Category Archives: Lifestyle

Dancing with the Big C

I don’t want to be known as “that cancer guy”.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last four months since being fired from my last job.  And one of my recent regrets is not getting ahead of that story.

So, its official, at least it was at 2:45 pm on May 15th.  The only reason I’ll remember is that I had a call scheduled at 3 and I felt stressed taking down the necessary information for next steps and asking all the right questions (esophageal adenocarcinoma is its name) so that I could get on with my next call.

Funny enough I spent time reassuring the endocrinologist that it was okay.  Same with my family doctor a few hours earlier.  I’m not sure if I should have presented as a frightened, blubbering basket case because clearly that’s not what I was feeling.

Am I in some sort of fugue state?  I don’t think so.  I am self-aware enough and had five days to prepare myself for the diagnosis.  I have a lot of steps to take and surgery on the horizon provided it is localized.  Even then, information won’t be forthcoming until I hit each milestone along the way.  What I won’t do is spend time researching the subject on the internet, not because I am in some sort of denial, but because I can find any number of rabbit holes to go down that I’ll never get back from.

I stepped out on an aggressive 15k cycle this morning.  And I finished annoyed that I didn’t get more exercise minutes than the 24 minutes I did.  If my job is to get as fit and healthy as I can before facing surgery, I find that the fact that I am feeling better than I have in years isn’t just showing up in lower pulse rates and blood pressure, but the fact that I’ve lost a lot of the swelling and water retention, muscle aches and joint pains,  that’s been plaguing me for years and I have a stamina for exercise that is years younger than my age.  That’s a “for later” to talk with a dietician about.

Funny thing about preparing for the cancer diagnosis is that I started to pay attention to every ache and pain, and I am doubly aware of them now.  I think my biggest concern is that the scar from surgery is going to kill any chance of ever having a six-pack again.  Or that if part of my journey to health involves a lot of weight loss and that people will think that it’s about the cancer and not personal care.  And I wonder how I can avoid that wrinkly, pouches of skin look that would come from being 60, and thinner.  Vanity?  Sure, okay.  If the fact that I am concerned about how I look bothers you, then let me know what the right look for “having cancer” is.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be as “that cancer guy”.  I’m pretty sure that it’s not contagious.  And I would rather not suffer periods of social awkwardness, broken by the occasional cliché.  In fact, I am debating carrying a cliché book so I can record the better ones to share later.

But let me be honest with you, there’s nothing anonymous about being told you have cancer.  It isn’t something happening to someone else.  I have this disease growing in me that if left untreated will take my life.  I’m not sure where the disconnect between what I’m experiencing and what I thought I would have experienced lies. 

I’m sure part of it is my lower-class background – after all every challenge is epic and overcoming the challenge extraordinary, grandiose.  Or it could be from bad soap operas I watched as a kid when I was home sick.  I’m sure you know the setting, solemn looking doctor enters the room and says they have bad news, “that you only have a week to live”.

Turning sixty a month ago and the mental process leading up to it has helped.  It’s not been so much about glass half full but an acknowledgement of my mortality and what I want to accomplish before I’m done.  That’s part of the reason I’m blogging about this.

I want to make a difference in my community.  That community could be my former peers.  It could be my immediate family.  It could be my fellow CSIers.  By sharing my journey, I hope that you see whatever your journey is, there’s not much difference from mine.

I have much to learn.  Two months ago, I realize that I needed to climb down from my pedestal of arrogance and acknowledge that my skills and abilities relevant 30 years ago doesn’t have application today.

I want to influence how the build environment impacts all of us.  I am not happy with the way our city, particularly downtown, has developed.  It doesn’t matter if I’m thinking about transit, or cycling, densification without human scale, our parks, affordable housing or homelessness, I want a voice and ways to advocate, organize, engage and change my neighborhood.

I want to tackle ageism.  One of the challenges in moving into a coworking space like CSI Spadina is knowing where I fit in.  From Santa comments at our local bar or walking home through the bar district, being singled out in the emergency department triage unit with the comment “that old man there”, or being called out in my choice of summer attire of flip flops, t-shirts and cargo shorts, it is clear that I am being challenged to act my age.  I have been fortunate to grow up a white man of privilege, so any form of “ism” is new to me. And I’m not ready to be an old man yet.

