Inspire Niagara & Beyond - Fall & Winter 2022

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The Niagara Falls Convention Centre and Noel Buckley are at the centre of it all. PAGE 50


Welcome to Inspire Niagara Magazine’s Fall/Winter 2022/2023 Issue

In our bi-annual digital publications, you will find the very best of everything Niagara has to offer. We will guide you to the wines to sip, the beers to savour, the foods in which to indulge your taste buds, the fabulous entertainment for all ages, and the amazing shopping.

We locals know what is hip and happening and are eager to share with the millions of people who visit Niagara all year long as well as the residents of our beautiful peninsula.

Our editorial team has brought together a number of not only informative, but fascinating pieces that are sure to capture your interest.

As Editor of Inspire Niagara Magazine, my goal is to bring features that speak all things Niagara and to educate, entertain and yes, enchant our readers.




















& BEYOND are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND, its employees or owners. All unsolicited manuscripts and/ or photographs submitted are assumed to be intended for publication or republication in whole or in part. The right to alter, edit or refuse photos and/or manuscripts intended is assumed. All unsolicited material submitted to INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND are submitted at the author’s risk. Manuscripts and/or photographs intended to be returned must be accompanied by sufficient postage. INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND does not assume any responsibility for any claims of our advertisers and reserves the right to refuse any advertising. No part of INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND may be reproduced in any manner without the express written permission of the publisher.

Cover photo courtesy of Haskell Photography
is published by
Niagara Media Machine. All opinions expressed in
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Soaring Great to Heights

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, so why, then oh why, can’t I?” YOU CAN! In fact, anyone can! Just make your way down to Niagara Helicopters Flightseeing Tours and you too can fly over a rainbow AND over Niagara Falls. Since 1961, Niagara Helicopters has been providing visitors, VIPs, and locals with the exciting experience of soaring above the turbulent rapids and cascading waterfalls. With over 50 years of service, experienced pilots and a courteous ground crew to ensure your comfort and safety, there is no doubt that you will be in for the ride of a lifetime.

Anna Pierce, Vice President and General Manager, has been with the organization since she was in high school. “I was 16 years old when I began by selling tickets. Ruedi Hafen, who was a pilot at the time and also a family friend bought the business after the original owner passed away. When I finished university, Ruedi brought me on board as the Marketing and Operations Assistant. Ruedi had a business partner, and all three of us did everything we had to do to keep the business growing.” Anna adds laughingly, “Our first season, we had 8 buses. The following season, we were up to 80! And the business has grown exponentially since then.”

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As the business continued to grow, so did Anna’s role, as she was soon named Marketing Director. In 2011, Ruedi sold the business to Helicopter Transport Services of Canada, a family-owned corporation based out of Ottawa, and Anna was named Vice-President and General Manager, a role she continues to love and excel in to this day.

Niagara Falls has always attracted a vast array of visitors, including celebrities, and of course, they too want to get the best view possible of the mighty cataracts. Most celebrities travel incognito and Anna says, “We usually have no idea that they are even coming. We’ve had Elton John come through. Emma Watson flew with us and so did our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but that was before he was PM. We’ve taken Kelly Ripa up twice – most recently in June of 2017 when we flew her and Michael, her son, to Two Sisters Vineyards for his 20th birthday celebration.” However, it’s not always fun and games at Niagara Helicopters. Anna takes a very serious note when she begins speaking of the many search and rescue missions in which they participate. “The Niagara Gorge is famous for its hiking trails. Experts and amateurs alike take to the trails by the thousands every season. What many don’t realize is that the gorge trails can become very slippery, very quickly and people sometimes go down not realizing that they have to get back up that very steep incline,” Anna says.

Enter Niagara Helicopters, who, with its trained pilots, provides an essential service working with both the police and fire departments to ensure successful rescues. “It’s really a team effort and operation. Because we help in so many rescues, our pilots train with police and fire on a regular basis. It’s quite an operation, but with the helicopters involved, it helps in not endangering rescuers,” she adds.

Rescues don’t just occur down river either. There are many times when individuals don’t realize that the water going over the Falls is reduced by 50% overnight for hydroelectric purposes by a series of gates up river. “People sometimes wander out into the upper river to fish early in the morning, and will end up on a series of rocks, casting their lines. Once the gates are opened by Ontario Hydro, and the water levels start to rise, they become stranded, and we get the call,” Anna says.

Niagara Helicopters still maintains a strict guideline for cleanliness. “All of our aircrafts are sanitized thoroughly between each flight. Anything that is touched is scrubbed,” asserts Anna.

When asked how business is going, Anna happily says, “We are thrilled to be open with business as usual now that all pandemic sanctions have been lifted. We had a wonderful 2022 season! And as long as the water is rushing over those rocks, people will come.”

7 Soaring
Photos courtesy of Niagara Helicopters



S M & MazeS

Ian Paul was born into the tourism industry. His Canadian, Grimsby-born grandfather was stationed in Bermuda during the war. That’s where he met his wife. Once they had married, and after a short-lived business renting out treehouses in Grimsby, he convinced her to buy the property on Clifton Hill which now houses the attractions that Ian has had under his ownership for many years now.

8 Inspire Niagara & Beyond EXPERIENCE

“I had to prove myself in the family business in order to be able to stay on,” he says laughingly. “I started out as a lifeguard at the old Honeymoon Hotel when I was 14. From there I became a stock boy in Honeymoon Gifts. When I turned 18, I began working as a bartender at the Jolly Brewer Bar which my Dad owned. I went off to McMaster University to study economics but came home every weekend to work in the bar instead of going out to the bars in Hamilton and partying with my buddies,” he jokes. “After I finished university, is when the company began adding attractions to the Hill and that’s where I ended up and where I am to this day.”

The Paul/Burland family has developed the property into what it is today. When the family matriarch passed away in 1994, the property and family business was divided up with Ian taking over one part of Clifton Hill and his cousin Charlie Burland, taking on the other part. “We took over the House of Frankenstein in the early 1980s. We then added the Crystal Caves Mirror Maze, and we now have the FrankenCoaster on the roof of the House of Frankenstein. I’d like to mention another unique attraction that is a tenant on our property and that is the Upside Down House,” he adds. “It’s a very cool concept.”

Like all businesses in Niagara, Ian was very happy to see sanctions lifted and business as usual coming back.

Photos courtesy of IPCO.

SecondCharm the Time's

Regardless of whether it is the first trip down the aisle or perhaps a second, getting married and the planning process involved in creating that special day is an intimate and exciting journey for the couple and one inevitably bound to bring out a tear or two. What does it mean when a tear or two is shed by the wedding planner? Passionate and personal, Mallory Lauder, Lead Wedding Coordinator and Owner of Lasting Events works diligently to ensure each wedding has a lasting impression. “I still cry at each wedding,” states Lauder.

Offering a range of expertise, including full wedding planning and coordination, and partial planning, Lauder ensures that all aspects of planning needs are met. “I offer services for those that just got engaged and need guidance from the get go. I also provide partial planning for those who have started and they don’t know where to go after booking the big things like venue or photographer,” says Lauder who also offers a wedding day management (day of coordination) package for couples that have planned their day and now require someone to coordinate from behind the scenes on their wedding day.

Being a wedding planner wasn’t Lauder’s first career choice. “I always knew I wanted to own my own business

and after working in corporate events and marketing it just didn’t feel right anymore,” says Lauder. “When I got married I realized if I can do that for myself, I can do that for anyone.”

Couples marrying for the second or third time often shift their priorities from their first walk down the aisle. “Second weddings tend to be on the smaller side of things in terms of guest count. That is usually because the couple did their big wedding the first time around,” explains Lauder. “And they realize a big wedding isn’t a reflection of their love for each other. Second time around they focus on what is more important to them and less on all the traditions and bells and whistles,” says Lauder.

In Lauder’s experience, traditions such as the bouquet and garter toss are usually the first to go. “The parent dances tend to not be included as much. Usually the couple is older and their parents are older too,” says Lauder. “Their focus tends to be more on having a dinner party rather than having a big party.”

Lauder encourages couples marrying for the second time to tailor the day to meet their desires. “Do what makes you happy. If you want it small and intimate then do that, if you want big then do that,” says Lauder. “There are no rules for

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a second wedding.”

For a second wedding Lauder recommends writing your own vows. “Don’t do the copy after me vows,” says Lauder. Write something personal. That is a moment that is personal in your day and you will remember because you are speaking from your heart,” says Lauder.

Trends do present themselves when one half of the couple has been married previously and the other is walking down the aisle for the first time. “There is always give and take in every wedding, not just the second one,” states Lauder. “In my experience, when a groom was married previously and the bride is getting married for the first time they usually stick to the typical wedding traditions because the bride and her family haven’t experienced that before. When the bride has been married before it is usually scaled back.”

Including children in the wedding day is another way to add a personal touch to your second wedding. “Kids are so fun at weddings,” says Lauder. “There are a lot of ways to include them depending on the age. They can become the wedding party themselves and they can feel very included. If they are older they can be the MCs for the night because they can crack jokes about their parents. When they are older they can walk the bride down the aisle or have special

dances later. It is making sure the kids are comfortable in what that role is.”

Lauder addresses the elephant in the room. “If you are friends with your ex, I say go for it and invite them because it is just like inviting a friend, but if you don’t hang out with each other then I would say no,” says Lauder. “Both the bride and the groom have to agree.”

Lauder who started her business on a part time basis before pursuing her passion full time recently celebrated Lasting Event’s 5th birthday.

Lauder finds joy in working with her clients and making a special connection with them. “I love hearing their stories of how they met and translating that into their wedding day and seeing their reactions on their wedding day.”

Whether it is your first walk down the aisle or your second, Lasting Events will be there to shed a tear with you: a sign that each wedding she plans is special to her as well.

For more information and to check out Lauder’s blog visit

If you want it small and intimate then do that, if you want big then do that...THERE ARE NO RULES FOR A SECOND WEDDING.
Photos courtesy of Love Always Photography and Muir Image Photography

second dance & feather and pearl Something

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Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Green?
How to make your special day eco-friendly.

With the pressure to have a picture-perfect wedding day comes the need to shop: decorations, food, flowers, clothing – the whole package. As a result, your wedding day can be one of the most environmentally wasteful events in your life; with wedding waste [paper decorations, excess food and flowers, one-time wear outfits and plastic packaging] contributing to environmental issues like overflowing landfills and high carbon emissions.

But no one is saying skip the party or the special details. By assuming a few eco-friendly shopping habits, you can make a big environmental impact without sacrificing your budget or vision.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about eco-friendly shopping is re-wearing a bridal gown. Wearing second hand or vintage means you are giving a pre-loved wedding dress a second life and recycling a barely worn gown. But sometimes second hand can be a taboo word in the bridal community; brides often flock to big box retailers in search of a special experience and end up leaving with an overdone dress rather than exploring a consignment store for a lightly worn and special garment.

Second Dance Bridal in St. Catharines is changing the story behind consignment bridal shopping. An intersection between style, economy and environmentalism, Second Dance Bridal is giving an entirely new shopping experience to not only brides who need off the rack, but to every bride in search of a one-of-a-kind gown as unique as they are. Second Dance focuses on stocking their shelves with consigned and ethically produced gowns, accessories and bridal merchandise with sustainable practices in mind, offering a full selection of current, pre-owned and never worn designer gowns and dresses for the whole bridal party in sizes 2-30.

Disheartened by the expense and often significant wastefulness involved in a wedding, owner Jennifer Newman-Renette was determined to ensure that every girl was given the opportunity to find the dress of her dreams at an affordable price all while decreasing her carbon footprint without compromising her style.

Newman-Renette says she opened Second Dance in 2015 with a vision to create a sustainable bridal wear experience.


“From having a big family and shopping second hand, I started to see all these really nice wedding dresses; wedding dresses that I could tell were not old and I knew they were never going to sell [in these stores],” said Newman-Renette. “I just thought, these dresses need to be in a place where you can go and try it on just like when you are buying new and be given that same experience.”

The store carries countless designers from feminine Hayley Paige to modern-chic Romona Keveza, timeless Martina Liana and their own private collection – with prices starting from $400 dollars.

But Newman-Renette said she understands that when it comes to second hand, there may not be a dress for every girl. Bridging this gap is their brand-new store Feather and Pearl Bridal and Boudoir. What started as an online shopping site featuring bridal robes, lingerie and accessories has surged in popularity, growing the digital shopping experience into a brick and mortar location in under two years.

Feather and Pearl is a private shopping experience rarely seen in smaller cities. Located only a few doors down from their sister store on downtown St. Paul Street this dreamy, soft lit studio is designed to cater to one bride and their entourage at a time – giving each bride a oneon-one shopping experience with a trained stylist and exclusive access to the store during her appointment.

Newman-Renette said the store will have the same sustainable philosophy as Second Dance but act as the other side of the coin; featuring an exclusive collection of approximately 75 orderable gowns from unique designers with principled manufacturing processes.

Designers that will be featured in Feather and Pearl include Boho-Phenom Daria Karlozi, romantic Rara Avis and Catherine Langlois – a Canadian designer who creates all gowns to order straight from her Toronto studio.

The store will also have the new Ashley Graham collection by Pronovias. The in-house collection will

comprise entirely of size 20 samples and feature built in shape wear.

All dresses and lingerie are made to measure. Once a bride chooses a style they love, the stylist will take their measurements and the designer will make the garment specifically for their body – reducing fast-fashion waste.

