A fresh start for Riverdale’s puppy school, Freshpuppy

Freshpuppy undergoes metamorphosis as Sydney Bleicher goes from dog expert to certified dog trainer

by Kaela Beaton

Do you remember going on a school field-trip as a child or exploring your favourite store for the first time? Field-trips for dogs are just as important too, whether it’s exploring the Toronto subway system or Holt Renfrew. Part-time server and full-time dog enthusiast, Sydney Bleicher, a certified dog trainer for her company, Freshpuppy, spends her days empowering new puppy owners to raise gentle and loving companions that can comfortably navigate through our city.

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     Sydney enjoying a brisk sunny day at the park with her new puppy

Sydney enjoying a brisk sunny day at the park with her new puppy

In the early 2000s Sydney founded Freshpuppy, a puppy training and education company. After years of experience working with young dogs and co-creating Ultimate Puppy, a toolkit focused on socialization and preventative-styled exercises to stop the development of poor behaviors, Sydney decided to take her passion for working with dogs to new heights. Today, Sydney works closely with Riverdale-based dog owners, many of whom she met from her time working at Lolita’s Lust restaurant which recently closed after 20 years.

“Sydney is so talented as a trainer and consultant! I always get excited when we have a shared client because I know they're getting the most fantastic information and support,” explained Caryn Charlie Liles when reviewing Freshpuppy’s services.

While Freshpuppy has been around for several years, it is currently undergoing a period of metamorphosis. In April, Sydney graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy and now proudly holds the title as a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. Since her graduation, Sydney has revamped her Ultimate Puppy curriculum and adjusted her training methods to help people become more connected to their dogs. “I love educating people and watching the transformation happen; it’s awesome,” says Sydney.

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     Sydney’s client enjoying a game of ‘throw and catch’ with her

Sydney’s client enjoying a game of ‘throw and catch’ with her

At Freshpuppy, Sydney stresses the importance of early socialization. In private training sessions, Sydney exposes newborn and adolescent dogs to behave properly within the city of Toronto using a science-based approach. She focuses on socializing dogs between the ages of birth to 16 weeks, explaining that dogs are most vulnerable to adopting poor habits during this critical time.

“Dogs are not euthanized for illness but for preventable behavioral problems,” says Sydney. “The best thing people can do for their puppy is to find a good trainer.”

Today, you can find Sydney serving at one of Triple A Bar’s three Toronto locations, inspiring dogs and dog owners alike to become loving household pets or taking her puppy clients on field-trips through the Toronto subway system and even Holt Renfrew at Yonge and Bloor.


Freshpuppy
East Toronto
www.freshpuppy.ca
(416) 939-2853

From Bay Street to Main Street: The man behind “kids at home”

 

“I took a huge risk,” Anthony Boulos tells me as he looks up from underneath his blue fitted cap. “That’s what life is. You should follow it sometimes and take some risks.” 

Morning light pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Modern fixtures hang from high industrial ceilings. A statement clock made of clear peg lights reads 10:42. Lauren Hill and Bob Marley play softly in the background. As I look around me, it becomes overwhelmingly clear: I’m standing in the midst of a carefully crafted risk. 

Boulos, owner of the children’s store, “kids at home,” is a former Bay Street mogul.

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He chose to abandon a life of finance and purchased the name to the original children’s store located in the Beaches, in early 2015.

After some major rebranding, he chose to relocate the store to Leslieville, just on the outskirts of Riverdale. “Kids at home” has become a destination store for surrounding neighbourhoods and beyond

Boulos ventured into the mutual fund industry after earning his engineering degree from McGill University, working his way up from sales. In his last position on Bay Street, he worked as the National Inside Sales Director at AGF Investments while completing an MBA at Ivey Business School at Western University.

In 2014, following his graduation from Ivey, Boulos took off work for the first summer in 15 years. 

That December, Boulos had a pair of friends over to celebrate his wife’s birthday. While eating cake, the couple mentioned that they bought some things for a great price from “kids at home” during its closing sale. 

As a resident of the Beaches and a father of three (an almost-six-year-old and 18-month-old twins), Boulos was a frequent customer at the original “kids at home” store. When he heard the store was closing, he saw it as an opportunity

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He called the then-owner, Marg Gillespie, and met for a four-hour lunch. The rest, as they say, is history! 

When I first heard about Boulos’s move from Bay Street to Main Street, I imagined he would be an audacious and spontaneous fellow. But the Anthony Boulos that stands before me is both cool and calculated.

“I analyze everything. That’s my engineering background.”

Boulos explains that he purchased the store without inventory so that he could revamp the catalogue. From twin beds to teddy bears, Boulos handpicks every item to curate the best selection for each age group. He prefers products that are environmentally friendly and 80 per cent of the items in the store are Canadian-made.

Before making products available in the store, Boulos tests them to make sure that their quality upholds.

The store boasts a fast product turnover because of Boulos’s preference of quality over quantity. Fewer products also make for a clutter-free store, which Boulos suspects is why his clientele consists of an even number of males and females. Men often praise him on how much tidier “kids at home” is than typical children's stores, making their shopping experience much easier.

It’s no wonder that Boulos’s customers have pleaded with him to open stores in Paris, Dubai and other international locations. 

“It’s fun to hear that,” he laughs. “I’m not opposed to opening new locations, but we’re going to go at our own pace.”

“In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” Bob Marley’s gritty voice echoes faintly throughout the store. 

I ask Boulos how he looks back on his decision to leave Bay Street for entrepreneurship. He pauses and leans back in his chair. 

“I’ve never looked back,” he assures me with confidence. “I don’t regret anything about it.”

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kids at home
181 Carlaw Ave, Toronto, ON M4M 2S1
www.kidsathome.com
(647) 352-5437

Meet Margaret, Danforth fishmonger, 1910

In honour of International Women's Day, The Toronto Public Library today posted online a terrific set of photos of Mrs. Margaret Chambers, a fishmonger at Danforth and Bowden in 1910. For those of us with more compressed memories, the current home of 7Numbers has been many things over the years, such as a brunch place, coffee roaster and fine foods shop (that covers about 20 years). The amazing photos of Chambers and her shop illustrate just how thick the history of The Danforth is, and how many cycles of life and death this location has seen. According to one report online, Chambers shop became a long established business in the area, after Chambers emigrated to Canada from Scotland. 

Today 7Numbers continues the cycle with gustoHappy International Women's Day!

Mrs. Margaret Chambers, Danforth and Bowden 1910

Mrs. Margaret Chambers, Danforth and Bowden 1910

The interior of the shop

The interior of the shop

The location today, home to  7 Numbers.  Image courtesy of Google Maps. 

The location today, home to 7 Numbers. Image courtesy of Google Maps.