I want to find contracts to not only contribute to our household income, but to explore where I might update my many years of professional experience, two business degrees, coupled with an increasing unhappiness with neoliberalism and a burgeoning interest in social responsible and alternative business models. 

I want to find an outlet for my artistic side.  That means that I want to continue to write, moral tale or not, and return to my love of working with wood.  It also means that I want to turn my attention to exploring the beauty in any creation, whether through the eye of a lens or with my hands with pencil and paper.

I have much I wish to challenge myself with.  In the end, I can only choose to take my latest life event in stride and see what I can learn about myself.  More importantly, I can give myself a boot in the ass and get on with it.

And, I don’t want to be known as “that cancer guy”.

Confessions of a Fair Weather Leafs Fan

I admit to only being peripherally aware of the Toronto Maple Leafs this past season.  That’s not to say that I can’t name most of the players on the team or have a good sense of the narrative.  I just wouldn’t sit through a complete game.  In fact, I had already made my decision not to watch one until the second round of the playoffs.  I guess that means there’s always “next year”.

I don’t know when I soured on the Leafs specifically and hockey in general, but it was cumulative.  Like many others my age, playground hockey was central to my childhood.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had to dress in layers before putting on your hockey gear, lacing up and hobbling over to the playground in -30 weather to skate on a rough ice surface that you helped clear.  In fact, I didn’t play on my first artificial ice surface until I was 11.

Growing up in Montreal meant I was a Habs fan; my hero, Jean Beliveau.  I wore number 8 because it was a multiple of 4 and there was no way I was going to get to be 4.  My attachment to the Leafs didn’t really happen until adulthood during the Gilmour years.  That was a team of grit and determination that I could easily identify with.  But over time the team’s increasing levels of mediocrity wore me down.

During the early part of the millennium, I did the games at ACC in the ubiquitous corporate box three or four times a year.  I certainly didn’t go to watch hockey; after all, they often lost. In 2019, the idea of making a choice between a couple of grand for decent hockey tickets and a night out versus say a week’s vacation in Cuba is no contest.  Hola, Cuba.

I’m just as much a Blue Jays fair weather fan.  I was on board for 2015, caught up in the fun the players on the team seemed to be having on the field during their August/September winning ways.  When that magic seemed to wane in late 2016, so did my attention.

Big market sports teams should be winners, particularly when they are owned by big business.  I expect to be entertained.  The narrative is what happens between innings, between periods or between games.  I’m not invested in that narrative unless the play engages me.

I’m sure many male boomers have hockey-in-the-winter and pickup baseball-in-the-summer childhood memories like I do.  I have a visceral understanding and admiration for the athleticism and skill players of both sports bring to the game, players who are considered old as they enter their thirties.

I’ve reached the point in my life at 60 where I’ve become impatient with profit-oriented corporations who cloak themselves up in whatever “cause-dress” or nationalistic jingoism they think will further their business.  I don’t like corporate ownership of sports franchises, franchises who rely on the tribal nature of fans, occasionally offering a winning team but more typically languishing in “tear down” and “rebuild” years, to support their businesses.  And consider, every big-league franchise in Toronto is owned by one of two companies.

Right now, I’m invested in the Raptors.  A friend of mine, just turned 80, has an astute understanding of the game and I’m learning a lot about basketball nuance in daily conversations.  And I’ll start going out to bars to watch games are they move beyond the second round because I love to be part of the energy.  And should management and ownership decide that after this season they’re going to rebuild, my attention will go somewhere else.

Business is business.  And you don’t expect me to buy your widget when I can get better quality at a lower price elsewhere?  Some die-hard fans are aghast at my attitude.  But my experiences are more important to me and there is a world of experience-substitutions that I value more.

So rather than angst about whether Leonard is going to re-sign or move on to the Clippers/Lakers, I have some camping trips to plan.