“This is about ethically producing one piece for the person who wants it,” said Newman-Renette. “Nothing is mass produced. We don’t want the same old dress you see everywhere. We want special gowns that are fresh and new.

“If you are going to buy a new gown, buy something amazing,” said Newman-Renette.

Gowns will retail between $1000-$3000 dollars. Brides will also have the opportunity to purchase off-the-rack –like at Second Dance – if the sample fits them well.

“If someone wants to purchase a gown right in the appointment, they definitely can,” said Newman-Renette. “Then we will bring in a new sample of a different dress –keeping dresses limited editions.

Further encouraging their green philosophy, NewmanRenette said brides are encouraged to then consign their gowns at Second Dance – continuing its journey.

“Girls can come and buy a new dress – something that is really good quality, ethically produced ... and if they don’t have their heart set on keeping it, it can recycle through [Second Dance],” said Newman-Renette.

“You’re buying an ethical and great product to begin with, then recycling it so it is taking reducing your carbon footprint that one step further,” said Newman-Renette.

Feather and Pearl will also house a collection of made to measure lingerie, accessories and bridesmaid collections. Boudoir styling appointments will also be available.

“It’s all about women helping women,” said NewmanRenette. “We want every woman to find a gown. And if we can help a woman who has consigned their dress make money in the process, that is even better.”

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Photos courtesy of Second Dance Bridal & Feather and Pearl

Simple Changes to Make Your Wedding



Your Pinterest board may be filled with balloon arches and floating paper lanterns, but it is important to remember that both materials, while eye-catching, are harmful to the environment. This also includes plastic wine glasses and single use cutlery – all of which end up in landfills and are rarely biodegradable.

Alternatively look for built in décor when choosing a venue: floral draped pergolas, permanent light fixtures and gardens. And opt for the real deal at your bar and during appetizers – glass may be more expensive, but rental options will save you money and save waste.


Food and flower waste are said to make up a large amount of the trash on wedding days. Talk to your caterer and decorator about what they do with any remaining food and flowers and make sure there is a plan in place to either donate or compost both. Flowers can generally be donated to local hospitals or retirement homes or given to your guests to take home.


A potted flower or plant [think succulents or orchids] can make a striking centerpiece over a cut bouquet. Plus, they are resilient: guests can bring a plant home and remember your wedding day for years to come – minimizing waste and prolonging the life of your investment.


Every bar is filled with waste – including excessive glassware, packaging and canned drinks. When possible, choose a draft beer or a mixed drink by the keg. Choose to support local is possible; many craft breweries will sell kegs for occasions.


Opting for a digital invite over the traditional stationary will not only save paper waste, but will also save you money. Websites like Paperless Post, Greenvelope and Evite offer a wide variety of designs and customizable options, allow you to send a digital invitation and print a few as keepsakes.


Brides spend hours choosing the perfect themed favour for their guests to commemorate the day. But in reality, most favors are generally forgotten and left on tables for staff to throw away at the end of the night.

Instead of packaged mints or monogrammed coasters, choose a favour that if your guests leave behind, you will still be able to use en masse – since even the most environmentally conscious favour can still be left behind. Think, packets of seeds or tree saplings [Let Love Grow] that would be a nice edition to a garden – your guests or your own. Or, choose a favour they can enjoy that night: like a ‘Smores kit with accompanying fire pit at midnight.


its Boudoir : at

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Make it a Date!

The word “boudoir” seems to evoke, for most of us visions of black lace, stiletto heels, and buxom, half-clad women in tawdry images. God forbid the woman who ever would want to have herself photographed in such a situation. The shame of it all! Such whimsical desires of course could only be attributed to women of ill-repute! But let’s be real here…when we look at the true definition of the actual word “boudoir”, we find something much less garish.

BOUDOIR – as defined by Merriam Webster – “A woman’s dressing room, private sitting room, or bedroom.” There is absolutely nothing salacious in those words. In fact, they bring to mind gentle pastel colours, full pillows, exquisite perfumes on a mirrored tray, bubble baths, expensive lingerie…sensuality at its best! Now… bring in a partner and what you have is COUPLES

BOUDOIR! David & Guen Haskell of Haskell Photography are the creative team behind this innovative and fantastic concept which captures, on film, the utter beauty of a couple sharing very tasteful and very loving moments of intimacy.

Let’s go back a few years…When thinking


“Photography” in the Niagara Region, one name stands above all of the rest and that name is HASKELL!

Born into the world of photography, David Haskell is the son of world-renowned photographer, Preston Haskell of Millpond Photography Studio in St. Catharines. However, relying on name only was not what David had in store for himself. He has carved his own reputation in the world of photography as a premier talent, and is world-renowned in his own right.

Over 30 years ago, David Haskell opened his first photography studio in Toronto, Canada. His unique vision and aesthetic quickly established him as a trendsetter in his field. While still a teenager, he began his career behind the lens with Revlon.

After a few years in Toronto, he moved to the United States, where he worked with some of the largest companies, organizations and high profile personalities in the world. His credits are a virtual who’s who of the world, many of whom he still counts as friends. Haskell’s work has been seen on the pages of Newsweek Magazine, InStyle Magazine, National Geographic, just to name a few. He has immortalized in photos, the likes of President Bill Clinton; musicians JayZ and Rihanna; actors Kathleen Turner and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Add to this list, Jay Leno, and famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin; NHL superstar Patrick Roy and NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony…well, there are just too many to name. The breadth of Haskell’s work extends to campaigns for ROLEX, Mazda, Bacardi, etc. He has also captured the essence of some of the most beautiful people

in the world working with supermodels Veronica Webb, Ines Rivero, Tyson Beckford and Frederique van der Wal. His work has now been published in over seventy countries and be seen in North America’s major market publications, advertising outlets, and galleries.

NOW, he’s back home in Niagara, continuing his phenomenal work!

“With the new studio and gallery set and established in the heart of Niagara’s Wine Country, clients of all categories find themselves enjoying the atmosphere and artwork created in my working environment. From small product to football stadiums, and high profile personalities to the person next door, my passion for the creative arts is as strong and relevant today as the day I walked into Revlon at 19 years old,” he says.

What sets David Haskell apart from everyone else is certainly his vision and his edge, which he has parlayed into yet another artistic and creative endeavour. He acknowledges that the pandemic did hit his business, however, there were some upsides to the lockdown -- one of which was that couples were given this wonderful opportunity to re-connect.

It was 2020 – the start of a new decade where no one could predict what would happen – in this day and age, pandemic aside, couples come in all shapes, sizes, colours, genders…and for Haskell, his inspiration came to fruition!

“Everyone had been cooped up with Covid. It was time to bring some passion into the mix and explore some of the positive things that have been coming out of this lockdown.

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Photo right page courtesy of Haskell Photography

Guen and I were talking and we thought this would be a great time to promote ‘Boudoir Photography’. Then we thought that the concept could be elevated into something spectacular…COUPLES BOUDOIR! We though it would be great to empower people by helping them feel beautiful and sexy as a couple.”

Haskell finds beauty in just about anything, and his ability to nurture and grow that beauty within his subjects, behind that lens of his, is helped only by the talents of his wife, business partner, and beauty stylist, Guen. The two work in an uncanny rhythm to create a magic like no other. “Of course, there is natural beauty in everyone, and Guen and I, together, help bring out the best in couples. Our final cuts show the beauty, intimacy and passion that exist in couples, and that sometimes just needed that little extra nudge that we give them for it all to come together,” Haskell says. Photos are magical as well, as they can transform each and every subject into what they want their ideal versions of themselves to be. “Sometimes people wait to schedule shoots for a year from now, after they have had a chance to lose weight or work out for a year. That’s not necessary,” Haskell laughs. “We find that beauty in each and every one of our clients.”

He’s right! When he is behind that camera, he makes even the most shy of subjects come to life and lose all inhibitions. That, is the mark of a great artist – his ability to allow his subject to grow organically on the other side of the lens and that is Haskell!

I am proud to say that I can count David and Guen as not only colleagues, but as friends. David is our photographer here at INSPIRE NIAGARA & BEYOND, and Guen is our stylist. I know that I can call on them at a moment’s notice and get them on a shoot where I know they will give

only their best! Of course, it’s only logical that they are my “people” when it comes to putting together features on anything artistic in Niagara. The Haskells are much more than photography! Apart from being the consummate professionals, approaching every shoot with a spirit of adventure, creative passion, and genuine love for what they do, they also pour that love into their community. David and Guen give of their time willingly and very generously in supporting D.I.S.H.E.S (Pediatric AIDS), Day of Caring (Breast Cancer Awareness), One Foundation (Cancer Centre Niagara), Community Care (Coat & Food Drives), DSBN (For a Better Learning Centre), Hospice Niagara.

In November 2019, Haskell Photography joined with Pathstone Mental Health for a unique fundraiser called “Portraits in the Orchard”. ALL proceeds from this event go directly to Pathstone. The tradition has continued now that all sanctions have been lifted. “Pathstone is such a wonderful resource for our community and Guen and I will do whatever we can to help promote the work that is done there,” he adds.

BUT…in the meantime…let’s all put some focus on self-love…let’s all put some focus on loving our significant others…let’s all put some focus on loving who we all are and embracing our real selves as we emerge from the shadows of what was supposed to be the “Roaring ‘20s.” The accompanying images speak for themselves…

BOUDOIR…COUPLES BOUDOIR…it’s sexy, it’s tasteful, it’s empowering, it’s beautiful, it’s love.

This writer is doing it…maybe you should too…




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Erika Navarro, Communications Specialist for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, has always known the benefits of engaging in outdoor recreation. “People have been impacted by the pandemic and now see the importance of being outdoors,” states Navarro. The NPCA consists of 41 conservation areas across the Niagara Region, including some parts of Hamilton and Haldimand County. The beauty that stretches across this area is filled with waterfalls, caves, and rare species of birds, plants, and trees. They are what Navarro calls Niagara’s “ hidden gems.”

The NPCA has four flagship properties: Ball’s Falls, Long Beach, Chippawa Creek, and Binbrook. “These properties have recreation activities, not just hiking,” says Navarro. “Our more passive properties have natural spaces for hiking, dog walking, and bird watching. These properties tend to be less busy,” says Navarro.

“Louth Conservation Area is located along the 16 Mile Creek in Lincoln County, Jordan Station,” says Navarro. “It is 36 hectares of land along the Niagara Escarpment and provides access to the Bruce Trail. Louth is home to two very beautiful waterfalls and rock formations, and is perfect for anyone who wants to hike,” says Navarro, adding that Louth has a parking lot, but no washroom facilities.

Rockway Conservation Area along the Niagara Escarpment is geared towards hiking and bird watching enthusiasts. “Rockway offers rich history and beauty,” says Navarro. “While you hike you can experience species like basswood, sugar maple, black walnut, and sycamore trees. There are two spectacular

waterfalls flowing over rapids: this is an exciting feature. These waterfalls are to be admired and are not safe for swimming,” says Navarro who stresses the importance of safety and the no swimming policy while visiting all of the NPCA properties.

Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby boasts as one of the most breath-taking views of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. “It has a look out where you can walk out and see all of Grimsby: it’s very beautiful,” says Navarro. Unique to Beamer Memorial is their yearly live bird demonstrations. “Every spring you can observe the spring hawk migration,” says Navarro. “Every April, we host the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch and we bring birds of prey.” A wheelchair accessible lookout and access to the Bruce Trail can be found at Beamer Memorial. “There is a public washroom, but it is currently closed due to Covid 19,” explains Navarro.

“One of our most popular locations is St. John’s Conservation Area: it is considered a hidden gem.” St. John’s is located within the Niagara Escarpment and the 12 Mile Creek Valley. “It is a hotspot for seasonal trout fishing,” says Navarro, adding that a fishing license is required. “St. John’s has four different hiking trails and they all vary in length and difficulty. Some of the trails are wheelchair and stroller accessible. It is important for me to stress that St. John’s has a very sensitive ecosystem. We ask that you remain on the trails and don’t remove minnows, tadpoles, frogs, or turtles,” says Navarro. “People will see a lot of ducks and geese and we ask that no one feed the wildlife because they become dependent on humans for food and lose their natural fear of humans.”


If culture and folklore are something you enjoy, then Cave Springs in Campden, Ontario is your place to visit.

“The property overlooks Lake Ontario and it is the perfect representation of the Niagara Escarpment. The slopes and bedrock are dominated by sugar maples and there is a very unique and rich diversity of plants and habitat,” says Navarro.

“There is mystique at Cave Springs,” says Navarro. “The property came from the late Margaret Reed. She has written stories about Cave Springs being the fountain of youth. People would come and find the water and drink the water from there: we don’t recommend people doing that either. There is a famous ice cave that was once used for refrigeration; it is now blocked due to a failed expansion,” says Navarro. “There is also an underground lake, a wartime hideout, and a lot of mysterious rock carvings and a native North American encampment site. Access to this area is only through the Bruce Trail.”

Navarro stresses the importance of following some simple guidelines when visiting the conservation areas. “We suggest that hikers, whether they are beginners or intermediates, wear proper footwear and bring a walking stick. That is the number one essential,” says Navarro. “Many of our trails are uneven, we don’t recommend hiking in sandals.”

Sticking to the paths can help avoid poison ivy and ticks.

“Niagara is a hot spot for ticks! We want people to be tick smart. It is just a matter of educating yourself,” says Navarro, adding that proper footwear and tucking your pants into your socks is helpful in tick prevention. “Wear insect repellent and light coloured clothes, and always check yourself before and after,” says Navarro, who encourages residents to check the Niagara and Hamilton Region Public Health for more information.

