offer the best overall quality of life.

By MoneySense staff | Online only, 20/03/13


What makes a city great? When we were determining our 8th annual list of Best Places to Live in Canada, we looked at all the data we could find to name the communities that offer the best overall quality of life. We started with incomes and employment. After all, most people’s experience in a city is more positive when they have a high-paying job—and the ability to get a new one if they so choose. We looked at the price of housing, giving high scores to cities where home prices are affordable when compared with local salaries. Weather was also key. Sure, some Canadians love cold weather, but most will agree that extra sunny days, days above zero and days without precipitation are nice to have. Crime rates and access to medical treatment are also important factors, so we awarded points to communities with low rates of crime, good access to hospitals and high numbers of medical professionals.

Quality of life isn’t only about practical concerns. The ability to take part in cultural activities adds richness to our lives, so we gave points to communities with high numbers of people working in the arts or sports. We tracked whether a city has a movie theatre or easy access to an airport. Of course, statistics don’t capture the personality, scenery or people that make each place special, but they provide a good idea of what life would be like if you lived there. Did your hometown make it to the top of our list of Best Places to Live in Canada?

Best Cities Overall

Rank City Bike to work % Days with rain/yr Days above 0°C Pop. growth ’11 to ’12 Jobless % Average house price $ Average household income $ Crime Severity Index Property tax % Doctors per ’000 Employed in arts & rec % New car %
1 Calgary, Alta. 1.18 67.5 169.3 6.56% 4.02 394,550 125,733 65.69 2.32 2.46 2.11 1.37
2 St. Albert, Alta. 0.64 76 176.3 4.92% 3.82 344,967 139,628 56.51 2.54 2.59 1.86 0.94
3 Burlington, Ont. 0.73 108.7 236.2 6.82% 4.65 417,102 110,031 33.57 2.62 2.50 2.06 1.69
4 Strathcona County, Alta. 0.52 77.4 169.7 4.85% 3.51 371,619 147,946 54.14 2.50 2.59 1.66 1.02
5 Oakville, Ont. 0.55 101.3 222.1 6.23% 5.3 587,045 145,471 33.57 2.70 2.07 2.58 1.89
6 Ottawa, Ont. 2.05 118.5 211.9 4.10% 5.89 352,020 98,980 58.62 2.19 2.44 2.94 1.74
7 Saanich, B.C. 5.11 150.5 327.8 5.59% 4.64 562,115 84,509 44.52 2.22 3.25 2.43 0.11
8 Lacombe, Alta. 1.14 75.6 156.9 7.20% 3.91 243,461 97,516 59.11 2.06 2.39 1.46 0.34
9 Lethbridge, Alta. 1.20 58.5 191.5 4.53% 4.1 183,491 82,601 86.99 2.08 1.99 1.44 0.20
10 Newmarket, Ont. 0.52 108.3 205.8 6.31% 4.69 413,688 107,353 39.37 2.78 2.07 2.05 1.63
11 Edmonton, Alta. 1.21 77.2 186.7 3.84% 4.91 338,463 96,704 97.96 2.06 2.57 1.95 0.93
12 Saskatoon, Sask. 2.11 64.4 166.4 6.85% 5.25 311,592 86,934 128.83 2.08 3.06 1.78 0.41
13 Halton Hills, Ont. 0.90 109.6 193 6.08% 4.16 458,024 116,251 33.57 2.96 2.07 1.67 1.44
14 Stratford, Ont. 4.59 117.1 211.2 4.50% 5 237,518 73,948 55.91 2.46 3.04 2.60 0.68
15 London, Ont. 1.45 120.3 217.3 5.87% 6.09 247,818 78,873 91.42 2.38 3.07 1.56 1.42
16 Winnipeg, Man. 1.47 76.9 170.2 6.00% 5.04 255,091 77,269 113.60 2.08 2.57 1.91 0.80
17 Regina, Sask. 1.22 68.1 165.6 6.91% 4.82 312,506 87,063 129.99 2.12 2.37 2.17 0.63
18 Boucherville, Que. 1.53 116.4 225.5 -3.13% 2.78 317,057 115,838 76.56 2.83 2.34 2.86 1.99
19 Kingston, Ont. 2.16 119.4 219.6 3.38% 6.54 287,403 79,727 66.05 2.19 4.11 1.91 0.87
20 Halifax, N.S. 0.85 133.4 228.9 5.86% 6.29 247,566 79,348 87.00 1.98 3.74 2.47 1.83

Meet our downtown neighbours – Karma Restaurant & Pizzeria

Snack Stack

“Snack Stack” is a 500 piece puzzle by Springbok.
Available at The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario.

