In our Tenant Spotlight series, we’re featuring the tenants who help shape our neighbourhoods and communities. In honour of Black History Month, we sat down with Yic Camara, the Deputy Executive Director of FRAP, a Francophone Settlement Agency based in our Northgate Centre property in Edmonton, Alberta. Keep reading to learn more about Yic’s story, how FRAP has impacted the Francophone community, and the importance of education and awareness during this special occasion.

What is FRAP, and what do they do? 

FRAP, which stands for Francophonie Albertaine Plurielle, is a Francophone Settlement Agency that specializes in welcoming Francophone newcomers to Canada, specifically Alberta. The agency’s goal is to help Francophone immigrants feel at home and integrated throughout their journey of settling in Canada. FRAP is based in Edmonton, with locations across the province of Alberta, and covers a portion of Western Canada, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories.   

Humble Beginnings: How FRAP Has Progressed Throughout the Years  

FRAP was established in October 2014. At the time of its founding, FRAP specialized in ensuring that Francophone newcomers and families were well integrated into the Francophone school system. The agency, however, noticed a lack of diversity in the Francophone school system, specifically among the teachers and supporting school staff. For the next 4 years, FRAP advocated for more diversity within the Francophone school system, entering various negotiations with the Alberta Provincial Government and the Francophone school board to bring about change.  

In 2018, the Federal Government decided to halt funding for the main Francophone agency (at that time), which FRAP highly disagreed with. FRAP stood up for this agency, speaking up about the value and significance of assisting Francophone newcomers in settling into their new homes. To carry on the need for Francophone settlement services, FRAP took over for the previous agency, broadening its focus from ensuring diversity in the Francophone school board to now servicing Francophone newcomers as well. Since then, FRAP has expanded to multiple cities and provinces within Western Canada. 

Finding the Ideal Location 

FRAP’s first office was located on the South side of Edmonton near the University of Alberta, but this location was not ideal for the agency. Most Francophone families live on the North side of the city, making it difficult for Francophones and clients to travel to FRAP.  

In 2021, FRAP reached out to First Capital to open another office closer to their target clients. Coincidently, the First Capital team was moving out of one of its offices Northgate Centre, located in Northern Edmonton. FRAP took over this space for their new office, as this location was very convenient and accessible. Most importantly, FRAP had now relocated to an area that was closer to its clients and Francophone families. Since then, FRAP has been serving over 300 people, and their client base is still growing today. 

“We’re so fortunate to have First Capital as a business partner… They are there for us any time we need them.”

Just ten months ago, FRAP opened another office with First Capital in the West side of Edmonton. Even though FRAP mainly served Francophones, the agency felt very welcomed by the local community and businesses were thrilled to see the first Francophone-focused agency in that area.

Working at FRAP: A Rewarding Career for Yic    

As a Francophone immigrant himself, Yic understands the experiences and hardships faced by Francophone newcomers. One of the things he enjoys the most about his job is working closely with his clients, guiding them through every step of their journey, and watching them thrive. 

“People who share the same background as me are the ones who are seeking our [FRAP’s] services. That’s why I feel so proud to be here to serve our people, to serve Francophones… I can imagine being a Francophone immigrant in Alberta – you belong to a visible minority, you don’t speak English, you’re coming from another country… It’s very challenging for them. And being part of their solution, being a light for them to while going through everything – I’m so proud of that because when I see people I worked with become successful and living their dream, it’s priceless.”

– Yic Camara, Deputy Executive Director of FRAP

For Yic and his colleagues, working at FRAP has been nothing short of a fulfilling and rewarding experience. 

“I love what I am doing right now because I like being there for people…I feel so grateful to do what I am doing. What I do as a job is very meaningful to many people.”  

– Yic Camara, Deputy Executive Director of FRAP

Yic also proudly notes that it is his colleagues who drive the agency forward and make the work worthwhile. Yic is extremely grateful for all the meaningful work they do together, and he knows they always give their best to take care of clients. 

Without them [my colleagues], nothing is possible – for myself, our agency, and our clients.”

The Meaning of Black History Month to Yic   

Black History Month plays a huge role in Yic’s heritage, background, and family. To Yic, Black History Month is more than just a celebration, but an occasion to educate others about Black History in Canada. His goal is to bring more people together and raise awareness to what Black people have experienced and accomplished throughout Canadian history. Yic also notes the importance of educating the new generation, including his children, about Black History.  