Checking the weather forecast, using the buddy system wearing sunscreen, and bringing water in a reusable container is also recommended by Navarro. “Sadly we see a lot of litter in our parks,” says Navarro, who encourages hikers to bring a litterless snack such as bananas and apples if they are unfamiliar with the area and in case their stay is longer than expected.

“Take only pictures and leave only footprints” is a phrase that Navarro hopes all visitors to the conservation areas take seriously. “It is crucial that nothing is removed, even the smallest branch is home to an animal,” says Navarro who constantly provides education to the visitors. “Always be aware of wildlife and avoid touching them. Salamanders are very sensitive species. They are sensitive to the soap on your hands. The properties belong to the NPCA, but they really belong to everybody,” says Navarro. “Everyone has to

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help to keep it clean and everyone has a responsibility to the wildlife. Pets should always be on a leash for their safety, the safety of others, and the safety of the wildlife. Please practice our poop and scoop policy.”

“Binoculars used to be popular when I was young and they sort of disappeared,” says Navarro. “We promote this app called ‘ebird’ and when you start putting details of the birds into the app it will tell you which bird you see.” says Navarro. “People would be surprised how exciting this is for beginner hikers,” says Navarro. “It’s a great activity for all ages, someone just has to introduce you to it.” The NPCA website also has an ultimate scavenger hunt suited for young children.

“It is not hard to learn how our trails work. A lot of our hiking trails are one way in and one way out,” says Navarro. “We recommend that they reach out to us first if they plan on bringing small children or wheelchairs. Our properties are open year round from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, however, as it starts getting dark sooner we ask that they depart 30 minutes before dawn and 30 minutes after dusk.”

The NPCA is filled with exciting adventures. Grab your camera and binoculars and enjoy discovering all the NPCA has to offer. “Take pictures and make beautiful memories, but making sure you are safe is key,” says Navarro. “We love when people send us pictures of our beautiful properties, so tag us at @npca_ontario.”

Photos courtesy of NPCA

Something for Everyone Year Round

As Niagara Parks Commission CEO, David Adames explains, there’s always plenty to do in Niagara.

“Niagara Falls is the #1 leisure destination in the country. We are thrilled to be open for business as usual. 2022 saw the American and international markets return to Niagara along with a rise in business for our attractions, retail shops and restaurants this season.” Says David Adames, Niagara Parks Commission CEO. And with the lifting of ArriveCan at all international border crossings into Canada, the people will just keep coming to see Niagara in all of its fall and winter glory. Joining the Niagara Parks Commission in March of 2013, as Senior Director of Business Development,

David Adames was charged with overseeing all revenueproducing operations. This includes all attractions, retail, heritage, culinary, golf, as well having sales marketing, events, and communications as part of his vast portfolio. He no doubt was doing something well, as David was named COO [Chief Operating Officer] in the fall of 2016. With his star continuing to climb, he was named Acting CEO [Chief Executive Officer] in November 2018, with the title becoming permanent in March of the following year.

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Photos courtesy of Niagara Parks Commission

The Niagara Parks Commission, established in 1885, is an agency of the Government of Ontario which maintains the shoreline of the Niagara River. “Essentially, we manage 66 km of the Niagara River corridor from Lake Erie in Fort Erie, all the way to Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Adames. “There is so much unique geography within the Parks and there are so many ecologically sensitive areas – for example, The Niagara Glen.” He goes on to say, “Once things started to open back up, we began to see a strong visitation to our golf course, our open parks, and of course, our trails. We want to encourage people to explore these amazing trails because they are like no other you can find anywhere else in the world [Niagara Glen], but at the same time, we want to respect the environment.”

When asked for some final thoughts, David is pensive for a moment, then says, “There is so much that Niagara Parks has to offer throughout all four seasons – the colours of the fall foliage, the beauty of the ice forming in the winter, the Festival of Lights…we want people to come see us and share in everything Niagara has to offer.”


the Perfect Charcuterie Board crafting

Whether you are preparing a shareable dinner for the family or a show-stopping appetizer for a party, charcuterie boards are an instant crowd pleaser. By Gabrielle


A charcuterie board is an artfully arranged assortment of cured meats, cheeses, veggies, nuts, olives, dried fruits and crackers designed for mixing and matching, experimenting with flavour and eating leisurely.

It truly is a foodies choose-your-own-adventure dream.

For a breakdown of how to make the perfect Charcuterie board at home, we consulted the brains and taste buds behind Port Dalhousie’s favourite take out charcuterie boxes Marissa Hartley. Hartley’s business CHZ PLZ specializes in shareable food catering and she has made a name for herself since opening her doors earlier this year with her incredible to-go cheese and meat boards.


Cured meats, pates and mousses are the foundation of any hearty charcuterie board; a few meaty add-ons can easily transform this traditional appetizer into a full meal. Hartley suggests creating a balance between heartier meats that can support your cheeses and finer cuts and spreads that can be wrapped around and layered with the cheese and accoutrement.

“If you are trying to please everyone, you can’t go wrong with salami,” said Hartley.

Hartley also recommends including a Prosciutto or Coppa to your board – both are salty yet neither are overpowering. If you’re feeling experimental, you can also try alternative proteins – suggestions include wild boar salami, duck prosciutto or a whipped liver mousse.


Beniamino Meats • The Meat Shoppe

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Photos courtesy of CHZ PLZ


One of the best parts of charcuterie? The cheese of course! With a seemingly endless number of options to choose from, selecting a few cheeses can easily become overwhelming. The answer: buy an assortment and serve what you like!

Hartley suggests using a variety of soft and hard cheeses with varying levels of flavour and intensity. When serving a crowd, include lots of the classics that everyone is bound to love.

“I always suggest keeping with hard cheese, such as Manchego, parmesan and a nice aged or smoked cheddar,” said Hartley. “Everyone likes a good cheddar.”

From there, expand outwards. Hartley recommends trying a flavoured Gouda, a creamy and mild blue cheese [like Celtic Blue Reserve] and always include a soft Brie.

“Brie is the perfect soft cheese,” said Hartley. “It compliments all your jams and jellies, nuts and dates, etc.”


Glengarry Fine Cheese

Jensen Cheese

• Mountain Oak Cheese

Pickled & Brined

Just as the sauces are designed to give additional flavor to the board, so are pickled and marinated vegetables. Hartley recommends to always include a classic cucumber pickle with mild flavour [like bread and butter pickles or mini cornichons] pickled beans or carrots. Olives are also a staple at CHZ PLZ.


To complete the board, Hartley suggests using fresh fruit to add color and fill empty space. Hartley recommends using seasonal fruits when possible, but berries and grapes are always a great addition to any cheese board. And to really make an impression, include dates, apricots and figs – either fresh or dried – for texture and variety.



Sauces and condiments are meant to provide additional flavor to your meats and cheese. Having a variety of mustards, sauces, honeys and spreads can allow guests to experiment with flavour combinations and discover what they like the best. Grainy mustard, sharp cheddar and prosciutto? Brie, red pepper jelly and a pickle? You can decide!

Hartley suggests always having a duo of sweet and savoury. Try seasonal fruit jams and red pepper jelly, or hummus with a sweet local honey.

“I always try to have a sweet berry jam and something like a pepper jelly on the same board,” said Hartley. “Especially with the brie; I will do a bite with red pepper jelly and salami and then the next bite will be mixed berry jam with a walnut.”

The only spread Hartley suggests you avoid? Anything too spicy or strong that can overpower the cheese – like a jalapeno sauce.


Southridge Jam Co. • Provisions Food Company

Rosewood Honey

Crunchy Extras

Baguette, crackers, crostini – these are the only utensils you will need. Hartley recommends providing two options and keeping the carbs crispy and classic.

“Grab a fresh baguette from the grocery store, slice it really thin and bake it in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. Done,” said Hartley.

And when it comes to choosing a cracker, don’t just buy a yellow box of Triscuits and call it a day. Hartley suggests purchasing either a nice flatbread or rice cracker – but they must be thin and crisp.

“In my opinion - the crispier the better,” said Hartley. Nuts like walnuts and pistachios are another crunchy must-have both as a gap filler on the board and a cheese accessory.

For those who are still overwhelmed by crafting their own praiseworthy charcuterie board, CHZ PLZ offers take out boards (CHZ Boxes) ready for your weekend celebration or not so simple picnic. Prices range from $16 dollars to $80 dollars for an assortment of meats, cheeses, fruit, and extras. Specialty options include vegan, brunch and personal-sized Charcuterie Cups. Special requests and dietary restrictions can be accommodated. Pre-order is required with pickup. Visit

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BUSINESS IN BROCKVILLE & DISTRICT, SINCE 1906. 3 Market Street West, Suite #1, Brockville, ON, K6V 7L2 | 613-342-6553
support and Grow Business to Build a Strong Economic Community through proactive leadership in advocacy and relevant programming”.

Grand Oak’s Strong Roots

Grand Oak’s family tree proves that home is where the hearth is.

The Grand Oak Culinary Market is not a typical marketplace. Though it may appear so from the street, once you enter through its double doors, passing through the enveloping smell of fresh baked bread and home cooked meals, you’re left with a sense that you’ve come home rather than entered a shop.

Owner Jane Stulp says their family business was inspired by what they stand for: consistency, dependability and building long-term relationships with their patrons. “Our relationship with our customers makes us unique,” says Stulp. “We have so many people that we see almost every day - even if it is just to say hello. We are a family here; we have gotten to build relationships with people and it’s been really nice.”

The family’s deep-rooted passion for incredible customer service and fresh, flavourful and affordable food has helped cement Grand Oak as a permanent fixture in Vineland since it opened nine years ago. Following years of upheaval and changing of ownership, the warm red building and sprawling property was purchased in 2011 by the Stulp family – fulfilling a long-awaited dream. “It took us months and months to clean and get the building ready,” said Stulp. “There was nothing when we stepped in - we didn’t take over a business we just bought a building. We had to start from scratch.” Stulp said they flew by the seat of their pants and though they had a business plan in mind, they allowed the community to dictate what their business would become.

Today, the business has adapted with public demand; evolving to feature a gourmet restaurant, in-house bakery, specialty cheese and charcuterie counter and produce market featuring an assortment of seasonal and locally sourced fruits, vegetables and artisan products. “It was

a huge leap of faith,” said Stulp. “We always say, ‘If you don’t dare to jump you will never learn to fly’. That’s really what we went off of. We had to do it, we had to try it.”

This relaxed outlook helped Stulp and her family to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic; adjusting their restaurant and offering meals-to-go – which was an instant hit within the community. These take out dinners feature a full home-cooked Family Style Meal option which feeds 3-4 people for only $44.95 and a Date Night Menu – a higher end meal – for $39 dollars a person.

“People love [the to-go meals],” said Stulp. “For us, it’s about giving back to local people. They are carrying us through, and I think it is only fair that we give back to them.” Stulp said all meals, baked goods and breads are made fresh in house each morning by her husband and executive Chef Jan-Willem Stulp – who has over 20 years of experience and is an active leader in the Niagara culinary scene.

Their bakery also features an assortment of baked goods made in-house daily including specialty breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, scones, pies and more – with flavours changing with seasonal ingredients. The bakery also has an exclusively gluten-free kitchen which caters to celiac diets. Because all recipes are custom-made and baked goods are made in-house, virtually all dietary requests can be accommodated with notice.

For ordering options and evolving store hours, visit

TASTE NIAGARA FARM-TO-TABLE Photo courtesy of Grand Oak Culinary Market


Everyone has a favourite Saturday morning memory. Rolling out of bed and tumbling downstairs in pajamas only because the smell of breakfast woke you up; eggs crackling in butter while the old coffee pot percolates on the stove; a kitchen filled with family members talking over each other – a constant murmur of lazy day preparation.

The Diner House 29 is the grown-up version of these childhood breakfasts. With its 1950s esthetic and homemade bread and drip coffee scented air, this classic diner transports many back into their grandma’s kitchen; but open your eyes and you’ll witness a friendly staff floating between Formica tables, weaving with plates piled high with buttermilk pancakes, pork belly eggs benedict and quiche smothered in bacon jam.

Regulars and tourists alike both agree: it is the best home-cooked breakfast you will find in the region.

Established over five years ago by husband and wife duo Dave and Anne House, this cozy family diner always seems to be teeming with as much joy as there are bottomless cups of coffee. Located just off the QEW on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines, you could easily miss the little restaurant attached to a gas station – but ask any local and they will tell you exactly where to go.

32 Inspire Niagara & Beyond TASTE NIAGARA HIDDEN GEMS

Serving breakfast, lunch and brunch, The Diner House 29 has marked its territory on the food scene not only for serving great classic breakfasts – like their two eggs with farmer’s sausage, baby potatoes and thick cut toast – but with their innovative twists and international takes on brunch.

“You always have to have your traditionals,” says Dave, the head chef. “Like my dad said, ‘You have to have a western sandwich or I’m not coming,’ so we included some classics. You don’t want to turn away everybody and only have a niche group of people.”

“But we have a lot of older people who have evolved with us,” said Dave. “They started with the two eggs, and then built up some trust, and now they get the crustless quiche and the pork belly omelettes because they trust us.

“It just has to taste good and hopefully people like it,” said Dave.

Dave – who said his territory is solely the kitchen while his wife Anne manages the front of house – said he does not have a food philosophy; he just honestly loves food and takes inspiration from everywhere.