For every entrepreneur, the path to owning a business is their own unique journey, and Sherry and Michael Saunders of Karma Restaurant and Pizzeria have certainly been on an adventure. The owners of the new Downie Street eatery moved to Stratford from London, Ontario with their three children in May of last year, and quickly fell in love with their new city. Sherry and Michael, who opened their doors just a month ago, say thay they are proud to be business owners in a city and community that they love, although their journey to this point was not all that easy.

“We both came from poor families and grew up with next to nothing.” Michael explains. Although he used to make his living as a construction worker, Michael proudly says that “Now, I cook and it makes me happy to see someone enjoy the food I make!”

Michael and Sherry are extremely pleased with their choice to relocate their family to this city. “I look forward to our time in Stratford,” he says. “It is much different living here than elsewhere. It is more friendly, and more of a community.”

Although their journey has only recently brought them to Stratford, Michael and Sherry look forward to being as active as possible with the community.

The next time your adventures include grabbing a slice of pizza, or if you would just like to welcome some great new neighbours to the community, be sure to head to Downie Street to meet Sherry and Michael Saunders, proud owners of Karma Restaurant and Pizza.

Klahsen putting old twist on downtown space

Gazette file photo


Local cheesemaker Ruth Klahsen is opening a restaurant on Wellington Street that, like the traditional Italian osteria on which it’s modeled, will be nondescript from the outside but memorable inside.

The small establishment, set to open April 1 in the location last occupied by Evergreen Terrace, will have no name or sign hanging out front, and will offer customers a simple selection of local specialties.

Klahsen, a longtime chef and the owner of Monforte Dairy, says the unassuming nature of the business is all part of the plan.

“The whole mandate for (the osteria)  is that it’s really different than anything else in town,” she adds, noting that  philosophy also extends to the renovations currently underway inside the building, where the plan is to use all repurposed materials.

Klahsen initially purchased the building for its kitchen; the dairy is expanding into charcuterie and preserved and pickled goods – some of which will be hand-picked from a garden out back of her dairy’s Griffith Road facility. But she soon realized the extra space out front could also work to her advantage.

“We ended up with the restaurant, so we might as well serve some people if we’re trying to sell them stuff downtown too,” she adds, with a laugh.

The eatery will serve cured meats, jarred goods and, of course, a selection of Monforte’s award-winning artisanal cheeses, as well as some cheeses from area farmers. Many of the foods will be  available to purchase to take home as well. There will also be a limited menu with one or two items that Klahsen plans to change daily and some menu basics like soups, salads and sandwiches.

A graduate of the renowned Stratford Chefs School who spent 25 years working in local restaurants – 15 of those at the Stratford Festival’s Green Room – Klahsen says she always hoped to one day open her own restaurant.

Just like her dairy, which moved to and opened in Stratford in 2010 on the strength of an innovate subscription drive supported by foodies as far away as Toronto, Klahsen will be counting on her out-of-town supporters to help her newest venture thrive, at least in the beginning.

It’s no coincidence that Klahsen is working feverishly to have the Monforte osteria open in time for the Stratford Festival season, which begins its previews later that month.

“That’s my hope, that when they’re here we can give them a  different experience,” adds Klahsen, referring to her many loyal Toronto-area  customers. “We need another way to sell to tourists in the summer.”

Klahsen is equally optimistic the restaurant will attract a local following during non-tourist season, if not year-round.

“I really want (local residents) to feel comfortable there,” she adds.

Local festivals crack top 100 in Ontario

Local vendors display their fresh produce Saturday during the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival. (MIKE BEITZ The Beacon Herald)

Two Stratford festivals have been named in the 100 best events in Ontario.

The honours went to the Stratford Festival and Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival.

Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO) announced the 2013 Top 100. The top 100 were not ranked, but appear as an alphabetical list.

An independent panel judged submissions from FEO members, FEO said. The festivals and events ranged from community level to internationally recognized events.

“We are thrilled that the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival is recognized among the top 100 festivals and events in Ontario along with long standing winners such as the Stratford Festival. The Culinary Festival has previously been awarded Ontario’s Tourism Event of the Year and Culinary Experience of the Year. These awards are a testament to the culinary passion of the community and the dedicated work of the volunteers,” said Danielle Brodhagen, Culinary Programming Stratford Tourism Alliance states,” said Danielle Brodhagen, culinary program co-ordinator with the Stratford Tourism Alliance.

Best Western (The Parlour), Pazzo, The Prune and City Centre Committee tweeted congratulations to Savour Stratford.