Black history is also Canadian history… Black History Month is not just for Black people, it is for everyone, for all Canadians. We need to get everyone engaged to learn about Black History – that is the main goal. My hope is that everyone in Canada can live as one.

– Yic Camara, Deputy Executive Director of FRAP

Any Words of Advice for Young Black Professionals Who Want to be a Business Owner like Yourself?    

Never give up! You can do it! Believe in yourself and believe in what you want to achieve because it’s possible… Don’t let someone else convince you that you’re not able to achieve it… Be proud of yourself and what you are, be proud of your history, no one decides who you have to be.

– Yic Camara, Deputy Executive Director of FRAP

A Recap of Black History Month Initiatives Organized by FRAP   

During Black History Month, FRAP organized several programming and activities for Francophone and French Immersion schools across Alberta. Through these initiatives, FRAP aimed to educate and bring awareness of Black History Month to the young generation. This included Black History-centered workshops, games, videos, and arts/culture performances that showcased Black culture and identities.  

FRAP also held an opening event for Anglophones and the Francophone community to learn about Black History Month in Alberta. Here, attendees learned about what Black people have achieved in Canada through testimonials, performances, and presentations. 150 people attended this event, along with the Mayor of Edmonton and various politicians. 


Here at First Capital, we’re glad that we can showcase what our tenants do and share their inspirational stories! We couldn’t be prouder of FRAP’s success, and we look forward to seeing what’s next for Yic and the rest of the team at FRAP! 

Check out our social media posts on LinkedIn & Instagram, and click the links below to learn more about FRAP: 

FRAP’s Main Website 

Instagram  

YouTube  

Facebook  

Before today’s vibrant grocery-anchored shopping destination with a variety of notable retailers, Loblaws Plaza in Ottawa had a limited number of retail tenants. Before FCR took ownership, there was one primary reason community members would commute to the intersection of Baseline Road and Merivale Road: to dance. This ritual continues today, thanks to the Greta Leeming Studio of Dance (GLS), a world-renowned institution that has been serving the community for 61 years and counting.

Dance for Tami-Lynn, the current owner of Greta Leeming, is as essential as breathing. Her career began when she was just 4 years old, and given her family’s legacy, she might have always been destined to own her own studio.

Only, Tami-Lynn didn’t anticipate she would run a studio as established as Greta Leeming Studio of Dance.

Her mother was a dance teacher, who opened her own studio called the Bonnie Lynn Armstrong School of Dance, and later her cousin opening the Holtz Studio of Dance, where she did her training.  Tami-Lynn began  teaching when she was 14 years old and has never stopped.

At the age of 17, Tami-Lynn joined the CFL as a cheerleader for Ottawa Rough Riders and continued working in the dance community with as a teacher and choreographer with local theatre companies. When a friend recommended her to Greta Robinson to take over as a dance teacher at her studio, the rest, for Tami-Lynn, is history.

Dancing Their Way to the Top 

Greta Leeming was the place to go for ballet training in the 60s, and through the years to provide premiere dance training in a multitude of disciplines including tap, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance. Tami-Lynn recalls that Greta was always focused on getting the best talent and staff to provide the highest quality of training to expand in each discipline and often source staff and talent internationally.

Tami-Lynn observed the studio over the years as it modernized and grew under Greta’s ownership and became a pillar of the community, where Tami-Lynn eventually took over in 2011.

She also explains that the majority of the staff that currently work at Greta Leeming in fact were Greta Leeming students, Tami-Lynn claims the staff hold themselves to a high level of excellence “(they) understand the quality of training that is expected from experience, whether you are two years old or an adult, you are going to get quality training”.

Tami-Lynn continued to evolve her dance career while working at Greta Leeming, and she supported Greta as the studio grew, which led to Greta offering her more responsibilities. Tami-Lynn eventually approached her and asked if she could take over the studio, and once Greta was ready to retire, she happily handed over the keys to the kingdom. She worked closely with Greta during this transition to ensure the studio would continue under the same principles.