“I don’t have a philosophy or a rooted background in a food culture,” said Dave. “I didn’t grow up in a foodie kind of family. Inspiration more comes from when you see something in the grocery store or you read something in a magazine and you wonder if you can do something like that. Or you eat something at a restaurant and I wonder if I could incorporate that into breakfast.”

This open-minded approach to food has created a flavourful menu filled with unique dishes and daily specials.

Favourite savoury items – to name a few – include their famous sesame dressed rice bowls with pickled vegetables and sunny side eggs, crust-less quiche topped with caramelized onions or bacon jam and Dave’s personal favourite, the grilled cheese sandwich.

“You can throw pork belly on them, ground lamb ... tomorrow we are doing meatballs in a tomato sauce – like a meatball sub but in a grilled cheese,” said Dave. “It is just such a great canvas for whatever you want.”

And for diner lovers who fall into the sweet category, the deep-dish pancake with seasonal fruit, whipped cream and shortbread crumble is something to write home about.

Though Dave is the mastermind behind the great food, Anne is both the creative mind and smile at the door. Anne says creating the vintage diner feel was an organic process and came from her own personal preference for all things retro.

“When we opened, we kept going back to this diner feel,” said Anne. “I like retro, vintage things so I was more drawn to that.”

Their colourful Pyrex wall is one you may recognize instantly as it is a popular backdrop for all Instagram fans.

“When we first came up with the Pyrex Wall, we were just going to have a couple [dishes],” said Anne. “It just kind of exploded. I knew people would be attracted to it but I honestly had no idea how much people who appreciate it.

“If you go on our social media and see what we are tagged in, it is all photos of the food and pictures of the Pyrex wall,” said Anne.

Combining both Dave and Anne’s passion with their backgrounds in the food and hospitality industry, The Diner House 29 has succeeded through rough times; including having to adapt their business during Covid-19 to a takeout only menu for the time being.

Photos courtesy of The Diner House 29 Visit The Diner House 29 on Instagram for their daily menus and take out directions.

The Dutch Shop

With a name like Daniel Vandersteen, it certainly isn’t unusual that he would be the owner of The Dutch Shop. But his story didn’t start out on the path that he was destined to take.

Born and raised in Grimsby, Daniel Vandersteen began his post-university career as a graphic designer. “I bounced around Toronto for a bit and then came back to the area and worked in St. Catharines. I found myself doing more web development and switched gears to become a web developer.” Although very successful in his field, Daniel just couldn’t find the passion for his chosen career that he had hoped to. Little did he know that the stars were aligning. The owner of The Dutch Shop in his hometown was experiencing the same disillusionment. “He will be the first to say that he lost his passion for the business. That’s when he approached me, and we put a deal together for me to buy the place,” adds Daniel. To find out how what started as a running joke between friends actually became reality, read on.

Daniel’s relationship with The Dutch Shop began a number of years ago. “When I left for university, my mother had empty-nest syndrome, and reset her career from being an Ophthalmic Technician to going to work at The Dutch Shop. I got to know the owner very well, and we used to joke that if he ever retired, I would buy the place,” says Daniel. A year and a half ago, Daniel himself reset his career completely and became the proprietor of this quaint little shop in the heart of Grimsby. Daniel likes to point out that there are many stores named The Dutch Shop in the area, however, they are all independently owned and operated and not affiliated with one another in any way. “You will want to come to my shop at 52 Main Street West,” he smiles.

The Dutch Shop is a gourmet grocery store with a full service deli and bulk candy bins. “We specialize in Dutch cheese and salted black licorice which is a candy delicacy for the Dutch.” When asked if he likes this specialty treat, Daniel is quick to laughingly admit, “I hate them, but in general the Dutch love them and we sell a ton.” The majority of the

stock that you will find in The Dutch Shop is imported from Holland, Germany, Poland with some coming from Great Britain. “All of our cheese is imported but our deli is all Canadian,” he says.

The Dutch Shop has built a very diverse and loyal clientele. “Of course, our bread and butter is the Dutch community, however we are getting people from all over. Things are really changing with people moving to the area as a bedroom community, trying to escape the housing market in Toronto.”

What one might be surprised to learn about The Dutch Shop, is that it has a very large Indonesian section, carrying Indonesian and South Asian spices and delicacies. Daniel goes on to explain, “Indonesia was a Dutch colony in the 1600s and a lot of that food made its way into Dutch culture. Most Dutch shops will have large Indonesian sections. So, the short answer to how this happened is colonialism,” he laughs.

Daniel adds, “I’m very innovative and I am reasonably confident that I am the youngest owner of a Dutch shop, and with my background in web development, we’ve taken the shop to another level.

After purchasing the business in May 2019, Daniel began fervently developing a strong on-line presence. “I had all of the tools and all of the infrastructure was already in place. Although most of our clientele is in-store, many have started accessing our website. They place orders online and we have everything ready for them to pick up.”

Even with the Covid sanctions lifted, Daniel and his team still have all of the necessary protocols in place to ensure that they are able to work safely, and that their clients are able to shop safely. Daniel adds, “I know that I couldn’t do any of this without my team. I have an excellent staff of great people working with me.”

For a truly unique shopping experience, which will no doubt have you leaving with bags full of delicious and unique items, visit The Dutch Shop in Grimsby. Tell Daniel that Martine sent you.

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The Cairn Croft Awaits!

The testament to the credibility and integrity of any establishment in a tourist town like Niagara Falls, Ontario, is whether the locals frequent the place. The Cairn Croft, a Best Western Plus Hotel, is truly one of those places. By

This is a family-run operation that takes great pride in rewarding hard work from its staff, promoting from within, and offering a fantastic place to stay and play.

Carling Wright, Director of Marketing started at the front desk 11 years ago and has since worked her way up to the current position she holds. “We are unique in that we offer something for everyone, and our guests don’t need to leave the property.” The Cairn Croft offers not only luxurious rooms and suites, but also boasts a beautiful ‘Courtyard’, which features an indoor pool, two hot tubs, a Poolside Pub, playpark for children and a brand, new arcade. “Parents can sit in one of our hot tubs and relax, all while being able to see their children in the playpark,” adds Carling.

Recently added to the Cairn Croft, is the ‘Niagara Golf Lounge.’ “We are so proud of this new addition,” says Carling. “We have two state-of-the-art golf simulators, big screen televisions, comfy couches and a fully stocked sports bar which offers the full menu of our Irish pub Doc Magilligan’s.” The ‘Niagara Golf Lounge’ offers everything the avid golfer needs during the winter months – golf lessons every day with PGA Golf Pro, Billy Simkin, for those who want to keep their games on par – a golf league that runs for

12 weeks where groups of friends make up teams, play some indoor simulator golf, practice their skills, and just have a lot of fun. Niagara is known for its award-winning golf courses and the Cairn Croft also offers golf vacation packages. “We have partnered with the top 12 courses in Niagara and through the entire season, anyone can book one of our great customizable and all-inclusive packages which include overnight accommodations, rounds at any of the courses we partner with, complimentary drink, and breakfast each morning. It makes for a great golf getaway!” Carling assures. The Cairn Croft, on Lundy’s Lane, also known as “The Strip,” in Niagara Falls may be a 30 minute walk to the tremendous waterfalls and the main tourist hub of Clifton Hill, but Carling doesn’t see this as a problem at all. “Because we aren’t right down by the Falls, we tend to be a little less expensive than the hotels there. We are still very close, and we are right on the WEGO Shuttle route which brings our guests right down to the Falls and back.” She goes on to say, “After a day down by the Falls, our guests retreat back here where they have great experiences with all of our amenities right on-site.”

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“ ” 37
Almost every piece of this pub was brought over from Ireland, restored and repurposed from Irish pubs that had closed down.

The biggest ‘amenity,’ and the crown jewel in the Cairn Croft is no doubt, its authentic Irish pub, Doc Magilligan’s “Doc’s opened in 2013, replacing the legendary lounge we had there,” says Carling. “It has quite the story behind it too as the name Magilligan is ancestral to the previous owner of the hotel, Maureen Cade.” Hailing from Dungiven, Ireland, John Magilligan’s family escaped the Great Famine and crossed the Atlantic. John married and went on to have 4 children, 3 of whom, his sons, became doctors. One of his sons, Dr. Frances Magilligan married a lovely woman named Anna,(the Anna Mojito offered at the bar is her namesake) and settled in Brooklyn, NY to raise their 8 children. Fast forward two full generations later, Maureen Magilligan married Fred Cade, who along with his brother Len, and his wife, Elizabeth, were partners in the hotel business since the mid-70s.

Carling laughs, “Legend has it that the good Doctor Magilligan was always the life of the party and was as comfortable having a round as he was making them.” Carling goes on to add, “Almost every piece of this pub was brought over from Ireland, restored and repurposed from Irish pubs that had closed down. We pride ourselves on giving our guests the true feeling of being in an authentic Irish pub. Even our beautiful bar was custom handcrafted in Ireland and shipped over to us.”

Doc’s has always offered a wide array of traditional Irish foods prepared fresh in-house by our talented culinary crew, as well as a very comprehensive menu to please the palates of even the pickiest of eaters. Director of Food & Beverage Operations, Ken Ahern, a whiskey afficionado himself, has resurrected the famous Wednesday Whiskey Tasting events which take guests through a flight of delicious drams paired with foods, that will tickle the fancy of even the harshest critic. Doc Magilligan’s is proud to offer Niagara’s largest whiskey selection, with over 100 different bottles from Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the United States. It’s easy to see why guests from other hotels flock to Doc’s once they hear about everything that is offered. ‘Doc Tails’ have catchy names from famous Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, to an unknown but likely lovely lass, ‘Sweet Molly Malone.’ Visitors to Niagara will meet many locals who also are regulars at this gem of a pub. With live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (every night throughout the summer months), Tuesday music trivia night, and stand-up ‘Kämedē’ nights, it’s easy to see why, “all of these events in the pub are such a big draw,” says Carling. The Cairn Croft has taken a hotel, a golf lounge, an indoor courtyard, and an Irish pub and married all of it to make the perfect place to stay, to play, to eat, and to be entertained all under one roof, just a stone’s throw away from the magnificent waterfalls.

Photos courtesy Tomas McCabe of TDrone Media.


Doc Magilligan’s has something for everyone! With a warm and inviting atmosphere, Doc’s is perfect for grabbing a drink, enjoying a meal with family & friends or hosting an upcoming event.

We serve breakfast, lunch & dinner daily, including traditional Irish fare items. We also feature an extensive whiskey collection & hand-crafted cocktails.



Thursday Nights - 7pm to 11pm Friday & Saturday Nights - 9pm to 1am


Sunday Afternoons - 1:30pm to 4:30pm

Starting November 13th. Guests can bring their own instrument & join in!


Tuesday Nights - 7pm to 9pm Located in the back of the Pub.


Last Sunday of every month featuring different local comics.


Michter’s American Whiskey Tasting

Wednesday, November 30th

These events will continue being offered regularly. Check website for details.

For our complete menu, live music line-ups, 360° tour of the pub & to purchase event tickets, please visit


Cooking Up a Storm

Eager to backpack across Europe, Head Chef Andrea Alvarez, took a summer job at Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria with the intention of making enough money to hop on a plane the following September. With fond memories of making gnocchi with her Nonni, Andrea fell in love with the home-style Italian philosophy that embodies Napoli and has called the restaurant home ever since. Admitting that culinary studies weren’t even on her mind as she submitted an application into Niagara College at random, Andrea is pleased with how her career simply fell into place.

At an early age, Andrea learned the art of Italian cooking from her mother, aunts and grandmothers, gaining the skill and knowledge to make everything from lasagna and stews to baccala and pizza. At Napoli, she prides herself on serving high quality authentic Italian food from her childhood. When the kitchen at Napoli is closed, Andrea is working hard to satisfy her toughest food critics to date, her three children.

Working at Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria is a family affair for Alvarez. “My husband, Luis, works at the restaurant too. We used to work opposite shifts and my family would help with the kids,” she explains. “We just made it work.” Alvarez realized that two ships passing in the night wasn’t ideal. “For the sake of the family one of us had to make a change.”

“When the Restaurant Manager, Anthony Pingue, offered for me to move to the role of Chef de Partie and Pastaia I was hesitant because it was almost like taking a big piece of me,” explains Alvarez. “Something had to change and it was obvious which one but, it was really hard,” she states. “I didn’t want to give up the night service, managing staff, and producing finished meals.”

Although Alvarez’s responsibilities shifted to include making pizza dough, sauces, pasta and dessert, she still maintained influence over the menu and how items are prepared. “Although my role changed, I was able to still do a lot here during the day. Now I really prefer it,” says Alvarez.

Alvarez has found solace in her role as Pastaia. “The best part of the change is that it finally gave me the opportunity to hone my pasta making skills which is what brought me to cooking in the first place,” explains Alvarez. I would make it with my grandmothers and I was never really able to explore it because I was too busy running the kitchen,” says Alvarez. “I would teach people to make the pasta, but I would feel guilty I wasn’t the person making it on a daily basis. I would give anything for my grandmothers to see how far I have come based on their influence.”

“Before I had kids, I was working 6 days a week 14 hours a day. You are never home. That is not really possible with kids,” states Alvarez.

Alvarez believes any working parent has challenges balancing work and home life, “I don’t want to make it sound harder than any other field,” says Alvarez. “It is hard, but that was mostly because it was night shifts and long days.”

Alvarez offers this advice to individuals contemplating a career in the restaurant industry. “Try it out. Work in the industry and get a feel for it. I didn’t work anywhere before culinary school. I thought I knew everything. Then, I worked for a few years and realized I didn’t know anything,” says Alvarez. “Cooking has been really glamorized. It’s not like the Food Network,” explains Alvarez. “It is fun, but it is a lot of hard work and long hours. You are not just coming in and working the line off the bat: you scrub dishes you fix leaks. It is a messy and dirty job.”