Other nearly events in the top 100 were Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, Port Elgin Pumpkinfest, the TD Kitchener Blues Festival and TD Sunfest: Canada’s Premier Celebration of World Cultures in London.

Meet Our Downtown Neighbours – The Magic Box

The Resting Place picture

“Resting Place” is a 500 piece puzzle by SunsOut Puzzles. Available at the Book Vault Inc. , Stratford, Ontario.

Born and raised in Perth County, Gloria Bishop, owner of The Magic Box, believes that there are no stronger ties in life than that of family and community. She strives to carry out this conviction both in her life and through her Ontario Street business, where she is proud to feature nearly 60 % locally created product.

“I like to keep as much business in Stratford as i can,” she states. ” A lot if people are pleasantly surprised at the unique variety of products, prices, and general atmosphere at The Magic Box!”

It was just ten years ago that Gloria started dreaming about the possibility of opening up her own business in her home town. Eventually these dreams became a business plan, which turned into reality, and Gloria has now been in business for three great years. She is pleased to be able to have her business in the city where she grew up.

“I love our beautiful city,” Gloria proudly admits. “While I went away to college the love of Stratford called me back.”

Gloria’s ten years as an Interior Decorator, and her love of fantasy fiction shines through when you step through the doors of The Magic Box. Her interests do not stop there, however. Gloria has been involved in her community through the years,volunteering with the Sunshine Foundation, Scouts Canada, Stratford’s soup kitchen and has completed Walks for MS among other assorted charity work.

So if you see Gloria about in the community — whether it’s on the beautiful streets of Stratford, helping out in the community or busy in her downtown store — give her a warm welcome and thank her for being such a great Stratford neighbour!

The Magic Box

The magic box is a mystical gift and supply shop carrying many local artists, books, jewellery, tarot decks, ritual supplies and so much more.

26 Ontario Street


Psychic Tarot Readings available

*Appointments Recommended*


Independent as ever, Canada’s McKennitt surprised, excited by Grammy nomination

Loreena McKennitt, shown in a 2006 photo, has been nominated for a Grammy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Ann Cutting-� 2006 Quinlan Road

Stratford’s Loreena McKennitt, shown in a 2006 photo, has been nominated for a Grammy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-Ann Cutting-� 2006 Quinlan Road (editor’s note:  WHOO HOO!!)

By: Nick Patch, The Canadian Press,  Posted: 02/6/2013

TORONTO – The last time Loreena McKennitt had a seat at the Grammys in 2008, a DayGlo Kayne West rapped “Stronger” in the dark, a still-in-rehab Amy Winehouse beamed in a performance from a London studio arranged like a supper club, and a collection of Joni Mitchell covers by Herbie Hancock upset its fizzier foes to win album of the year.

In other words, the whole thing felt a bit surreal. And McKennitt enjoyed every minute of it.

“I’m not, in a variety of ways I suppose, a conventional person in the music business … and so any time I’ve gone to Los Angeles, and I haven’t spent much time around award shows, it’s a bit like going out for Halloween,” the multi-instrumentalist said with a laugh down the line from her office in Stratford, Ont.

“The live show was spectacular…. Just sitting back more as a member of the public rather than a singer or a person from the industry thinking: ‘Wow, there’s no escaping it. The business of music has some pretty incredible aspects to it.’

“Even from an anthropological standpoint, it’s fascinating,” she added. “It’s like going off to planet Mars for a few days.”

Well, let’s hope she has a full oxygen tank — McKennitt is heading back into the red planet’s orbit.

The soon-to-be 56-year-old is nominated for a second time going into Sunday’s 55th Grammy Awards, this time for best new age album for her live recording “Troubadours on the Rhine.”

The nomination came as a pleasant shock for McKennitt, not least of all because the Celtic-influenced master of the harp, accordion and piano had never really considered herself a new age artist before.

“Historically, I’ve discouraged any of my work being categorized in that particular category — largely because I didn’t feel it was a full representation of what (my music) is,” said McKennitt.

She notes that while in Europe the term is applied to the diverse likes of Peter Gabriel and Tori Amos, in North America “new age” conjures a less savoury connotation (McKennitt doesn’t name names, but let’s face it: many think of John Tesh).

“(Here), it’s represented a different musical expression, which is more atmospheric and less about the lyrics and less about the arrangements or the eclecticism. It almost has a very medicinal quality, new age — you know, you just want people to relax.”

That doesn’t mean she’s ungrateful.

She didn’t necessarily record “Troubadours on the Rhine” with lofty expectations. McKennitt has often found a musical muse in her travels but back in 2010, she was more or less confined to working close to home because her mother was seriously ill (Irene McKennitt died in 2011). Without room to roam, she recorded the album of traditional songs, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” in the historic Sharon Temple.