Presiding Over the Sunset of our Professional Practice

sunset in clearwater

Sitting on the end of our bed, I was staring into Linda’s side of the closet. She owns some very bright clothing, clothing worn by anyone else that would seem flamboyant. In fact, Linda can wear an ugly Christmas sweater with style; it becomes part of her wardrobe.
I’m dressed as I often am for work – grey stone washed jeans, a black button-down shirt, grey checked jacket and black high-tops. It goes well with my white hair and my white beard.
I think the differences in our style speaks a lot about differences in our personalities. I tend to be direct in communication while Linda is more nuanced. In many ways it has served us well in the almost 20 years we’ve been business partners.
As I write this, Linda is sitting for a job interview. Professionally, whether we like it or not, we are going through a partnership divorce. When the two of us left our last dealership on December 21st, she said, “I won’t stand in the way of your next job.” What I heard was more realistically, “I won’t let you stand in the way of my career.”
Standing by her side as she went through her anxiety last night and hovering as she buzzed about with barely contained excitement this morning, I couldn’t help feeling the contrast between her warm and bubbling personality and my greyness.

We just came off a 16-day road trip to and from Florida.
Linda and I have discovered we’re good at being on an adventure together. Well, as couple over the last 20 years until this trip, we were. We’ve only really hinted at the reality that we’re going through this professional divorce, but the mix of emotions have been there and left us each in our own dissociative fugue.
The greatest sadness for me is that we’ll never be able to validate our last twenty years together. Each of us has made choices in support of the other that has entailed personal and professional sacrifice. Each of us has had our share of #MeToo moments on that journey that not only impacted us individually but together as a couple. Linda has opined more than once that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” when talking about what hasn’t been working in our business but we’ve never really explored how that referred to a couple in business together.
For almost the entirety of our relationship we’ve also been a professional partnership. I guess the greatest fear for both of us, unspoken, is that as we move apart in our own respective directions professionally, we also risk moving apart as a couple.
But I’m willing to take that risk. If anyone deserves to be able to realize her ambitions, it is Linda. The rest will just have to take care of itself.

Baking, Sourdough and Martha Stewart – Is There Room Today for Investing in Stocks and Bonds?

Cara used to call me “Martha Stewart”.  I supposed it was partly her age and being embarrassed at having a mom-dad at home.  I had single parented for a decade by this time and I didn’t want the girls to be somehow disadvantaged because their primary care provider was a guy.

In the days before the richness of online recipes and apps, my “go-to” was a tattered copy of “The Joy of Cooking” and I’ll admit that reading the basic skills part at the beginning of the book coupled with my proclivity to measuring in “about” rather than precise amounts, and sometimes skipping steps, led to as many failures as successes.

In time I started to watch Martha Stewart on TV and slowly built the skills and confidence to master the basics.  And it helped me affirm that my tastes, while decidedly masculine, were appropriate.

My quip back to her was “fine, you can’t have any of the chocolate chip cookies I’m making”, or something like that.  I always felt insecure raising the two girls alone and worried that I would somehow fail them.  I was pro-feminist before I knew what that meant and supported them in whatever choices they made.  If that meant walking to the school to pick one up with her bass baritone sax because the truck was broken down yet again and I didn’t have the slack to get it fixed or making homemade cookies because it was cheaper than store bought, so be it.  The important thing was to make sure that they didn’t miss out or do without.

I read and posted an article recently about a growing trend in making the perfect sourdough bread.  I was intrigued by this group of male tech-employed millennials, their search for perfection and the precision with which they undertook baking that perfect loaf.  I’ll admit that some basic skills coupled with my recent experience with a food delivery service leaves me in the artisanal space and the world of food excellence, but I doubt I have the temperament to pursue the perfect loaf.

One of our CSI members is working through the process of launching a beer bread business, baking sourdough bread from the leavings of the beer making business.  Looking beyond conceptually the impact of both a green and circular economy and how he is creating value from something that was destined for pig feed or the big organic digesters the city runs for bio-waste, I was struck by how the opportunities for making and selling artisanal bread are limited by scalability issues.  The excellence of the product lies in part in the lack of preservatives, so its shelf life is limited, the margins of the product are such that there is no room for sales returns and finally the product is a one-off so there is no suite of artisanal products that can be wholesaled.

If anyone can figure out how to ramp this business up it is Dihan.  He is doing enough to have perfected his recipe and approach, has examined his options and is exploring what avenues are available to him.  I strongly suspect that his final choices are going to rest in both technology and the disruption that technology is causing in the area of fulfillment.