“I thought about changing the name (of the studio), but there’s prestige behind the name Greta Leeming that benefits our students, dancers from Greta Leeming are recognized internationally for their talent”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

The GLS Community & Importance of Mentorship 

Dozens and dozens of dancers have moved on from Greta Leeming to professional jobs whether it be opening their own dance studios, to performing on Broadway, TV and movie sets. Some notable movies and shows include The Radio City Rockettes, The Music Man, Jersey Boys, and Hairspray.

Tami-Lynn believes at her core what sets this studio apart from the rest is her dedicated staff, and their expertise for each area of dance “There are no generalists here, only experts that specialize in every lane of dance.” When Tami-Lynn gained ownership there were 18 staff, and she had to immediately carry the dance studio as well as the competitive program, while learning to navigate those relationships and keep the community strong around her.

Tami-Lynn summarizes the studio as providing “… quality instruction, a professional and positive atmosphere, and a place for everyone”. She recognizes that dance class teaches kids many skills other than just dancing, building on their collaboration, time management and discipline.

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

“Kids need life skills more than anything to learn how to collaborate and build their confidence.” She notes on the mentorship her studio provides for young children, citing that Greta Leeming teaches “…life skills just as much as dance”.

Today, they host approximately 130 dance classes every week, with 500+ dancers registered. Not all these dancers are children, there are over 100 adults registered at her studio and Tami-Lynn has introduced adult intensives and bootcamps for beginners, intermediates, and advanced dancers.

“When people take on dance as adults, they have a new zest for life and expression of self. It’s amazing that we can facilitate and encourage that.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Dance is a special community outside your everyday life, and Tami-Lynn has witnessed an endless number of life-long friendships and bonds formed at Greta Leeming. If there’s one thing she can’t emphasize enough, it’s that dance can benefit everyone.

“The biggest misconception is when people say they are not good enough to dance at Greta Leeming… we’ve expanded our curriculum so there is something here for everyone.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Location and Community Is Everything  

Tami-Lynn is extremely grateful for everything First Capital has done for the surrounding neighbourhood, bringing some amazing retail tenants and neighbours.

“Since First Capital has come in, we have everything, we have Starbucks, Pet Valu, Nando’s. I worked here for 25 years with nothing… Tim Horton’s being a 20-minute walk was the closest we had, and the Loblaws.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Tami-Lynn loves the diversity of the tenants and feels that the surrounding stores give her great exposure to potential new customers and vice versa.

What’s next, you might ask? She is looking forward to evolving in the space they are currently in and expanding their classes offerings even further.

“I’d like to work with seniors next, there’s so many things I’d like to do within the perimeters of my current location. I don’t want to run the risk of losing the quality we’ve maintained all this time.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Since its inception, GLS has helped thousands of young dancers reach their full potential, with many moving on to become company dancers, entertainers, as well as dance education professionals. If you’ve always been curious to take up dancing, this might be your sign to start. For those who live in and around Ottawa, stop by Greta Leeming Studio of Dance located in Loblaws Plaza.

To learn more about the studio, head to their website linked here and follow them on Instagram linked here.

This fall Teatro Verde, Yorkville Village’s first-class florist, gift, and décor shop, celebrated their 25 year anniversary. Hitting this momentous milestone comes as no surprise as their world-renowned floral creations and show stopping retail store have attracted many loyal customers. From A-list celebrities, international aristocrats, to Toronto’s finest hotels, their extraordinary pieces have left their clients wanting more for over a quarter century. 

Taking inspiration from their travels and being immersed in various cultures around the world, their innovative and trend-setting approach to their practice has kept them ten steps ahead in the floral industry. Whether you’re looking for a romantic arrangement for a loved one, need an elite florist to beautify your wedding, are searching for one-of-a-kind gifts and home decor, or just want to enjoy a unique shopping experience, this is the place to go – you’ll leave the store with nothing but the best. Breath-taking designs, sophisticated style, and premier quality is engrained in all things Teatro Verde. 

Meet co-owners Shawn Gibson and his partner Michael Pellegrino, the two who grew Teatro Verde into what it is today: a world-leading floral, décor, and gift shop. First Capital would like to congratulate them on reaching this tremendous milestone and for opening their brand-new retail store in Yorkville Village this fall.  