Alvarez thoroughly enjoys the pace that comes in the restaurant setting. “I like the fact that I get to work with my hands and be on my feet and moving,” says Alvarez. “You get to play with food all day.”

The journey to balance work and home has settled for Alvarez. She is pleased with her shifting role at the restaurant. “I still made food but it was more production, which is part of any chef’s job,” says Alvarez. “Once I settled in, it just made more sense for my family. Now I love it.”

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PROFILE Inspire Magazine 40
Photo courtesy of Jill Tham 41

First Class Community

42 Inspire Niagara & Beyond
The Post Office’s Shannon Passero on community, core values and the state of retail, post COVID-19. By
Gabrielle Tieman-Lee

More than ever we find ourselves looking into our communities for comfort and support. The Post Office by Shannon Passero represents exactly what we are searching for: an inviting space and specialty store for like-minded, creative souls to gather and share.

Owner, designer and entrepreneur Shannon Passero embodies the belief that it takes a village [sometimes multiple] and teamwork to succeed. “It’s all about the community we build,” says Passero. “[Community] is core in our values. We have had to dig into the entrepreneurial spirit that we have had for the last 25 years and pivot; thinking of new ways and new ideas to engage our community. I think post COVID-19, community engagement will be even more relevant and important.”

For over two decades, Passero and her team have travelled the world, partnering with creative female artisans while practicing ethical work standards, sustainability and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. These principals have always been at the forefront of Passero’s thriving business – especially while launching her inaugural clothing line Pure Handknit in 1998 and Neon Buddha which followed in 2006.

This global-meet-local strategy has helped her to build a successful business while fostering the growth and wellbeing of local businesswomen and thousands of Third World women who help to create the eclectic assortment of high-quality clothing, accessories, home furnishings, global finds and décor items nesting on The Post Office shelves. “I think it is more important than ever to support local vendors,” said Passero.

And though her reach is global, Passero has always chosen to keep her roots close to home. Her business has played an integral role in the remodeling of downtown Thorold since the opening of her flagship store in 2013 – which later expanded into its current home on Front Street. “Change is always a hard thing and we pride ourselves in how we have been evolving and changing with these times,” said Passero. “We will continue to engage with the community for feedback on how to improve this new shopping experience. These ideas are not just coming from me and my team either,” she commented. “It is about engaging with the community and asking how do you want to shop?”.

Photos courtesy of Shannon Passero.

Over a Century in the Making

Critelli Furniture showcases why exceptional quality and customer service will never go out of style. By Martine Mackenzie

“You dream it. We design it.” This is Critelli Furniture’s motto. The Critelli name established itself in Southern Ontario more than a century ago, when a young Italian immigrant named Joseph, arrived here to work on the vast hydroelectric projects on both sides of the Niagara Falls border, Canada and United States.

Joseph realized the opportunities available to him and his family and decided to lay down roots in the Niagara region. In 1914, he helped his son Thomas H. open a store selling groceries, hardware and furniture in the neighbouring town of Thorold. Thomas had a keen eye for furnishings and soon turned the focus of his retail business away from groceries and hardware, growing the furniture angle and bringing on board his son, Thomas J. Moving to the present day, Joe Critelli continues the family legacy, also working closely with his daughter, Julia, who is “learning all aspects of the business, so that we have a 5th generation – 106 years – we can go on to 166 years”, Critelli says smiling.

When asked what separates Critelli Furniture from its competition, he is pensive for a moment but goes on to say, “We go into the customer experience with the perspective of consistently giving them more than what they could ever expect to receive for what they are willing to spend.” Critelli Furniture is indeed a different breed as it is highly specialized and offers design services to its customers. As he says, “We aren’t satisfied unless the customer is satisfied.”

Joe is quick to add that he and his staff realize that furniture is an investment and that there is no room for error. “Whether it’s a return client, or a new one, we take an awful lot of care with all of our clients.” Critelli Furniture’s business stretches beyond the Niagara region as they offer delivery to every city in Ontario. “Half of our business is in Niagara and half throughout Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Toronto etc.” he indicates. “We

can also accommodate clients from out of province and are happy to find a way to get the furniture to them. We’ve delivered from the West Coast to the East Coast – Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Salmon Harbour…”

He laughs as he tells the story of a valued client’s move to Belgium. “We received the floor plan for their house, and we furnished it from that floor plan. We received the furniture, inspected it, containered it, and shipped it over to Belgium and it arrived flawless.”

Within its flagship store on King Street in St. Catharines, you will find Critelli’s Rug Market. “We have treasures that people won’t see anywhere else in Canada. Handwoven, 100 percent wool, vegetable dye, authentic”, adds Joe. “And we have Critelli Modern at 169 St. Paul Street which allows us to connect to a younger audience. Pieces are priced a little sharper, which makes them a nice alternative and gives us the opportunity to form a relationship and make a returning client for Critelli Furniture in 10 years.”

“It’s that extra level of caring and concern for clients that makes Critelli Furniture so special. “Our name is on the door,” says Joe. “We are accountable for everything from start to finish. We take great pride in every project whether it’s for a pair of lamps or furnishing a bed and breakfast.” Critelli Furniture’s products may not be priced for everyone, but they are not overpriced. “We will be competitive with other stores,” he adds. “Our proof is return clientele.”

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Photo courtesy of Critelli Furniture

mysteries of the Houdini Magic hall of fame

Niagara Falls has its fair share of mysteries lurking in the shadowy recesses where the flashing neon lights of Clifton Hill fail to illuminate. But not every cryptic conundrum and eerie tale has always been confined to dark corners out of the limelight. For several decades, mystery was on full display at one of Clifton Hill’s greatest and most showy attractions, the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame.

As we all know, Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz) made a name for himself as an escape artist and stage magician. He was at the top of his profession, a legend in his own time, when he died of a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926. Many people find it oddly appropriate that the world’s greatest magician should die on Halloween.

In his last will and testament, Houdini bequeathed his magic paraphernalia to his brother Theodore, who had followed him into the industry and was known professionally as Hardeen. Theodore was free to make use of the items but was left with strict instructions that they be destroyed upon his retirement so that no one would discover the secrets of their stagecraft.

For reasons unknown, Theodore did not follow Houdini’s implicit instructions. Instead, the effects were put into storage and, for a while at least, forgotten. Then, in 1967, the collection of magic items was re-discovered and put up for sale. Foremost among the items was his famed Water Torture Cell.

Niagara Falls entrepreneur Henry Muller (who also founded Muller’s Meats and the Cavalier Motel) saw an opportunity to combine the timeless reputation of Houdini with the kitsch of Niagara Falls and make a fortune. Muller hadn’t picked Niagara Falls to be the site of the museum completely out of the blue. He knew that Houdini had legitimate ties to the Falls, having performed there several times and visited on other occasions with his beloved wife, Bess. In 1921, Houdini cemented these ties by filming

The Man from Beyond, the first movie of the newly formed Houdini Picture Company, at – and indeed, in - Niagara Falls. One of the most celebrated scenes in the movie, which Houdini not only produced but also starred in, sees our hero swimming through the raging rapids to rescue his beloved from certain death. But what the audiences did not realize was that Houdini’s audacious swim in the rapids was nothing more than a Hollywood effect; Houdini had been strapped into a leather harness and attached to a cable, so was in no danger.

The doors to the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame swung open to the eager public in June, 1968. Muller and his investors were pleased with the reception, but it seems as though a long-dead Houdini was not. There were a series of six mysterious fires in the building – six in the first year alone - as well as a freak accident in which one of the museum directors walked through a plate glass window and died an excruciating death. This string of inexplicable misfortune caused many to speculate that the museum was cursed by Houdini himself. The curse seemed to follow the museum even after it moved to the 19th-century Victoria Park train station atop Clifton Hill in 1972.

Nevertheless, the Houdini Magic Hall of Fame remained one of Niagara Falls’ most popular attractions for decades. I recall visiting it in my youth and being mesmerized by it.

In a spectacle worthy of Houdini, the museum came to a dramatic end on the night of April 30, 1995. A fire broke out within the building and began racing through the exhibit halls. Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch firefighters combat the inferno. Their efforts were only partially successful. By morning, much of the building had been gutted and many of its contents destroyed, including the priceless Water Torture Cell. It seemed that Houdini’s wishes had finally been carried out.

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EXPLORE NIAGARA HISTORY COMES ALIVE Photos courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Jordan Ghost Ship

The ancient vessel sails the moonlit waters of Lake Ontario with no one at the wheel, her rigging blown off away by gale force winds and hull creaking and crusted with algae. Decks are devoid of life, her crew missing—swept overboard, stricken by illness, victims of foul play, who can say?

With no skipper at the helm the ship is doomed never to reach another port, but instead, one fateful night, she smashes up against the shore and there, comes to a jarring stop. Her sailing days are over.

The derelict ship is simply left there, her ravaged hull a prison for the spirits of her doomed sailors who lurk in the shadowy depths of the rotting hold. That’s the imagery which one’s mind immediately conjures up when first glimpsing the spectral mast of the shipwreck lying in Jordan Harbour.

The story behind the rusting hulk isn’t nearly as hauntingly dramatic as what one’s imagination might fantasize. However, the popular landmark is wrapped in a ghostly shroud of mystery and controversy and has become the source of much folklore and urban myth. The vessel came to rest in an artificial cove in Jordan.

Like a weathered headstone that marks one’s passing, it serves as mute testimony of ambitious plans that died before being realized. Since then, the wreck has become a popular landmark for people travelling to and from the Niagara region.

The origins of the vessel are something of a mystery, but the most widely accepted story says she was built in 1914 as Le Progress, a ferry employed shuttling passengers up and down the St. Lawrence River. Later, the ship was converted to a cargo vessel, again operating out of Montreal and was retired in the late 1950s. She apparently sat moored to a dock for a number of years before being given an exciting new role in the Montreal Exposition of 1967.

The Expo was a celebration of all things Canadian for the nation’s centennial celebration. A centerpiece of the festivity would be a replica of La Grande Hermine (The Big Weasel), one of the three vessels Jacques Cartier used to explore the St. Lawrence River four hundred years in 1535. Rather than build a replica from scratch—a time consuming and expensive proposition—it was decided to modify an existing sailing vessel. Le Progress fit the bill, and over the course of many months was painstakingly transformed from an early 20th century vessel to a facsimile of a 16th century French Carrack. In the 1990s, after sitting idle for a number of years, the former Le Progress was purchased by an entrepreneur with big ambitions but without the money and sense to back it up. He had the wild idea of moving it to Niagara Falls, where he thought the idea of a floating restaurant or gambling venue would fit in seamlessly with the town’s other attractions. The vessel was sailed across Lake Ontario and made it as far as Jordan before the plan fell through, due to lack of funds and the necessary permissions to see his plan realized. With no more resources, options were limited, so she was unceremoniously beached in Jordan Harbour. In January of 2003, miscreants stole aboard the beached ship and set her aflame. Though her interior was gutted the vessel survived, the ravages adding a haunting element that somehow enhanced her photographic appeal.

The charred and fire ravaged one-time Le Progress no longer rests in Jordan Harbour, bare masts rising from a hull tilted uncomfortably to one side. Eerie and abandoned, like a ghost ship of another era, the ghost ship was dismantled and removed from Jordan Harbour last year, to the dismay of those who still thought she could be salvaged for the tourists.

EXPLORE NIAGARA HISTORY COMES ALIVE Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library



The night is dark and the moon, poking through clouds above, casts an eerie pale glow on the sleeping town. A chilled wind moans causing you to hunch down inside your jacket, and your eyes dart about anxiously. Every shadow seems to hide a lurking spirit, and every rustle of the leaves suggests the movement of some unseen ghoul.

It’s the perfect evening for ghost hunting, and Niagaraon-the-Lake is the ideal setting. Of all the places in Ontario where the dead are said to walk, none are said to be as haunted as Niagara-on-the-Lake. The inventory of haunted locations in this historic community is unusually long for a town of its modest size. The community’s rich history, dating back to the late 18th century, is ample fodder for gripping ghost stories.

“Niagara-on-the-Lake is one of Canada’s most haunted towns, with 200 years of history and countless ghosts tied to its forts, inns, and homes” says Daniel Cumerlato, a

paranormal enthusiast and owner of The Ghost Walks. “We can’t guarantee you’ll see a ghost on our tour, but our guides will make sure you ‘meet’ them.”

For almost two decades, The Ghost Walks have been taking tourists on 90-minute guided tours of Niagara-on-the-Lake (with branch-off tours in Hamilton and other locations in the Golden Horseshoe). And while ghosts are active year-round, Cumerlato explains that they become unusually active in the fall, especially during the October witching season, when they share the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake in equal number with human inhabitants. What better time to participate in one of the tours?

The Ghost Walks leads meander through the darkened and hushed streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake, weaving chilling tales that provide introduction to many of that restless wraiths that inhabit this historic community. Many of the town’s most iconic heritage buildings are featured, even if tours don’t

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actually enter them. Merely standing before a two-hundredyear old building, bathed in lantern-light, with shadows encroaching upon you, hearing tales of murder and tragic death and unearthly hauntings, is chillingly captivating.