Consider for a minute what the process is for you in bread fulfillment.  You could go to Costco and buy Costco sized bread products.  You can buy the same product at your local grocer, but (bread scandals aside) at a higher price.  Or you could nip into your local convenience store and pay a higher price still.  From bakery to retail, you are largely unaware of the steps and effort to make, ship, stock and manage that inventory so that wherever you buy it, it is easy and convenient.  Well maybe not Costco – but who shows up to Costco just to buy bread?

What you’re buying isn’t something full of wholesome goodness, but a product designed to remain fresh for a lengthy time.  I can buy a loaf of pedestrian whole wheat or some douchie version, but I guarantee you that the last slice two weeks from now is going to be as fresh as the first slice that I took out.  No mouldy nor desiccated offering as it sat out on my counter; truly a marvel of food engineering.

Over the course of two decades I have heard the cries of foul from my peers complaining about discount brokers. Like the male millennial purveyors of the ultimate sourdough experience, there are those that find enjoyment in constructing and managing their own portfolios.  Others with less discipline but more experience are like the home-made pierogi crowd who through years of making them know just the right mix and texture to make the perfect dough (hint, save and use the potato water). They don’t need us to be order takers.  In fact, the DIY group can do it far more cheaply and effectively than I can.

Our chosen profession is in the advice-giving channel; our value proposition is in the experience.  I am toying what it means to be “artisanal” using stocks and bonds as the base ingredients, but I share the same struggle as the beer-bread entrepreneur.  I’m just not sure how I fulfill the client experience in a world of tighter margins and packaged goods.  In fact, I may be convinced that back-to-the-basics is better but don’t know how to communicate that.

So yes Cara, maybe I haven’t lost my Martha Stewart tendencies.  I just haven’t figured out how to make it work for me.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space, Centre for Social Innovation at Queen and Spadina downtown Toronto.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

 

Stranger in a Strange Land: my daughter’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Cara, child mine daughter oldest, is in Tartu, Estonia, preparing to give a TEDx talk on Defensive Architecture.  She’s been globe trotting a little, taking part in a work-related workshop in Frankfurt, and has had time to visit Latvia in her free time.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, giving us a real connection particularly during challenging times.  I noticed Cara, 6808 km and six time zones away, posting on Facebook about the 17 pedestrians that were hit in Toronto in a four-hour period yesterday evening.  These are important issues to her as an urban planner and citizen of the downtown.

More importantly, Cara was able to have a text conversation with me about her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Between struggling with her personal preparations for tomorrow’s talk, being shoved in a grocery store, being mocked by a barista in Estonian to the accompanying snickers from other customers and then dropping her coffee as she fled through the door I get why she was upset.  I reminded her that given that she is Anglo-Canadian she probably sounds and looks American.  She replied that she’s often been mistaken for one, and in Europe, that means being subject to a fair amount of derision lately.  I opined that maybe painting a maple leaf on her face might help.

There were lots of back and forth and affirmation, and I pointed out that she is a world expert on her subject and that it was normal to worry about not being able to be perfect, that only some time after it was over would she be able to look back and feel a sense of satisfaction and completion.  She may be 34, but mostly she needed to hear that daddy missed her and loved her no matter what.

I can remember picking up a copy of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land when I was 12 or 13 and struggling to get through the first few pages.  I picked up that book many times in my teenage years, never getting past the first few chapters.  In fact, I was off put by both the messianic message at the end and the often-tortuous tension of establishmentarianism (church/state), when in my early twenties I finally read it.  And as for free love and communal living, it was about as appealing to me as individualism in Atlas Shrugged.

I’ve always been an outsider looking in.  High school dropout and military veteran who went to university, anti-authoritarian while embracing the comfort and expectations of being a liberal democrat, most recently pony-tail challenger of the orthodoxy in my industry.  I have no doubt had I been more conscious of my choices and understood the impact of trying to be a norm breaker, I would be far more successful today.  I am a norm breaker only within the bounds of what I can get away with and then only within a very tightly prescribed range.  Perhaps my life would have been easier if I didn’t try to keep within those ranges.

We’ve all felt like Alexander (in Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) at one time or another.  And I always seemed to have those days when I was conflicted, torn between two courses of action even though I wasn’t clear in my own mind which direction I should take

The richness of the tapestry of my life has allowed for many terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  But for every 5 of those, I’ve had 95 opportunities to grow and excel at the things that I’ve been very good at.  As much as I enjoyed and learned by being a parent, I’ve also learned a lot from my children, especially lately.  James, the youngest boy, is extraordinary at what he does, and I should have respected his wishes not to go to university.  Shannon and her husband Emi have taken all the good they’ve learned from me and his parents and are heads and shoulders better parents than I ever was.  I should have respected Rob’s gentle soul and his creativity rather than trying to push him into the very structure that in many respects I rejected.