This image shows both owners back to back in the centre of the store
Michael Pellegrino & Shawn Gibson in the Teatro Verde Store

Going Back to Their Roots 

Rewind 25+ years back, Shawn and Michael had come from very different backgrounds. Michael was born in Italy, where he worked for several years as a professional landscaper. Plants, flowers, and creating glorious gardens were his specialty. Shawn grew up in Canada in a farming community, but the theatre is where he found his passion. He moved to New York City and attended Parsons School of Design studying décor and set design. Upon graduating, he worked on the sets of several famous Broadway plays such as CATS, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, and more. With this job came lots of travel so Shawn was able to immerse himself in various cultures around the world. Little did he know that these experiences would prove to be part of his key to success with Teatro Verde later in life.  

Leaving both their professions behind and relocating back to Canada, the two began working in interior design and décor at Yorkdale Mall for special holidays, events, and activations. Impressed by their work, the mall’s management team took them over to Yorkville Village (then known as Hazelton Lanes) to work on similar projects. 

Not long after this transition, a change in mall ownership was taking place and a rare opportunity presented itself. Michael and Shawn were approached to take over a local flower shop located inside the mall. Though they were hesitant at first, Shawn was confident in Michael’s natural green thumb and abundant knowledge of flowers and plants from his landscaping days. Engaging his own talents, he knew his set design and décor background would allow him to build the most eye-catching retail experience.  

Taking inspiration from both of their backgrounds of theatre and landscape, Shawn had asked Michael and his sister what “Green Theatre” meant in Italian the night before signing the lease to what was about to bring them 25 years of success. “Teatro Verde”, the direct Italian translation, combines their past to make their future. 

Upon opening, Michael and Shawn saw immediate success and a positive response from the Yorkville neighbourhood and beyond. This was the start of a very bright floral future.  

Elegant Arrangements & Fabulous Flowers 

What differentiates them from other florists you ask? It’s clean, it’s chic, it’s pure, and it’s showy. If you want the best, this is where you go. If you want a reaction, that’s what you’re going to get.  

Michael, Teatro Verde’s head florist, is always focused on finding the best quality flowers for his valued customers. He believes spending more time sourcing the best products available allows for the flowers to stand out and speak for themselves. The more an arrangement needs manipulating and prodding, the less attractive it becomes. 

Doing Flowers is like cooking Italian food, it’s the best ingredients with very little manipulation… it’s very pure in its natural form so you don’t want to do a lot of process on it

Michael Pellegrino, Co-Owner of Teatrhttps://teatroverde.com/o Verde 

Michael takes pride in his craft. In fact, he spends 6-7 hours preparing his arrangements before opening every single day. Most florists subscribe to a finer flower service and lose control of their quality. This is not the case at Teatro Verde as Michael carefully sources his flowers from over 475 local and international suppliers. Their flowers are flown in from places like South America, Europe, and Israel, and hand-picked by Michael at local Ontario markets seasonally.  

It is no wonder why Teatro Verde is the first-choice florist for Toronto’s elite. In fact, they provide weekly arrangements to the city’s most luxurious hotels including the Four Seasons, The Hazelton, Park Hyatt, and Shangri-La, and continuously send to the homes and residences of the city’s wealthiest patrons. It doesn’t stop there: Teatro Verde is a household name among celebrities and has serviced the likes of Lady Gaga, Sylvester Stallone, Madonna, Paris Hilton, Ellen DeGeneres, Martha Stewart, and more.  

Every arrangement that leaves here, is an advertisement for the next arrangement… they’re show pieces

Shawn Gibson, Co-Owner of Teatro Verde

Retail Shopping Experience 

While Teatro Verde is known for their bold floral creations, they also specialize in one-of-a-kind gifts and home décor. Shawn’s extensive background in set design, worldly travels, and décor expertise, have given him the tools to turn their retail store into a shopping experience. From top to bottom, the shop is filled with rare finds that you wouldn’t see in a regular gift shop. From unique candles such as Trudon or Baccarat from Paris, Lavatoro from Sicily, Dr. Vranjes from Florence, to rarities from Asia, the store brings worldliness and diverse cultures to Toronto.  

Shawn is constantly staying in touch with what’s going on in the world and what’s available so he can try and bring the best to Toronto. By doing so, he fills a niche that isn’t there and believes that the key to a successful small business in this environment (especially post-pandemic) is just that.  

Teatro Verde is an ever-evolving changing landscape like the world is. From season to season, year to year, we’re always keeping a pulse on pop culture, lifestyles, politics, and more

Shawn Gibson, Co-Owner of Teatro Verde 

Shawn’s approach to retail is that you can’t wait around for people to come to your store, instead you have to find ways to attract people in. Once you’re in, the goal is to desensitize you from all your problems in life and take you on a journey. Then they have what’s called “milk” at the back of the store (similar to convenience stores) which forces you to shop the entirety of the store so you don’t miss a section. 

I used to work for Ed Mirvish who taught me so many retail tricks without even realizing it. He used to say that when designing full-page ads for his plays,if you put one thing in the corner and you don’t like it then I’ve lost you but if I put 50 things in that corner, I’m bound to get you on one of those things

Shawn Gibson, Co-Owner of Teatro Verde 

Yorkville Neighbourhood 

Teatro Verde has been a neighbourhood institution for over a quarter decade. Since Yorkville is a very well-established neighbourhood, Michael and Shawn know all their clients and have built very loyal relationships over the years. Not only have they captivated their audience and continue to deliver world-class products and service, but they listen to their customers. They understand their needs, wants, and are always looking for ways to go above and beyond.  

Having moved locations a few times throughout Yorkville Village, they are thrilled with their new, larger location and know that this concept is only possible because of the community and its patrons.  

Teatro Verde store front

First Capital congratulates Teatro Verde on hitting this tremendous 25-year milestone! Their success over the past quarter decade speaks to their unrelenting ability to deliver first-class floral arrangements, unique gift items and premier service. We’re fortunate to have them in Yorkville Village

Be sure to check out their features in Dolce Magazine here, House & Home features here and here, Toronto Star articles here and here, Bloor-Yorkville BIA mention here, and so much more! 

For more information on Teatro Verde, see their website here and don’t forget to give them a follow on Instagram here.  

Head to Yorkville Village today and experience their exquisite flowers, gifts, and décor! 

Centre Médical Mieux-Être , Montreal’s top tier medical clinic, is revolutionizing the dated approach to doctor visits and patient care. Tired of wasting time sitting at your local walk-in clinic and waiting weeks to receive your test results? This state-of-the-art medical concept works to alleviate some of our medical system’s burdens with their efficient waiting room policies, a hub of services that provides patients the utmost accessibility, a streamlined communication and patient coordination system, and so much more. Centre Médical Mieux-Être is a one-stop-shop for all your medical needs, all while providing the highest quality of service.  

Owned and created by certified occupational therapist and serial entrepreneur Remi Boulila. Remi has grown his business into a fully realized network of medical centres that provide diversified and accessible health care throughout the Montreal region. He opened his first location in 2019 at First Capital’s Place Viau leasing 5,000 sf and has since expanded his footprint twice, almost tripling in size. Not only has he opened three additional locations, but he was also at the forefront of medical support and hospital relief efforts throughout the pandemic – a testament to his success and entrepreneurial spirit. 

Lady walking into clinic

Humble Beginnings 

Remi Boulila, a Montreal native, grew up surrounded by all things medical. Several of his family members are physiotherapists so naturally he followed in their footsteps. He attended the University of Montreal achieving his bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and went on to graduate with a Master of Science in the same field. Following his passion further, he began his career as an occupational therapist and worked at a local Montreal hospital. During his time there, he always appreciated the convenience of having all health services from testing stations like radiology and screening to having almost every kind of medical specialist on staff, all in one place. 

Remi Boulila in the hall of his clinic

While he always wanted to open his own medical business outside of the hospital one day, he knew he’d be faced with the inefficiency and slow flow of the clinic style medical system. He then asked himself if there was a better way and wondered why we couldn’t offer the same hospital level quality and efficiency, outside the hospital. From there, his “Hub of Services” concept was born as his main goal was to revolutionize doctor visits and patient care. Like all great entrepreneurs, he had found the solution to a problem. 

By this time, Remi began bringing his concept to life.  

Revolutionary Business Model 

When you step inside Centre Médical Mieux-Être, you will never wait longer than 15 minutes to see a clinician, nurse, or doctor. No longer will patients need to sit around in waiting rooms anticipating their follow ups. The same goes for receiving test results; with almost every kind of medical practitioner on staff and in one place, your results from one test will be sent to your specialist and shared with you almost immediately. In fact, Remi’s second expansion at Place Viau included a brand-new radiology screening and x-ray facility so patients wouldn’t need to go elsewhere – accessibility at its finest. 

His “Hub of Services” business model is truly a modern convenience. Patients can have minor surgery, see their family doctor, and have a full prenatal follow-up, all under the same roof. Here are the types of services and specialists they have on site: 

Family MedicineLaboratories
Family Medicine Group (GMF)On-site laboratory services
General PractitionersBlood Tests
Emergency Medicine (minor)
Specialist DoctorsRehabilitation 
Urology Physiotherapy 
General Surgery Occupational Therapy 
Psychiatry Message Therapy/Orthopedics 
Gastroenterology Acupuncture 
Gynecology Nutrition Care and Education 
Otorhinolaryngology Kinesiology
Internal Medicine
Social Work
COVID-19 Relief Staff

Reliability, equality, and professionalism are at the heart of Centre Médical Mieux-Être’s working method while maintaining high standards of quality medical care. Their consistent patient satisfaction is reflective of their doctors, nurses, and support staff’s excellent care and attention to detail. Rest assured, your health is their priority. 

COVID-19 Relief Efforts 

Only a few short months after opening his first location at Place Viau, Remi was faced with combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the virus’s spread in North America, Remi and his physicians kept a close eye on how the virus was spreading and were able to predict and prepare for escalating cases in Canada – they saw it coming.  

Immediately, they prepared themselves for what was coming by stocking up on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing kits, setting up strict protocols to ensure the safety of both their patients and staff, and readying their facilities to properly triage and care for incoming COVID patients. 

In fact, they became one of the first government designated COVID-19 testing and triage centres in Quebec. While everything was locked down around them, they were seeing upwards of 100 COVID-19 patients a day, totalling over 150,000 to date.  

It is success stories like these that help shape the neighbourhoods in which we operate. It is evident that Remi and his outstanding team put the health of their community first and were key supporters during unprecedented times.  

From COVID-19 relief efforts, to providing diversified, top notch, efficient, and accessible healthcare for everyone, Centre Médical Mieux-Être has become the first-choice healthcare provider for the Montreal community.  

Now in its fourth year at Place Viau, First Capital couldn’t be prouder of Centre Médical Mieux-Être’s well-earned success. Remi’s entrepreneurial mindset not only garnered him his own practice but has single-headedly revolutionized his patient’s doctor visits and patient care for the better. His state-of-the-art concept and innovative approach to medicine is a positive change.   

Going forward, Remi plans to expand Centre Médical Mieux-Être and open 10 more clinics across Montreal in the next 5 – 7 years and we look forward to watching them grow and thrive. 

To book an appointment and to explore their expansive list of services, head to their website here and go check them out at Place Viau or any of their other three locations today.

Keep an eye out for updates and announcements by following them on Instagram here and Linkedin here

Burger Drops is one of Toronto’s premier smash burger restaurants that has become a destination spot for the Liberty Village community, their GTA neighbours, and beyond. Owned and created by former Aloette Sous Chef, Greg Bourolias, Burger Drops has modernized the classic smash burger, and the proof is in the patty. Using nothing but the best ingredients; quality, detail, and precision is the Burger Drops way. What started from a friend’s backyard birthday party and sold-out weekend pop-ups, has grown to a fully realized brick and mortar store in the heart of Toronto’s Liberty Village.  

In our latest Tenant Spotlight, we take you through the Burger Drops story and how Greg Bourolias and his team built their burger empire from the ground up. It is success stories like these that shape our neighbourhoods and urban communities by helping them thrive, grow, and become gathering places.  

As long as he can remember, Greg has always had a passion for food. Growing up in a big Greek family, some of his fondest memories come from his family’s Sunday dinners. His father owned a successful restaurant and Greg’s passion for cooking grew by watching him in the kitchen and seeing the joy food brought to their customers, friends, and family.  

Following in his father’s footsteps, Greg became a professional chef and worked in some of Toronto’s most beloved restaurants. His expertise, skill, and natural talent that he garnered from his childhood really paid off.  

Back in 2018, Greg was working as a Sous Chef at popular Toronto restaurant, Aloette. Although he enjoyed his role, he always dreamt of opening his own restaurant one day. Cheeseburgers were one of his favourite comfort foods and who doesn’t love a classic burger? From there, he started experimenting and asking himself, “what does my ideal burger taste like?” and eventually came across the smash burger concept.  