One of the most popular stops is The Olde Angel Inn, an English style pub where diners enjoy a casual meal amongst exposed hand-hewn beams and thick planks laid in 1815. It also happens to be one of the most infamously haunted spots in the community. Pull up an extra chair for Captain Colin Swayze who, so legends say, was posted to Niagara during the War of 1812 and fell hopelessly in-love with the daughter of the Inn’s proprietor. When the British were forced to pull out of town, the love-struck officer lingered behind, hoping to see his beloved one last time. He died by bayonet when American soldiers found him hiding in the basement. The tragic officer’s spirit has been tied to the site ever since.

A mansion on King Street, the one-time Trish Romance Gallery, has a haunted reputation as well, according to Cumerlato. “There have long been stories of a woman walking the halls at night,” he says. “Back in the 1990s, a 911-operator working the late shift received a call from that house, but there’s just dead air. She sent an ambulance, and upon arriving paramedics found the home empty. This happened five nights in a row – the same call, the same deadair.” Many tour members report strange things with their cameras here, including mechanical issues and unusual images.

There’s no better place to retire to after a chilling night of ghost hunting than the Prince of Wales Hotel, which happens to be a part of the tour. There are few places warmer and more welcoming than this circa-1864 hotel, which combines

old-fashioned elegance with modern amenities. Interestingly, alongside timeless hospitality exists stories of spirits who are perhaps too comfortable to check-out even after the passage of so many years. The most commonly encountered ghost is that of an old woman, often seen sitting primly in a chair, oblivious to the physical world around her. Another is of a young lady who mourns her beloved who went off to war and never returned. It’s said she is doomed to remain there, fulfilling her promise to faithfully await the return of her love. After a night in the lap of luxury, enjoying the refinement of the bygone Victorian era, you’ll understand why ghosts are reluctant to leave.

It’s probably only appropriate that The Haunted Shop, the building from which the tours originate, should be graced with a paranormal presence as well. “Lizzie is our resident haunted doll,” explains Cumerlato. “She has sat in a small rocking chair in the window staring at customers going in and out of the shop since we moved to this location in 2012. But she doesn’t always stay put. We’ve sometimes found her face-up on the floor in the middle of the shop when we open for the day.”

The part that unnerves Cumerlato the most is the fact Lizzie’s head is porcelain and should break if pushed from her perch. He believes the doll must have been carried and gently placed on the floor. Or maybe she moved there by herself….?

As a whole, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a community rich in charm, history, and culture. The town soon embraces visitors in a spiritual hold that makes one want to linger…perhaps even into the afterlife.

Photos courtesy of The Ghost Walks

At the Centre of it All

Buckley – President & CEO Niagara Falls Convention Centre.

This is the story of a boy who was born and raised in Montreal and who now finds himself in Niagara Falls, Canada, where he is President and General Manager of the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, a position he has held for the last 7 years. How did Noel Buckley get from that large metropolitan city in the province of Quebec – to here?

Noel’s career in tourism got an auspicious start even though he really had no intention of getting into the

industry. After his first year of studies at the University of Waterloo, he received an opportunity to escort tours in Western Canada. “As a boy from Montreal, I had never been to the West Coast. It was 1980 and this was a great opportunity for me.” He continues with a chuckle, “After I completed my first tour, I called home and when my father asked how it was, I said, ‘I am going to work in the tourism industry for the rest of my life!’”

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From there, Noel finished his degree and cross-registered at Wilfred Laurier University allowing him to study marketing and business. “My very first job out of school was in Toronto where I worked for a tour wholesaler for three years,” he says. The hands of fate were at work, as Noel’s next opportunity brought him to the Niagara Region in 1986 when he was appointed General Manager of the Chamber of Commerce, where his chief role was promoting tourism in St. Catharines.

His career path next took him to Niagara Falls Tourism where he held the title of President for 10 years. Niagara Casinos soon beckoned and after a few years there, Noel was offered an opportunity that he just couldn’t pass up, even if it meant leaving the place he and his family had called home for so many years. “I was offered the position of President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism and I happily accepted. I spent 8 years in the Nation’s Capital and had the honor of opening up the Ottawa Convention Centre,” he says. “Seven years ago, when the opportunity arose for

me to become the President & General Manager of the Scotiabank Centre (renamed the Niagara Falls Convention Centre in late December 2021), I jumped! I was so happy to be coming back to Niagara!”

Noel Buckley is a man who has spent his life in destination marketing and is definitely a force to be reckoned with because of his extensive experience in and deep knowledge of the industry. In fact, he was a key player in the origins of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership, now called Destination Ontario, as well as Destination Canada, previously known as the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Noel currently is Vice Chair of the Tourism Partnership of Niagara; Member of the Board of Convention Centres of Canada; and a Member of the Board of Niagara Falls Tourism.. The role he currently plays with the Convention Centre has him focusing across a very broad spectrum. “I’m still responsible for destination marketing but only on the business events side. I also have a role as the manager of a very large physical plant. Our facility is 350,000

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square feet of space with more than 200,000 square feet of rentable space,” says Noel. “I run a pretty significant sales organization but what differentiates this job from any other position I’ve held, is that I’m involved in the management of a physical plant, and that’s what I love about the job.”

With such an amazing resume, it stands to reason, that throughout his career in tourism, Noel Buckley has met some very important people. When asked, he smiles, and relates the following encounter: “In 1996, [former] President Jimmy Carter was back in town for his 50th wedding anniversary as a private citizen – he wasn’t looking for any fanfare – he and his wife had spent their honeymoon here and we wanted to present him with a small token of appreciation.” He laughingly continues, “I was running a little late and feeling terrible because I couldn’t have him waiting in the lobby for me. I raced to the hotel, ran into the lobby, past the elevators and I did a double take because I thought I saw somebody I recognized but I wasn’t sure. I just knew I had to get to Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter.

When I reached them, I said, ‘Mr. President, on behalf of Niagara Falls Tourism we would like to welcome you back to Niagara Falls. Then I see him looking over my shoulder and the President says, ‘Pierre!’ and the [former] Prime Minister says ‘Jimmy!’ and now I’m in a 4-way conversation with Jimmy Carter, Pierre Trudeau, my wife and I! It was a great 15 minutes!” Noel added a touching anecdote to this meeting. “The two men had a genuine appreciation for each other I will never forget. The Prime Minister was then going to walk down to the Falls when The President, said, ‘Pierre, you don’t need to walk down to the Falls…come up to our room! We have a great view!’ – To which the Prime Minister answered with a wink, ‘Jimmy, you can see the Falls from my room too!’ -- I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation.”

Although Noel has often been the face of the Niagara Falls Convention Centre, and other organizations he has worked at, he credits the many people that have contributed to both his personal and organizational success. “I have had the exceptionally good fortune to work with, and learn from, many extraordinarily smart colleagues, Board Members, stakeholders, and industry leaders throughout my career. People like the current members of our Board of Directors and our Chair Wayne Thomson have provided exceptional leadership and insight that have contributed significantly to our successes.” It’s great to see that Noel Buckley still has an ardent passion, an optimistic vision, and a steadfast hope for Niagara Falls.

Photos courtesy of Haskell Photography.

Simply Grace Handmade by


Creating art can be a wonderful method of self-care. Whether a piece is found in a store or personally made, art can connect with your soul – sometimes reflecting yourself within a frame.

Canadian artist and creator of Handmade by Simply Grace Anne Barclay has embraced the notion that art is as unique as the people who purchase it. Observing a minimalist approach and using her incredible eye for detail, Barclay creates one-of-akind artwork by piecing together handpicked materials; creating family portraits, nature scenes and animals exclusively from pieces of water tumbled sea glass, pebbles, driftwood, pottery and other unique beach finds that Barclay and her friends and family have collected on the beaches of Canada and around the globe.

Every pebble and piece of sea glass is unique, so no two pieces of art will ever look alike.

Barclay says her artistic journey began when she picked up a piece of sea glass while on vacation with her family.

“We were in Florida, and we would walk the beach to find shells, and we found a tiny piece of sea glass,” said Barclay. “I wanted to keep it as a keepsake so I made it into a tiny bird. When we got home, we went for a walk along the Hamilton beach front and we found another rare piece of sea glass. From there it evolved.”

Seeing the whimsical transformation the original piece of glass took, Barclay said she began making more artwork during her daughter’s naptime.

“This was just for me when my daughter was napping and I had some time to keep busy,” said Barclay. “You lose a bit of yourself when you start a family. You get consumed and it was all about my daughter. This was for me.”

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Photos courtesy of Handmade by Simply Grace

But what was meant to be a hobby quickly evolved once her friends saw the detailed artwork she was creating. Requests began to pour in for her Pebble Family artwork and her friends encouraged Barclay to sell her pieces –and demand took off.

Barclay said she continues to keeps her process simple: she only uses found objects, she refuses to manipulate or paint any materials and she allows the characteristics of each material to tell its own unique story – storing pebbles and glass and waiting until their purpose in a piece is found.

“It is a very therapeutic process; nothing is forced” said Barclay. “I have objects I have collected and held on to from the very beginning and just never found what they are meant to be.”

Her artwork ranges in size and style and is extremely reasonably priced; with glass framed art starting at $50 dollars, open framed art starting at $45 dollars and larger 8x10 and 10x10 pieces ranging from $70-$85 dollars. Barclay has also recently began creating three-dimensional greeting cards and mini canvas art – which retail for $25 dollars and includes the easel stand.

Barclay said a lot of her work is custom requests –frequently finding herself challenged to create personal pebble families or pets from stones. Barclay said she does not charge extra for custom work, keeping the price per work the same as it would be if it sold in a store.

“I am always up for a challenge,” said Barclay. “The pebble families are an extremely popular custom project. It is a connection piece for people; they can see themselves in the little families.”

Apart from the pebble families, Barclay’s bird inspired series are extremely sought after; her vibrant cardinals are some of her most popular designs and unique to her collection as they are the only artwork that does not utilize found glass that has been tumbled by water.

The series was first inspired by a good friend of Barclay’s who requested a sea glass cardinal as a gift for her sister who had recently suffered a miscarriage. Following a look into the spiritual symbolism behind the cardinal, Barclay said she knew she had to find a way to make the bird – but she only had a tiny piece of red sea glass in her collection.

As red sea glass is extremely hard to find and expensive, Barclay went on a search for materials that were cohesive to her esthetic. She soon found a woman who was selling red antique glass from a factory that she had personally tumbled. As the seller’s story aligned with her own personal philosophies, she decided to make the exception.

After completing the piece for her friend, Barclay made a few more cardinals. She soon found people would gravitate to them and find comfort in their image.

“I have had people see [the cardinals] and literally cry,” said Barclay.

As important as this series has been to so many, Barclay said the series will be finished when she runs out of the antique red glass.

“I won’t fake glass,” said Barclay. “I am not going to paint anything, I am not going to alter it, I am not going to buy stained glass.”

Barclay also enjoys teaching workshops where participants can learn and use techniques in order to create their own piece of framed pebble art to take home. Workshops include a brief history of beach and sea glass, a demonstration by Barclay, all materials and a few warm up activities to get everyone started. Participants are encouraged to look at their materials and create what they see instead of attempting to replicate an existing piece.

“For a warm up activity, I give [everyone] only ten objects and they have to create something with them,” said Barclay. “I love seeing their pebble families and their pebble dogs and babies. A lot of customers have become friends this way.”

For information on future workshops and where Handmade by Simply Grace art can be purchased, visit

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Laven d er

From handmade oils, to acres of gorgeously, lush fields, NEOB Niagara’s Melissa and Robert Achal discuss how lavender chose them.


Take a walk on the dreamy side in the floral wonderland of Niagara Essential Oils and Blends. Best known as NEOB Lavender, this lavender farm is the perfect outdoor escape for boosting your endorphins and enjoying a breath of fresh air.

Polka-dotted by perfectly round purple bushes, the sprawling fields located just outside of Virgil paint the perfect backdrop for a day spent outside; the aromatics alone are enough to draw passers-by directly into the fields.

Harnessing the ancient restorative and healing powers of these plants are owners and creative minds Melissa and Robert Achal. What began as a flower business – supplying fresh cut flowers to stores across Canada – has since evolved into a large-scale essential oil and natural health and beauty products operation. For years, the couple has committed themselves to conducting their business in a way that positively affects individuals and the world around them – both with their superior customer service and products.

It all began when Melissa found her greenhouse had unintentionally become filled with lavender. “We kept coming back to lavender,” says Melissa. “We started to read up on [lavender] and realized all of its

properties and it developed into essential oils and our products from there.”

Melissa, who is completely self-taught, said she began by bringing her lavender products directly to customers and discussing with them how lavender could fill the void in their home and beauty products.

These conversations helped NEOB to develop the hundreds of natural products and oils they currently retail. These products include essential oils, culinary grade oils, pillow sprays, soap bars, homecare products and their very popular health and beauty skincare line which includes day and night creams, skin healing creams, lotions and more.

A new product line is NEOB’s environmentally friendly and zero packaging shampoo bars – and soon to arrive conditioner and body wash bars.

“A shampoo bar is great because it is taking the ingredients that you would find in a formulated luxury shampoo bottle and putting it into a bar form,” said Robert. “Depending on the length of your hair, one bar is the equivalent of two to three bottles of shampoo.”

Melissa said they are also in the process of distilling frankincense [for use in a new line of sugar scrubs] and attempting to grow a fall Calendula – a natural oil

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extracted from marigold flowers – which is amazing for eczema, psoriasis and the treatment of itchy, dry skin. It is also edible and can be used as a substitute to saffron in food.

