John Thomson  

John Thomson's I Didn't Know That!

Change is the name of the game this week with lots happening and about to happen in this city. The rumours are wild and interesting. So you can see it is a very exciting in the Naked City. There are always 8,000 stories in the Naked City and this will be one of them.

It all started in Toronto about three months ago when Blackberry became available for the right buyer. In stepped Fairfax Financial Holdings with an offer of $6 billion on the table which after six week was taken off the table. Fairfax Holdings president became president of Blackberry.

Fairfax Financial was not one of the biggest money organizations in Canada but they were a mover and shaker. The company first came to my attention when I was doing another story on one of their holdings.

They were owners of the East Side Mario’s, a Canadian chain with their Kelowna store being one of my favourites. Italian Wedding Soup, Italian Salad and Seafood Linguini - now that was good food.

Two months ago Fairfax sold its restaurant holdings to CARA, one of Canada's largest food entrepreneurs. East Side Mario’s, a chain of Irish Pubs, Casey’s Bier Market and Prime Restaurants - all of their food holdings. But this was not over. Paul Rivett the president of Fairfax holds financial interests in all of the 950 restaurants I’m writing about. The CARA chain includes Swiss Chalet, Montana’s, Harvey’s (still the best hamburger ever), Kelsey’s, and Milestones.

But wait this is not over.

Fairfax, still on the move last week, purchased 51 per cent of the 110 Keg restaurants across the country from the David Aisenstat family who still own the other 49 per cent. So, the new Keg being built in Kelowna on the south highway will be a part of this mix

Now the final piece of this story. East Side Mario’s here is being closed by the new group on December 23rd of this year. The new tenant will be Canadian Brew Houses.

That was quite a journey.


We first went to San Diego in the early 80s and of course I found Trader Joe’s.  We went to the two stores we had in town for many things, all of them good. I came home that year and I wrote to the Trader Joe’s people and asked if they have looked at Canada and was there any chance for a franchise north of the border? They answered back that they did not franchise and in turned owned every store that was built. We have been customers of theirs for years. I have friends that bring me home some goodies every year since we don’t travel anymore. There is a real treat in The World’s Largest Cashews.

Now it looks like we may be on the list. Pirate Joe’s, started by an entrepreneur in Vancouver, took on the American giant. Pirate Joe's is a specialty grocery store in Vancouver, owned by Michael Hallatt. Its inventory consists entirely of store brand products resold from locations of the U.S.-based grocery chain Trader Joe's—which does not operate any locations in Canada. Despite the high costs of operating the store due to its business model, the store became popular with residents who enjoyed the opportunity to purchase some of the distinct private label products offered by Trader Joe's.

Although he has asserted that the business was legal, Hallatt's operation drew the ire of the Trader Joe's company, and the shop eventually became the subject of a lawsuit filed by the company in May 2013, which claimed that the Pirate Joe's shop was infringing on its trademarks and damaging its reputation. Despite this setback, Hallatt pledged to continue operating the store and went to court in San Francisco and he won because the judge told Trader Joe's they could win in an American court. They in turn dropped the suit.

Now Hallett wants to start a fast food joint called “M”.


Finally some info on Cara.  The owners have found a place to rebuild their very successful store. They don’t want the location announced yet but it will surprise you.

It always amazes me that in 2013 these developers don’t want any positive publicity. This is the world of information. We’ll see how long I can go with this plan.


This email came in yesterday...

“Apparently blueprints have been issued for Old Navy to go into Orchard Park taking the space of Tommy Hilfilger and the two shops next door.“

I don’t know how much there is to this story but this is a source who has proved really reliable.


Since its inception in 2000, Township 7 Vineyards & Winery has featured the same logo and label. Winery owners John Tietzen and Mike Raffan determined it was time to enhance the logo and bottle labels so as to emphasize the winery’s commitment to making just quality wine and nothing else.

To do so, the owners sought out an entirely different approach from what the BC wine industry typically does. John called upon his extensive connections to some of the world’s best marketers who have represented clients such as BMW, Geico, Net Jets, AFLAC, UPS, Walmart, Pizza Hut and Axe. Ultimately, the advertising agency, Profero New York was selected. Profero New York’s client list includes famous beverage brands such as PepsiCo, Baileys, Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, & Diageo, which is one of the world’s largest producers of wine, beer and spirits. In fact, Aaron Reitkopf, the C.E.O. & President of Profero New York, visited the Okanagan Valley and personally experienced its vibrant wine industry. The actual logo and label designs were developed by industrial graphic artist Harry Garcia of Profero New York.


Tim Hortons president has told Canadians that he is going to speed up the service. The store I go to always has a line-up, day and night. The CEO says two many offerings for sale slows everything down. But they do keep the line-up of new products.

Tim Hortons TV ads are all heavy promotion for new products for a limited time only. Their new products are chosen by a panel and usually prove to be good eating.


Long-time volunteer and local philanthropic leader Terry Flannigan was honoured at United Way's leadership recognition event, hosted by UBC at their Okanagan campus. Flannigan was the 2013 recipient of the Dina and Mel Kotler Humanitarian Award, created in 2008 by “Million Dollar Mel” Kotler as a way to recognize the volunteer efforts of community leaders who have also contributed to the United Way. Dina Kotler presented the award to Flannigan, citing his community contributions that have largely gone “under the radar”.

Flannigan started the UBC Okanagan campus campaign for United Way during the university’s first year of operations in 2005. Since then, the campus community has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for the United Way campaign. He was also instrumental in starting the UBC Athletic Scholarship Breakfast and was Chair of the Seniors Games hosted in Kelowna. Asserting that a strong United Way campus campaign translates into more community support for educational institutions, Flannigan has spearheaded United Way campaigns at all of the post-secondary institutions he has worked at, including Grant McEwan College and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice Chancellor Deborah Buszard is a member of the 2013 United Way Campaign Cabinet, and wanted to host the leadership event on campus as a way to say thank you to donors throughout the region who contribute $1,000 or more to the campaign. In her remarks, Buszard emphasized how the university’s campus community of close to 10,000 people have a responsibility to create a civil and sustainable society for all. Fourth-year student Lucia Woolgar shared her experiences involved in the Reading Week Days of Caring program, where university students are matched to projects through the United Way as part of their community service learning.  

“We are so grateful to UBC Okanagan for their participation in the United Way campaign, and their willingness to open the campus to campaign leaders,” says United Way Executive Director Marla O’Brien. “It is so impactful for students and community members to come together to learn how each of them are contributing to a healthier Okanagan through the United Way, and to be able to honour Terry with the Dina and Mel Kotler Humanitarian Award in the location where he started the campus campaign is such a fitting tribute.”


Statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, John Thomson.  While we are sure that every care has been taken in the compilation of this information and every attempt made to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur.

Castanet will not be held responsible for any claims, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within this article.

More John Thomson articles

About the Author

John Thomson is the Okanagan's pre-eminent business columnist writing his column, Rumours and Things, for over 24 years. Plugged in to the valley's who's who, John keeps his readers coming back for more with his straight talk and optimistic perspective on where we are headed next.

When John is not writing his column, he runs a sixteen year old think tank called the Executive Roundtable and holds his popular "Thomson Presents" quarterly business speaker seminars.

Have a comment, question, or tip for John? 

E-mail John at
[email protected]
or send him a fax at 250-764-8255.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories