It’s a Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood

As I headed out on my morning run the words of the iconic Mr Rogers echoed in my head. It was a beautiful day in my neighborhood. The sun was shining and it was cool. Perfect day for a run. It wasn’t just that though. As I ran on the streets and trails I passed people out enjoying the good weather. Without fail I was greeted with a smile and/or a good morning. The older gentlemen engrossed in their own conversation, the mom chasing her toddler on his run bike, the couple with their dog and the elderly lady with her walker coming home from the market. Everyone friendly, warm and inclusive. So how is it that this friendly and open neighborhood is embroiled in controversy over the proposal of a recovery house for addicts being built in the area?

The reason most of us chose this area to live in is because it has such a community feeling to it. Great schools, rec centers, soccer fields, skating rinks, pools, beaches, a ski hill and locally owned businesses all within a half hour from downtown. Residents take pride in the homes and gardens and are often heard bragging about the lifestyle we enjoy. Sure, it rains a great deal out this way, but you do get used to it. Oh, did I mention the two golf courses where you can often see bears, deer and coyotes sharing space with the golfers. Deep Coves charm is a huge draw for not only locals but day trippers too. Ever had a Honeys Donut after a hike to Quarry Rock? There is no denying that it is a great place to live and raise a family but really it’s the people who live here that make it a community.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Tragedy has struck our area many times in the past few years. Young and old have lost loved ones and struggled with unimaginable events and without question the people who live around them have rallied and supported them. Last year a young boy died tragically in the park close to my house. The school that he had attended and the neighbors did everything needed to support the single mother. Raising money, arranging meals and helping out with the sibling left behind. Nobody thought twice about helping her out. Less tragic events have also brought out the best in our community. A friend of mine got separated from her dog while biking on the trails of Mt Seymour. Within hours word had spread on social media and anybody heading onto the mountain was looking for Skya. Doing what they could to help out somebody they didn’t even know. Fortunately the smart puppy had already headed home to Lynn Valley.

I like to think it’s pretty safe to say that we embrace a widely diverse group of people in the Mt Seymour area. Young and old. I can’t go a mile without seeing a new mom out with her baby. Probably heading to the drop in baby check at Parkgate Rec Centre. A few years ago a new Seniors housing apartment was built and that has brought a whole new population segment to the area. The residence of the Tsleil-Waututh nation comprise a good portion of this community and their traditions and influences are everywhere. My daughter goes to school with kids from Japan, China, Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, England and Scotland. Our kids never question where somebody is from or why they speak a different language. They are all just fellow students. I love the outdoors and take full advantage of all this area has to offer. Bikers, hikers and runners share the trails. But if you don’t like mud and steep hills we won’t judge you.

I personally know alcoholics and recovering drug addicts that live in our area. You probably do to. You’ve probably met them. They live in your neighborhood. Your kids go to school with their kids. You just don’t know that because these people are trying to heal and publicizing their struggles isn’t something they find helpful. Most of them have used a facility like the one proposed for our area at some time in their journey. So why is that we can’t open our hearts for these people who only want to improve their lives? Why can’t we be inclusive of them the way we are inclusive of so many others?

Rob

In the business world no endeavor is riskier than opening a restaurant. Few make it. Expensive start up, transient staff, fickle customers and changing trends make it a tough go. So when an establishment makes it, you know you’ve got a good thing. Verdicchio’s Deli was one of those establishments. So why did it close last June?  My friend Rob Verdicchio owned Verdicchio’s for 15 years. When I spotted his new business, Homewatch North Shore, on line, I had to know how and why he made such a huge change in his life.

If you grew up in West Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s and didn’t know a member of the Verdicchio family, chances are you were living under a rock. “How many cousins do you have?” I asked. “Lots.” Not only where they a large Italian family but they also owned Peppi’s. At the time it was probably one, if not the only, fine dining restaurant in West Vancouver. On the beach at the foot of 25th Street, it was the quintessential Italian restaurant. Red and white checkered table cloths, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and more spaghetti and meatballs than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and even if you were underage, chances are you could get still get a glass of wine with your dinner. So I heard.

peppis

Peppi’s Restaurant

I can’t remember when I first met Rob. I think it was 1981. Rob and I bussed tables at the Ambleside Inn. It was my first job at a high end restaurant and thank god for Rob helping me out or that butter whipper may have gotten the best of me. Both being in the restaurant business on the North Shore, we ran into each other a lot over the years. Many great times. Many late nights at Holidays or Tommy Africa’s. The time Rosemary and I moved all of his furniture out of his basement suite onto his back lawn. That pistachio suit. And of course late nights at Milieu. Good times. So how did he end up owning a successful deli?