NEOB’s facilities and farm continue to expand with their product lines; hosting over three acres of lavender on premise [12 acres total across the region], rose gardens, a greenhouse [which holds lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint and more], a retail boutique, an antique store and a miniature timberland of Shitake mushrooms – a signature ingredient in anti-aging skincare lines.

“[Shitakes] require a very unique environment,” said Robert. “We have been very fortunate … the Niagara Region grows really amazing Shitake mushrooms with our micro-climate, our biosphere, our humidity here.

“Our mushrooms have these very unique cracks in them that only come from very high-altitude areas that are humid,” said Robert. “When it comes to the Shitake mushroom, those cracks and markings are very sought after for flavour.”

NEOB as well has a research facility on premise where Robert, Melissa and their team can research new plants, experiment with hybrids and cross pollination and test the durability of plants within Niagara’s climate.

“We do all of our research here and once it becomes a success, we launch out a field,” said Melissa. “We live

in Niagara and we want our plants to thrive here, so sometimes you have to create your own.”

These engineered plants include NEOB’s very own lavender Massuet Lavender [also known as Niagara Lavender] - which is a cross between a few different types of lavender. It is said to be heartier than other standard varieties which makes it easier to grow in Niagara.

“We are kind of in a biosphere [in Niagara],” said Melissa. “It is a microclimate. We are protected by the escarpment and with the lake effect it makes it a great climate for growing your own lavender.”

Along with their curated lavender and roses, NEOB grows over five different varieties of lavender vital to their essential oil production including: the white blooming Melissa Lavender and Glorious Lavender which is known for being used in sweets and baking.

“Each one is very different from the other in scent profile, taste and uses,” said Melissa. “[Melissa Lavender] is my favourite to just pick and chew and freshen my breath - it’s really delicious - but Massuet Lavender is great for meat marinades.”

Though the farm is not hosting any festivals or tours this year, visitors are still welcome and invited to partake in a self-guided roam through the lavender fields for $2 dollars per person – an activity which easily adheres to socialdistancing guidelines.

“We encourage people to come on by, take pictures in the fields, walk up and down the rows … it is a lot of fun,” said Melissa.

With a goal to make their products easily accessible to those who cannot make it into their retail boutique, NEOB has made all products and tickets available for purchase online – as well as in their boutique at any of their five retail locations including Niagara-on-the-Lake, Oakville, Stratford, Elora and Port Carling.

Robert, who has a background in art direction, said he is currently working on redesigning the website to make it much more dynamic. They will also be launching a global App that will be user engaging.

NEOB as well ships globally – offering free shipping in Canada for purchases over $40 dollars and free shipping to the United States for purchases over $60 dollars.

Photos courtesy of NEOB Niagara

Positive Change

When Chandra Sharma was named CAO of Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in January of 2020, little did she know that she would be starting this new position just as a worldwide pandemic was hitting. “I like to say that I was running away from Toronto Covid,” she jokes. Now, several years into the job, she is only looking forward and is filled with inspiration.

Chandra Sharma began her career at Toronto Region & Conservation Authority over 20 years ago and during her tenure, she achieved numerous objectives and made a lot of positive changes to the community and its natural environment. “This is my dream job, and I’m very happy to be here in Niagara, contributing to this very special community filled with very special people,” she says.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority owns and manages 41 conservation areas in the Niagara Region, with each one having unique ecologically significant features, overseeing the Niagara Peninsula watershed, which encompasses the Niagara Region and portions of the City of Hamilton, and portions of Haldimand County. The Conservation Authorities Act was created in 1946 and is the reason that Conservation Authorities such as the NPCA exist today.

“You never know what is going to come as far as challenges when you take on a leadership position,” adds Chandra, “but I’ve been blessed with a great Board

of Directors that has a diverse skill set and a lot of experience as well as an exceptional and very motivated staff who made my transition to this position very easy, but who also helped ensure that our agency navigate through Covid-19 smoothly.” With sanctions now lifted, Chandra is pleased to say that things are running smoother than ever.

Chandra is quick to add that she is also very proud of the team of volunteers at the NPCA. With upwards of 700 individuals giving of their time, it’s easy to see why the agency is able to maintain the standards it has set out for itself. “Working with the NPCA in any capacity, be it as part of the Board of Directors, as part of the staff, or as a volunteer requires a true passion for the mission we have. It’s a calling.”

The NPCA continues with its planning and development to ensure that all of Niagara’s properties remain available for recreation, heritage, conservation and education.

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We talk with Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s new CAO, Chandra Sharma. By Martine Photo courtesy of Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

Fuelling Niagara

A family business since 1967, we catch up with CEO Jessica Friesen.

Gale’s Gas Bars Limited/ Gales Fuels is a well-known commodity based in the Niagara Region. Based in the heart of Niagara, Gales is a petroleum company that boasts 15 service stations (full serve AND self-serve), 4 convenience stores with more in the works, a wholesale fuel delivery service along with a home heating fuel delivery service. The driving force behind the Gale’s name is Jessica Friesen who took over the business from her father, Bob Gale in 2014. In 1967, Jessica’s grandfather was a distributor for Champion Oil out of St. Catharines. He owned his own truck and was just looking for a spot to be able to wash that truck. He stumbled upon a gas station on the corner of Thorold Stone and Montrose that happened to have a bay to wash trucks and he decided to buy it. And this is where the story begins, as from that flagship location, Jessica’s grandfather was able to acquire more stations and grow the Gale name. In 1980, Bob Gale, Jessica’s father came on board adding the wholesale fuel delivery division to the business.

Jessica herself opted to not go into the family business initially. Instead, she chose a career in nursing, working within the Niagara Health System for several years.

“While I was on maternity leave with my first child, I was approached by my father. He had just bought two sites that had convenience stores and he asked if I might be interested in working a few hours a week,” Jessica recounts. “A couple of hours a week developed into a passion. I was in from the ground up, and there is something to be said in figuring things out from the grass roots. You fail and you succeed and you put it all together.” Jessica literally had three “babies” on her hands at this point – her first born AND the first two locations of Bob’s Fast and Fresh.

From there, Jessica never looked back. When she found herself on maternity leave once more 20 months later with her second child, the third store was in the works. “I’m really glad that I started out in nursing as it gave me a very strong foundation. It set me up for what I’m doing now. As a nurse, it’s all about extraordinary service to your patients. That translates into business as well, because here, it’s all about extraordinary service to your customers and doing what you feel is best for the customer. The only difference is that now my customers are my staff – from the drivers, to those at the pumps, to the clients at the end of the hoses at the stations…”

People are now travelling once more. They are back to commuting, and businesses are back to normal so Gale’s is busier than ever.

Jessica has approached everything with quiet optimism. “If there is one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that things can change in an instant. It’s all about going with the flow.”

Photo courtesy of Gale’s Gas Bars Limited

Taking Care of Businesses

David Jovanovic has been in the BIA [Business Improvement Area] world since 1983, first chairing the Fallsview BIA for 24 years and now the Lundy’s Lane BIA where he has served as Project Administrator for the past 7 years. David’s territory of governance goes from Drummond Road to Garner Road, past the railroad tracks but including the campground.

The primary goal of a BIA is to improve a designated neighbourhood, and market the area through beautification and governance. Funding for BIAs come from the city itself but initiatives are paid for collectively by the ownership of the businesses on Lundy’s Lane.

When asked what some of the biggest challenges of the job have been over his 37-year career, David zeroes in on what seems to have been the biggest challenge all over the world – dealing with Covid-19. “Our tourism was just flattened in Niagara – we had to make significant changes.

It was paramount to ensure that everything that we had to offer here was safe and that above all, the consumer was safe.”

Lundy’s Lane BIA is also a member of the Niagara Falls Tourism Association and works closely with all local businesses to make the experience of Niagara one that will never be forgotten by all of its visitors.

One of Lundy’s Lane BIA’s mandates is to make the area as eye-pleasing as possible. “We’ve really focused on beautification of our area. This includes wrapping all of the utility boxes on street corners and the landscaping of center medians,” David says. “Overall, we are looking at seriously enhancing public ground and to make Lundy’s Lane very pedestrian friendly.”

David is also very proud of the Community Improvement Program he heads which allows businesses to reinvest in their facades, their landscaping, and repurposing which

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As Project Administrator for the Lundy’s Lane BIA, David Jovanovic talks about safety and tourism during these times.
By Martine Mackenzie

in turn, gives them tax incentives for redevelopment. “We have a pretty good blueprint for how Lundy’s Lane will evolve over the next 5 to 10 years. It’s becoming the new ‘downtown’ and we are helping create a whole new realm to draw locals and tourists alike.”

With over 250 businesses on the ‘strip’, David is quick to add that one of his goals is to get new businesses to come to Lundy’s Lane. “Businesses tend to be extensions of families on Lundy’s Lane and we are working hand in hand with them to give them the tools they need to implement in their businesses. We provide the infrastructure and image.”

With its wonderful streetscaping, it’s easy to see why Lundy’s Lane draws so many people. “It’s all about buying local, engaging local, and staying local.” David goes on to say, “Our businesses have always given back to the

community through so many charity initiatives, and even more so during the pandemic. Lundy’s Lane restaurants brought food to front-line workers on more than one occasion and its hotels offered rooms for them to stay in. We are a true community.”

Photos courtesy of Lundy’s Lane BIA

Finding Your Calling with Melanie Sodka

A business idea can come out of a conversation, a talent, an impromptu idea, or a long term dream. The question is how does one determine which business ideas will be viable? Using the models and concepts she teaches, Melanie Sodka, business professor at Niagara College, practiced what she preaches and became a successful entrepreneur herself.

Initially, teaching wasn’t part of Sodka’s career path. “It was an unconventional journey because I started in sociology, but found myself working in Human Resources and Marketing,” explains Sodka. “I was doing training and development, and a lot of speaking and teaching.”

Sodka’s experiences inspired her to complete a Master’s in Business. “From there the doors opened up to teaching in a professional role and that is where I fell in love because I can merge both of my passions.”

Sodka accepted a full time job at Mohawk College teaching and coordinating the entrepreneur program. “I am also the founder of their (Campus) ‘Incubator’ where students come in and we provide them with mentorship to start their business,” says Sodka. “Niagara College had the same position opening up at home and I took a leap.”

Providing advice and strategies to build your business is a strength Sodka exhibits. “I deal with people who are not

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sure what they want to do. I ask them what they love, what they are passionate about, and what comes naturally to them,” says Sodka. “We identify what people say they are excellent at, take that skill, and use it to identify a customer problem. That is where the business idea is formed.” Perhaps a friend asks you to help them move on the weekend or the parent committee is in need of 150 brownies for the bake sale. Do you struggle to say no and admit that you have reached your limit? Sodka saw that this was a common theme, not only for herself, but for many around her and this prompted her to start her own business, Capacity Creator Corporation. “The whole capacity piece was a personal story out of burnout. So many of us are presented with so many opportunities that we over indulge in the opportunities. And there was a market for it because this was happening at all levels at any industry and people needed tools to understand their own bandwidth,” explains Sodka. “I assess different industries and help them manage their capacity, so that they do not over commit.”

With ten years of experience teaching business courses and being an entrepreneur herself, Sodka speaks with confidence that the secret to a successful business lies not in the concept or idea, but in the solution it provides. “It is about really understanding the customer’s problem,” says Sodka. “The only way to better understand, is to talk about your idea to make it as relevant as possible in the marketplace.”

Sodka stressed the importance of this step in the process of starting your business. “One mistake is launching their idea without getting any feedback,” explains Sodka. “They have found a problem, they are trying to find a cure for and think that no one else has found a cure for. But 10 of them already exist.”

“The next step is then interviewing and selecting a mentor,” says Sodka. “Find a network, share, ask questions, and get help to move the business along.

There is such a healthy ecosystem of support and resources in Niagara.”

Business Model Canvas is a template to help businesses start up and manage different areas of their business. “It is used widely by small businesses all the way to Fortune 500 companies. It is proven, by far one of the best ones,” says Sodka. “There is so much you can do with that tool from starting with an idea to growing your business. It allows you to get very clear about your customer segment and your value proposition,” says Sodka “Which is essentially the problem you are solving for your consumer.”

There is an inherent satisfaction that business owners feel when helping their customers. “You get to create a business that allows you to help people and make their lives more enriched,” says Sodka. “You get to control that. You get to hire and pick your team. Those are some big pros.” Unfortunately there are both pros and cons to owning your own business. “I don’t know who said the quote ‘Entrepreneurs work 80 hour work weeks to avoid the 40 hour work week’”, says Sodka.

Sodka is pleased with the result of blending teaching and entrepreneurship. “The two complement each other because I am able to stay involved and connect them with what they need to start and grow their business,” says Sodka. “It is a network that I can share with the college and stay relevant with resources.”

Teacher, coach, and mentor, Sodka guides people on their business path. Her business embodies exactly what she teachers her students: identify the customer problem and provide the solution - that solution being to tap into Sodka’s expertise.

For more information visit or YouTube to see her TEDxWindsor Talk.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Sodka

Click Carefully

A Guide to Safe Online Shopping

Shipping directly to Canada allows Niagara residents to order online from anywhere around the globe. “There are a lot of great international companies. However some scammers can use their international status as means to be less reputable as it is difficult to hold them accountable to law enforcement,” explains Constable Gavin.