It is not that I love Cara more.  Certainly, it is true that each of my children represents one aspect of myself, just more fully expressed.  Cara’s academic journey mirrors not just my journey but she is realizing my frustrated academic ambition.  Although each of my children have likely felt an outsider looking in, it’s her turn.

I had to remind her that we all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, but running off to Australia is not going to solve anything.

(It would be fun though).

Post Script:  What does that have to do with investing?  Everything and nothing.  Our path to our goals is never straight, and if we don’t focus on the journey to get there and what we’ve learned, we’re going to have too many days of angst and disappointment.  On the other hand, if we write down and have a look at where we want to go, then put it away focusing on the trip, you’ll surprise yourself and get there before you know it.  And you’re not going to get lost along the way.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space, Centre for Social Innovation at Queen and Spadina downtown Toronto.

 Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

Goal Setting is About the Journey, Not Necessarily the Destination

Standing around waiting for direction from my youngest daughter Shannon as we were painting their new home, I was struck by a sense of déjà vu.  This time, however, the voice wasn’t mine but hers.  And I did exactly what I was told.

Shannon and Emi have accomplished the impossible.  Staging their home for sale in Mississauga in August, they managed to get their selling price after the traffic of multiple showings, shopped for and found their new home in Burlington with a close more than two weeks before they had to be out of their existing home, gutted the basement and rewired the new house from aluminum to copper, pulled all the trim, fixed the wear and tear, hung new trim, painted the two boys’ rooms and moved a household of four, packing and loading at the same time.

Linda and I, like many others, have pitched in.  But the pressure, the responsibility of making a new home fall squarely on them.  Both have a view of excellence that verges on perfectionism, and Linda and I could see frustration and discouragement written all over their exhausted faces.

Events can conspire to get in the way of things – after all 3 ½ year old Alessio and 1 ½ year old Adriano need attention and as much as they love their extended family, they want mommy and daddy.  When they had their home inspection there was no way they could have known that the previous owners had improperly cut into the floor joists to install a basement window.  With an eye to restoring their bungalow that has exceptionally good bones, I’m sure all the non-code “improvements” that must be undone weighs.

I know where Shannon gets her impossible reach and her ability to mostly accomplish what she sets out to do.  Emi, her spouse, is an equal in terms of both expectations and work ethic.  But if I feel guilty about anything, it’s that when I was younger, the parent of a blended family of four, that I didn’t have the grace to say we did well, or we’ve accomplished a lot.  I suppose too much time spent in the unfinished 5% robbed me and my children of the joy of the 95%.  I know that’s rubbed off on Shannon.

As a single parent before Linda and I came together, I did everything I could to raise my children differently than my parents did.  I’m grateful for Shannon and Emi’s child-centric household and reasonable expectations.  And I am amazed that Shannon and Emi have taken the best from their respective parents but have moved the bar so much further – they have become the parents I wish I could have been.  Perhaps they can take what they learned from me about planning and executing projects and improve on it too.

Goal setting is a perplexing process.  Deciding where you want to go is a function of time, resources and route.  The speed at which you get there is not only a function of the limits of the chosen method, but subject to unexpected detours and pee breaks.  From time to time you must school yourself to look back and see how far you’ve come.  And lastly, the destination that you arrive at is the one that is important to you, not the one you started towards.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 days we’ve given the “kids”.  There is something therapeutic about working with your hands, especially when you can immediately see the results of your work rather than sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day.  And for all the groans and all the aches and pains the exercise has been great. I’m honored that they trust us enough to invite us to be part of their “next steps”, and gratified that they trust us enough to tell us what they want and how we’re going to get them there.

But mostly I’m proud of my youngest daughter Shannon and her spouse Emiliano.  Despite all their challenges, despite the intermittent anxiety, despite their exhaustion and discouragement, I can say this much for sure: they’re made of good stuff, have already accomplished the impossible and despite their respective crankiness, you can see their deep caring for each other and their little ones.