Orazio Scaldaferri and his wife Rosana (Rob’s cousin) first opened the deli under the name Scaldaferri’s in Dundarave sometime in the 70’s. Along with another cousin, who came over from Italy, they operated the deli for many years. Rob, at the time, was managing the Beachouse, an upscale restaurant in the building that had housed his families beloved Peppi’s.  When an opportunity presented itself in 1998, Rob purchased the deli and changed the name to Verdicchio’s. It took a few years to re-establish the clientele after things had slipped a bit, but from there business took off. Rob was even able to secure the lucrative, but intensive, hot lunch program for numerous West and North Vancouver schools.

But a few years ago things started to change.  Four years ago Rob gave up drinking. “It was time to end the Verdicchio curse”. Working in the restaurant business and being Italian can be a death sentence apparently. Additionally, his chef was battling cancer.  His kids were getting older, his wife was getting back into her career.  It made Rob realize that life is short.  Owning a restaurant is a hard go on a day to day basis.  Long hours, difficult suppliers and constant upkeep.  So at the end of the day, it was time to move on from Verdicchio’s. A tough decision I would imagine. When you put your heart into something, it is never easy to let go.

So now he’s at home (for now) and his wife is working on her career. “The house has never been cleaner, the laundry is done everyday and heaven help anybody who gets in “my” kitchen.” Rob says with a laugh. After a few attempts at getting back into the restaurant management field, he thought maybe he would try a completely different direction. And so Homewatch North Shore was born. Homewatch is a personalized home watch for absentee owners. As any good businessman would do, Rob has done his homework and the market is certainly there for this service. Homeowners who travel or live oversees can leave their property in the hands of a responsible company and know that it will be looked after.  Check it out.

The last question I asked Rob was if he had an unlimited supply of cash would he resurrect Peppi’s, the family restaurant? “…I would love to. But an updated version.” How great would that be? I think that as we both head into our fifties, we have the Best Things in Life ahead of us. Although, that pistachio suit was quite spectacular.

Finding my Thing

I recently left my job. I had worked for the same company for eleven years and while I liked the company and the people, I didn’t really like my job. Sales was never really some thing I was good at or aspired to get better at. My oldest child is graduating from high school this year and getting ready for college (fingers crossed), my youngest is navigating the grade one playground and exploring every activity we will allow her and my husband travels a lot. And I mean a lot. So when the opportunity presented itself I decided that this was just the right thing for me to do at this point in my life.

I had been thinking about what I would do with my time now that I am a lady of leisure. I’m almost fifty and with the kids in school I have a few hours every day to fill. While running and yoga will be high on my daily list of things to do, I feel that having another focus might be a good idea. So I thought that I would join the thousands of others out there and create a blog. Only problem is I wasn’t sure what to write about.

I don’t really have a “thing”. I’ve often wondered what my “passion” is. Never found my “niche”. Getting the picture?  I do, however, have an abundance of friends who do have a thing. From high school friends to mom friends to family acquaintance; I seem to know a lot of people who do really cool things. If ever I need advice, products or just a connection to another friend I know exactly where to go. The majority of these people have managed to create a business from their passions and are thriving in life. Whether creative or practical they are doing what they love with amazing dedication.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me with a wealth of stories and connections for great people and cool jobs, hobbies and passions. So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to spend the next few months ( maybe years) exploring those connections and those people. This may involve lengthy conversations over coffee or on the running trails or may even involve some wine. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to find out how they knew what their thing was and where it’s taken them. Maybe they didn’t know right away and have some cool back story about the day they discovered it. Then I’m going to share it with you.

I’m also going to try and discover what my “thing” may be by exploring all that life has to offer.  New experiences with family and friends are definitely in my future and, of course, will be well documented right here.

Here’s to discovering what the best things in life are.

Susan

P.S. I would love your feedback and comments.