It’s quick, easy, and convenient. Three qualities that draw us to online shopping. Whether you are a seasoned online shopper or you just started clicking “purchase” out of necessity during the recent pandemic, online safety is important to consider before you make any purchases. Media Relations Office, Constable Phil Gavin has worked for the Niagara Regional Police for 21 years. Bringing forth a wealth of knowledge and experience, Constable Gavin offers guidelines to ensure an enjoyable and stress-free online shopping experience from start to finish. Taking the time to research the company and/or product is the place to begin and where one should not cut corners. “Conducting a Google search of the company is a good start,” states Constable Gavin. “This can lead to customer reviews and more back ground information.” Constable Gavin also suggests taking to social media as a good way to avoid issues. “Posting questions to friends and followers to find out recommendations or concerns is a good way to get information,” suggests Constable Gavin. “The BBB is an option.”

Next, it is important to examine the website to avoid being the unfortunate victim of a scam. “The quality of the website can be an indicator,” states Constable Gavin. “A professionally designed site vs a do-it-yourself site.” Constable Gavin also recommends paying attention to how the company or seller requests payment. “Payment options that offer credit card use or a 3rd party such as PayPal are preferable,” states Constable Gavin. “Websites asking for payment through gift cards should trigger alarms.”

Kijiji, Niagara Buy and Sell, and Marketplace have quickly become common methods of selling and purchasing items. The Niagara Regional Police have set up an Internet Transaction Zone to create a safe place for buyers and sellers to meet. “The use of a neutral public location to conduct the sale is wise,” says Constable Gavin. “The public space can provide a layer of safety and security. You should consider the location of the sale, persons present, and the possibility of large sums of money being present.” Guidelines for transactions such as performing the transaction during daylight hours, bringing your cell phone with you, and telling a family member about your intentions are outlined on the NRP website

If you do become the victim of fraud, the Niagara Regional Police have steps to take. “If you have experienced a financial loss, you can report it to the police. If it is just a scam you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre,” says Constable Gavin.

“Do your research. Look out for professional business transactions. If your intuition is telling you something is wrong or too good to be true listen to that,” concludes Constable Gavin.

For more information on how to protect yourself from scams, prevention tips, and for a list of common scams visit Niagara Police’s Fraud Protection page.

66 Inspire Niagara & Beyond
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A Story of Unwavering Courage

Matt Thorpe’s story is one of tragedy, triumph, perseverence and inspiration. By Martine Mackenzie

As the Founder and Senior Director of M.Thorpe & Associates Inc., a company committed to conflict resolution, learning circles and coaching services, the man himself sums it up best – “I am a First Nation person, from the school of “Hard Knocks” driven by commitment, integrity and authenticity to ensure the success of all of the work that I facilitate.”

Matt Thorpe’s life sounds like a terrifying episode of the reality television show, “Intervention”.

Born into a world of abuse, abandonment and violence, he states, “My nervous system was so traumatized as a young boy that I stuttered for the first 25 years of my life –I couldn’t talk.”

Matt’s early life led him to a world of alcoholism, drug abuse and prison. “Every human has their day,” he says. “A moment in a day where something happens based on the way you’ve been conditioned or programmed from your upbringing depending on where it takes you. Mine took me to the depths of absolute hell.”

On August 18th, 1988, Matt decided he wanted out. At 24 years old, despite being in the throes of his addiction, he owned a very successful roofing business with a staff of 30. On that day, “I had an 8-ball of cocaine and I wanted out after a week of drinking and partying. I came to the end of my road. I said, ‘I want out of this life now!’ I took the cocaine and I checked out! But then I was brought back to life. THAT was my moment.”

Matt admits that the first 10 years of his recovery were incredibly difficult. “I thought I had already been through the toughest part of my life. I spent 10 years going inward wanting to give up so many times and go back to alcohol and drugs. I didn’t know how to handle the thoughts in my head– between my ears was like being in a very bad neighbourhood all day long.”

He credits many things to his ultimate transformation into the man he is today. “I always thought that transformation was about learning, but what became painfully clear to me is that transformation is about unlearning. I had to relearn and recondition myself from what I had always known from my family, my community, my cultural background.”

A combination of wonderful people that took him by the hand with him resisting all the way, provided coaching for him. He went and got counselling and started reading and listening to self-development books. “I invested a lot of time and money and changed how I think and how I see the world,” he says. “When I had a sense that I don’t have to relive what I lived, I knew I would be ok.”

In his own words, Matt says, “I went from the ditch to Harvard Law School – twice! I was super disciplined and super committed because I knew I had more in me that I just hadn’t tapped into.”

After a move out to Vancouver B.C. in 1992 ended up in a failed business, Matt moved to Victoria, BC and began volunteering at the William Head Institution where he

68 Inspire Niagara & Beyond

was for 3 years. “I’m not a BS kind of guy,” he laughs. “In December 1993 the Feds found me and called to offer me a contract to work in one of our federal prisons. They told me that they had heard my story and that they needed me badly. It all just happened – right place at the right time.” Matt Thorpe turned what could have become a terrible tragedy into an amazing triumph. He has parlayed his life experience into a successful business offering a coaching program, transformative mediation and family interventions. His client list is long and impressive, filled with government agencies at all levels, as well as corporations of all sizes. “When I show up,” he says, I will call it like it is when I see it. You can’t hide and no one is off the hook.”

Just recently, Matt had the opportunity to coach front-line workers, helping them to understand what burn-out is and that they must look after themselves. “If you are giving half to yourself that you are giving out from yourself, you’re out of gas,” he says very matter-of-factly.

As we wrapped things up, Matt had some final words that really resonated. “Growing up, I packed away all of my issues. If that suitcase was ever threatened in any of my relationships, I would lash out with all of the jealousy and insecurities that had manifested themselves. But I made a commitment to myself. In my life, I wanted to experience unconditional, wholehearted love – to allow someone to see me fully, inside and out -- to be vulnerable without being afraid. Well, I’ve achieved that, and if someone told me today that I would be taking my last breath, I would say, ‘bring it’ – my life has been full – I’ve done everything I need to do and I know I’ve made a difference in the world.”

I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT TRANSFORMATION was about learning, but what became painfully clear to me is that TRANSFORMATION IS ABOUT UNLEARNING.
“ “
Photo courtesy of Matt Thorpe

Life can involve a lot of sitting. Whether it is watching television, scrolling through your phone, driving in your car or working a job that has you chained to a chair, the majority of our days are spent sedentary. This might seem innocent enough, but these routines over time can result in stiff backs, tight hamstrings and deteriorating joints.

Many of us do not consider giving our body a good bone cracking, arm splaying stretch outside of a yoga studio –even though it is proven that deep stretches, in a controlled manner and on a regular basis, can have lifelong physical and mental benefits that can counteract our stationary lifestyles.

Clinics across Canada are expanding their services to offer stretch therapy for all individuals and not solely athletes [previously, the field’s primary clientele]. By taking a holistic approach and looking at the body as a whole, stretch


therapists are able to conduct their assessment during an interactive treatment and gain a bigger snapshot as to what is happening in your own body.

Legacy Health & Performance in St. Catharines is a multidisciplinary sports medicine clinic which offers chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, massage therapy, physiotherapy and importantly, fascial stretch therapy [FST].

Fascia is the connective tissue which covers joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. Working with fascia is vital to our body’s mobility as changes to the fascia can not only cause pain, but contribute to imbalances in strength, speed, flexibility, balance and agility.

“[Fascia] is kind of like jeans,” says Sang Nguyen, a Certified Level 3 Medical Fascial Stretch Therapy Practitioner with Legacy Health & Performance. “If you have a non broken-in pair of jeans, when you wear them for

70 Inspire Niagara & Beyond

the first time, they are very tight and restricting and you can’t move. That is kind of like the function of fascia; it covers the muscle and when that is restricted it hinders [muscles]. When you work the fascia, it’s like when you loosen up your jeans. It creates a lot more movement.”

Designed for all age groups looking to improve mobility, FST is designed to help you increase your range of motion without pain via personal assessment, assisted stretching and exploring what your own body has to offer – while observing how your muscles work together.

“I use the concept of Comfortably-Uncomfortable,” said Nguyen. “One of the key concepts and principals behind stretch therapy that I really encourage is gain without pain. The conventional wisdom would be ‘Oh, I am going in to see my therapist, it’s going to be intense but I am going to feel better afterwards’. Very seldom will I push somebody to the

point of pain. You should never be curling your toes, holding your breath, trying to survive your treatment.”

“It is flowing and dynamic and about seeing what your body can do through movement,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen said each session involves troubleshooting the individual, evolving the treatment with their progress and creating at home programs that fit into daily life – including teaching stretches that can be done while sitting at a desk or before bed.

“During a stretch, you can sometimes see or feel where you have restrictions,” said Nguyen. “During someone’s first session, I am a little bit more on the side of gentle … when we exercise, like when you’re strength training, you notice people talk about delayed onset muscle soreness – where you are really sore the next few days. That is because you are creating tissue damage within the muscles because they haven’t been

Photos courtesy of Legacy Health & Performance

used in a while. Stretching really does work in that same way. You have tissue that is restricted and has not been loaded in a while. And then all of a sudden you load it ... so potentially you can get a little bit sore from this treatment.”

This soreness may trigger many to turn away and look at massage therapy as an alternative. Nguyen said when looking at massage versus stretch therapy, one is not better than the other and you should layer them together instead of choosing either or.

“They are different tools,” said Nguyen. “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When your only tool is an external massage, then you tend to only massage things. But some things need to be moved; like shoulders – we move [the shoulder] around and you can feel there is a massage but there is also a deep stretch happening inside the joint. You may not be able to pinpoint where it is, but things are happening deeper.”

This deeper stretch and joint decompression are what pull your body back into a positive rhythm and make you more aware of areas that need a little bit more movement for lifelong success.

“It’s the tissue that you can’t necessarily access with your fingers - so we create a form of joint mobilization,” said Nguyen. “We are not just promoting movement; we are promoting circulation and blood flow.”

So how often should we stretch? Nguyen said listen to your body.

“I don’t give people times for how long they should stretch –like ‘do this for 30 to 60 seconds’,” said Nguyen. “You should do it until you feel like you’ve gotten what you want out of it. Some days that might be 20 seconds and that might be two minutes.”



Described as a low investment, high return stretch. This stretch should be your go-to every day if you are in pain or if you feel tight.

Nguyen says to get down on all fours, place your knees together and “wag your tail” [or tail bone] side to side. Once you have the rhythm you can begin to drop your butt backwards into your heels while swaying for a lumbar spine stretch.

“Many people need [this stretch] because this is for the tissue that is getting loaded when you are sitting,” said Nguyen. “If you are active, these are also the muscles that propel you forward and laterally.”


Ideal for neck tension, this simple stretch gives your traps a release. Place one hand on the side of your head and gently pull your opposite ear towards your shoulder – applying approximately five pounds of pressure. With the opposite hand, reach downwards and ‘into your pocket’ describes Nguyen.

“You are going to take a deep breath in and ‘look for some change’ in your pocket,” said Nguyen. “Now you are pulling the muscle from both ends.” Repeat on both sides.


A great stretch for releasing tension in your shoulders and upper back, all you need is a door frame. Assuming a lunge position, place your forearm on the doorframe and move your body down and forward, shifting your weight into the lunged leg and leaning gently into the supported arm. The key: keep your elbow above your shoulder – not parallel like in cactus arms.

“With desk work, your shoulders are forward and rounded, your elbows bent,” said Nguyen. “What we want to do is pull your shoulders up and back. The doorframe helps create tension while you gently push forward.”

72 Inspire Niagara & Beyond
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Articles inside

Stretch It Out! article cover image

Stretch It Out!

pages 70-72
A Story of Unwavering Courage article cover image

A Story of Unwavering Courage

pages 68-69
Click Carefully article cover image

Click Carefully

page 66
Finding Your Calling with Melanie Sodka article cover image

Finding Your Calling with Melanie Sodka

pages 64-65
Taking Care of Business article cover image

Taking Care of Business

pages 62-63
Fuelling Niagara article cover image

Fuelling Niagara

page 61
Positive Change article cover image

Positive Change

page 60
Essential Lavender article cover image

Essential Lavender

pages 57-59
Handmade by Simply Grace article cover image

Handmade by Simply Grace

pages 54-56
At the Centre of It All article cover image

At the Centre of It All

pages 50-53
Ghost Walks article cover image

Ghost Walks

pages 48-49
Jordan Ghost Ship article cover image

Jordan Ghost Ship

page 47
Mysteries of the Houdini Magic Hall of Fame article cover image

Mysteries of the Houdini Magic Hall of Fame

page 46
Over a Century in the Making article cover image

Over a Century in the Making

pages 44-45
First Class Community article cover image

First Class Community

pages 42-43
Cooking Up a Storm article cover image

Cooking Up a Storm

pages 40-41
The Cairn Croft Awaits! article cover image

The Cairn Croft Awaits!

pages 36-39
The Dutch Shop article cover image

The Dutch Shop

pages 34-35
The Diner House 29 article cover image

The Diner House 29

pages 32-33
Grand Oak's Strong Roots article cover image

Grand Oak's Strong Roots

page 31
Crafting the Perfect Charcuterie Board article cover image

Crafting the Perfect Charcuterie Board

pages 27-29
Something For Everyone Year Round article cover image

Something For Everyone Year Round

pages 24-25
Take a Hike article cover image

Take a Hike

pages 20-23
Boudoir at Its Best article cover image

Boudoir at Its Best

pages 16-19
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Green? article cover image

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Green?

pages 12-15
Second Time's the Charm article cover image

Second Time's the Charm

pages 10-11
Mazes & Monsters on a Hill article cover image

Mazes & Monsters on a Hill

pages 8-9
Soaring to Great Heights article cover image

Soaring to Great Heights

pages 6-7
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