I hope they take a step back and look at the 95%.  They’ve done good.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space, Centre for Social Innovation at Queen and Spadina downtown Toronto.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

 

My Changing Grocery Habits: Have We Seen the Beginning of the End for Big Food Retailers?

Dad was a firefighter in the RCAF – stationed at St. Hubert.  He effectively worked shift work, so he wasn’t around on every second Saturday.

When he was off we would load into the station wagon and trek out to the Steinburg’s in Greenfield Park to do the monthly shopping for staples.  The alternative free Saturday meant going to the slaughterhouse across the Victoria Bridge, so Dad could load up on meat, and a ubiquitous constant in our household, pepperoni.

That routine was little changed over the ten years we lived in St. Bruno.  Sometimes he would buy a half a beef and we’d do without pepperoni for a while.  But generally, Saturday mornings were for the treks, and we witnessed the growth of the related Miracle Mart and the birth of local enclosed shopping malls.

It’s funny how as circumstances changed, like being posted to CFB North Bay, the general habits of the big Saturday morning “shop” and stocking up essentials were programmed into home life.  Even after leaving home and raising my own family in Sudbury, it was only the opening of Costco that Dad’s choice of destination was different.  It was still every-second-Saturday morning thing even though he had to drive 70 miles to do it.

Raising four teens in a blended household, plus seldom less than two friends, meant that Linda and I adopted Costco as our bi-weekly go to.  It’s funny how when you reverse into a driveway with the back of a pickup filled with boxes of groceries and staples you must go hunting for one teen who wasn’t smart enough to hide to help haul everything into the house, only to turn around and see the missing three and their friends rifling through the “take”.

Our circumstances have changed, but I still have my Dad’s habit of stocking the larder with essentials, usually stuff on sale.  We have a “pantry”, actually our utility room, lined with shelves and our “take”.  We don’t have the giant freezer my parents used to have, but we do have an apartment sized one that I bought Linda for Valentines Day one year (true story, a coincidence, but I was upstaged by a gay Irish mate who brought Linda a bouquet of flowers before going for a beer).

Breaking those ingrained shopping habits has not been a function of change in location or household size for me.  It has more to do with healthy eating and using a food service.

About six months ago when Linda and I were entertaining buying Goodfood ($FOOD) stock, we decided to try out the service.  There is no convenience in food prep with this service – even though all the ingredients are provided except for olive oil, the process of plating a meal is somewhat involved.  We’ve seldom disliked a meal we’ve prepared, it always appears exactly as it does on the recipe card, and we are never at a loss for what we’re making at least four nights a week.  And as a bonus, I’ve gained not only new culinary skills, but have an appreciation for balance and combinations of flavors.

I still trek out to Costco in Etobicoke twice a month.  Yes, I play parking lot shuffle with the best of them, waiting for someone to pull out, clearly signaling my intent and glaring at anyone who deigns to think they’re going to get the spot I’ve “shot-gunned”.  Yes, I am adept at sidestepping all the crazies flitting from one free food sample to another.  And, yes, I love playing mind games with the car that’s creeping me to see where my vehicle is, so they can “shotgun” it, only to have me dart between parked cars to get to where it is.

Our foodservice is costlier than buying all the ingredients separately, but what surprised Linda and me was that we’re spending less on groceries.  I walk by a large Loblaws to and from work every day.  But I seldom go into it.  I am more apt to dash down to the Kitchen Table for fresh fruit and veg if we are eating “out of cycle”.

Even our Costco orders are much smaller than they used to be.  Frankly, staples last longer.  If it wasn’t for the need to take the SUV out once a week to turn it over or to wander through the aisles wide-eyed looking at all the wildly impractical things that I’d like to buy that I will never have room or use for, I’d pay the premium and order through their delivery service.

I was reading an article about Canadian grocers in the Globe and Mail yesterday that I ended posting on social media.  I believe that we have seen the zenith for companies like Loblaws, Metro and Empire (Sobeys) and only if they dramatically redefine who they are and how they market will they avoid the fate of a Sears.

There are many disruptors out there, but ultimately it is us, the consumers, who are undergoing radical change.  And if I’ve broken my Saturday morning “Steinberg’s” habit, then that’s saying something.  But, man, do I miss that pepperoni.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space, Centre for Social Innovation at Queen and Spadina downtown Toronto.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.