Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thoughts on Ice Cream and Tourism

This past week saw the first commercial tenant move into new digs at Prince Arthur's Landing, just in time for the start of the spring and summer visitor season.
TJ's Ice Cream Shoppe opened in the Pond Pavilion building, a seasonal commercial space located just across from the Skate and BMX Plaza. TJ's, who have their main operations at the corner of James and Arthur Street is operated by Ted and Cindy Slongo, two well established local entrepreneurs in every sense of the word.  I've known Ted for well over twenty years and he's one of this city's biggest boosters in terms of promoting all that is great about our city.

I had the chance this week to stop by, grab myself some frozen lunch and chat with Ted who is very much hands on every day in his four businesses (in addition to the two Ice Cream Shoppes, Ted also operated the Robin's Donut's Franchise and a hockey equipment supply and service business.  He's enthusiastic about the opportunity to be located in one of the city's prime summer locations, mere feet from the world's greatest lake and meeting all sorts of great people in the process.  While there, Shaw Cable appeared to interview both he and his wife for an upcoming segment on Channel 10 locally.

Ted is also a solution focused guy.  Lets face it. Small business is difficult and I have a ton of respect for those in the private sector who make their own way in the economy.  I've been a bureaucrat for over 15 years and a business owner for almost the same.  I've seen both sides and appreciate the challenges businesses face everywhere in navigating the rules, policies and procedures established by various levels of government with relation to commerce.  Its not easy.  Ted is one of those fellows who finds the opportunities and can navigate through the regulatory requirements to make things happen by being focused, creative, positive and professional in his approach.

So what does this all have to do with tourism, you ask?  Plenty.   For starter's, the Ice Cream Shoppe is part of a major visitor attraction for a lot of people...the waterfront.  Its a destination for those who want to see the big lake, awe at the Giant, take a fishing or sailing charter, check out the public art installations or take in one of the many festivals held there.  It extends a visit to the city for thousands more.  A lot of these people will leave an economic impact while they stroll the park with ice cream in hand.  At the end of the day, it all adds up to create some seasonal employment for our youth and help a local entrepreneur grow.

Equally importantly is that Ted has always been a promoter of all things city and that includes the visitors who stop by any one of his businesses.  While chatting with him, a Minnesota couple, who had never visited Canada prior, stopped by for a treat.  Ted, as always, had his A-game on.  He was able to explain the park's improvements to them, suggest a local eatery within walking distance for a late lunch and local attractions of interest.  He speaks of pride of the city, is supportive of the investments made to improve both the economic and aesthetic values of our community. Its what every entrepreneur and single front line employee in the tourism industry should do.  Period.

A stop by the waterfront and TJ's is a must, for visitors and locals alike.  Its worth it for the ice cream.  If you see Ted himself at the window, its worth it for the conversation too. Here's wishing him much success with the new location.