She was on a promotional tour in Europe to support that album when she agreed to a one-hour performance at a German radio station. In front of 200-300 fans, McKennitt — she of the reddish-golden mane and gilded soprano voice — simply captivated, and the resulting live radio recording became “Troubadours on the Rhine.”

A pretty casual beginning for a record that would eventually earn McKennitt her second career Grammy nod.

“It’s quite a surprising root,” she agrees. “For better or for worse, it is innocently what it is.”

And this recognition is doubly delightful for McKennitt because she’s not just an artist, but also her own label boss.

She’s managed her own career since the “very, very beginning,” McKennitt says, since she was busking on the streets of Toronto.

She founded her label, Quinlan Road, in 1985, and steered herself through her commercial heyday in the 1990s — when “The Visit,” “The Mask and Mirror” and “The Book of Secrets” racked up multi-platinum sales at home and abroad — and into her 2006 revival, which followed the nine-year hiatus she took after the 1998 drowning death of her fiance.

So she maintains the dual role of artist and executive, one which allows her complete control but prevents McKennitt from being able to simply indulge whatever artistic urges arise without considering the bottom line.

“It’s kept me very grounded,” she said. “I study budgets. I deal with HR issues. I look at logistics, I look at designing tours, and I involve myself down to pretty minute details — including in what order what cases will be loaded into the trucks, or the dimension of the merchandise case.

“I’m just involved at every level. So that keeps you pretty sober in terms of just how many aspects of what kinds of things play a role in success.”

Such double duty requires “massive more work.” But, she says, it’s worth it, even if it’s limited her creative output.

“Some years ago, I felt I’d rather manage fewer creations and make sure they’re looked after well and maximized, rather than creating more but relinquishing the control of those creations to others.”

Still, McKennitt knows as well as anyone just how dramatically the music business has declined over the past decade.

She’s realistic about the future — “I think we can safely navigate our way through this for a couple years, after that, I don’t know,” she forecasts glumly — but can only hope her niche remains intact.

“It’s a collapsed industry, period end,” she says simply. “I’m still standing because even though our pie has shrunk along with everybody else’s, I don’t split it amongst other band members, there’s not a manager who’s taking their piece, etc., etc.

“So in the remnants of the music industry, and at this stage of my career, I’m still able to be viable and do what I love doing and do it in the way I like doing it.”

The Grammy nomination, certainly, helps. So when she attends the show this weekend, she won’t be fretting about whether she’s going to win — she’ll just try to enjoy the spectacle.

“That’d be the real icing on the cake to win but at the same time … the fact that people even knew of this recording — because it’s not like a huge commercial project — and cared enough to ensure that it got even nominated, I think I feel very grateful for that.”

At this point, simply existing in the industry can feel like honour enough.

“One probably needs an award these days just for still standing in music,” she said with a rueful laugh. “Just for still breathing.”

Maybe she won’t need that oxygen tank after all.

Food centre’s new lunch outings aimed at 60-plus crowd

Saturday, January, 26, 2013 – 11:11:39 AM
From the Stratford Gazette

local community food centre

Food centre’s new lunch outings aimed at 60-plus crowd

Starting on Wednesday, January 30, The Local Community Food Centre will be hosting its 60+ Midweek Lunch Out, a new weekly social outing where anyone in their 60s and beyond in the Stratford area are invited to drop in.

The community lunch will be taking place every Wednesday throughout the year. Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. in the community dining room, which can accommodate up to 100 diners.

Each week a nutritious lunch will be prepared by the food centre’s chef, Jordan Lassaline, with help from volunteers. Coffee, tea and dessert are included.

“We at The Local Community Food Centre are committed to giving everyone in our community an opportunity to get together around great food,” Lassaline explains.

“We’re very happy to be opening our doors to this group so they can come out and enjoy a healthy meal in one another’s company.”

Every week from 12:30-1 p.m. a half hour program will be provided after lunch that includes speakers, short films, cooking demonstrations, and other interesting activities and presentations.

The presentation for the first week is “Getting to Know The Local Community Food Centre,” which will be followed by an opportunity for participants to suggest other programs that could be included in future weeks.

Those interested in volunteering to help cook or serve lunch are encouraged to call 519-508-3663, ext. 3, or email

In addition to the weekly lunch, the food centre also provides a drop-in dinner on Mondays at 5:15 p.m. and a drop-in breakfast on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. Those who are interested can also experience a rotating wellness session at 8 a.m. prior to breakfast.