Burgers are a universal love language

– Greg Bourolias, Burger Drops’ Chef & Owner  

When he’s passionate about something, Greg is someone who dives 100% all in and his smash burger concept is no exception. He began testing out different ingredients and flavour profiles, sharing his creations with friends and family. Everything was perfected – from the fat to meat ratio, caliber of bun, temperature and minutes on the grill, balance of toppings, complexity of condiments, to the harmony of spices and seasoning. This kind of love and attention to detail is still incorporated in everything they do to this day.  

During the process of perfecting his product, the small, but mighty Burger Drops community continuously shared their burgers on social media and Toronto foodies were taking notes. That summer, friends of Greg asked him to cater their birthday party, so he and his girlfriend Kat walked in with their portable Blackstone barbeque and made some smash burgers. Not only were the burgers a hit among the guests, but the couple had shared them on social media which caused even more buzz and excitement. People wanted to know where they could get their hands on these mouth-watering marvels! 

From their growing social media presence and ongoing requests from followers, he decided to hold a pop-up event. Without any experience, Greg rented a unit at College and Bathurst on Canada Day and the overflow of guests endlessly lined the streets of Toronto. From there, Burger Drops really took off and they held 5 more pop-ups which hosted hundreds of guests – many of which had seconds! 

Fast forward to the beginning of March 2020 – Greg had a whole summer’s worth of pop-ups booked. He knew his business was rapidly growing and was confident he could take it far and wide. At this point, Greg was working six days a week at Aloette and using his one day off at the pop-ups. Greg decided to take the entrepreneurial leap and pursue his Burger Drops dream full-time.  

Not even two weeks later, the unexpected happened. The pandemic forced Greg to cancel all their spring and summer pop-ups to avoid any in-person events. He had to figure out a way to get his burgers to people as the demand kept growing. Pivoting in the face of adversity, Greg came up with the idea to do pre-orders and curb-side pick ups. Luckily, the apps and technology needed to support this was growing for the survival of the food service industry. The wait was finally over; upon introducing this new feature to guests via social media, their pre-orders were fully sold out daily – a significant milestone for Greg, his team, and growing business.  

By the time the leaves started to change, business was booming for Burger Drops. Their pre-orders had been selling out all summer, they engaged in several successful partnerships with other local restaurants, their social media had thousands of followers, and guests from all over the GTA and beyond were flocking to the city to try their iconic smash burgers.  

Though their COVID-safe pre-orders and curb-side pick ups were wildly successful, Greg knew this would not be sustainable for guests having to wait outside in the cold winter months. As fun as the pop-ups were, they weren’t a long-term option. The business was steadily growing, their menu was expanding, and more and more people wanted their food.  

This inevitably triggered the idea of opening their first permanent, brick and mortar store. Greg wanted something that could sustain more guests, support their growth, the convenience of a stationary fully functioning kitchen, a gathering spot for their guests, and most importantly a place to call home. A fully realized retail store also meant they could finally build a lasting relationship with neighbourhood members.  

Coincidentally, First Capital’s very own Toronto foodie, Susanna Cheng, was a loyal customer of Burger Drops from the start. She had attended almost all of their sold-out pops and pre-orders and continuously suggested they open a store with us. When Greg was ready to make the retail plunge and take Burger Drops to the next level, he knew just who to call. 

Fostering the relationship between Greg and our super leasing team, we were able to find a space that fit his every need right here in the heart of Liberty Village. Previously a Poutinerie, this two-level 1900+ sf space provided the perfect layout including a fully built-out kitchen, ample storage, and space for guests to sit. Not to mention its accessibility along Atlantic Ave and adjacency to the highly trafficked King Street West made for the perfect recipe. Everyone loves burgers, but because of the residents around Liberty Village, the neighbourhood is always supportive and ready to welcome local, small businesses such as Burger Drops. 

We’re honoured to have some of the best guests in Toronto… They’re always gracious and excited to try our food. With Liberty Village, you can feel the support from our local community.

– Kat Gaskin, Burger Drops’ Director of Creative & Community 

Burger Drops opened its doors in September 2020 and has become a Liberty Village institution, as well as a destination spot attracting people from all over Toronto, the GTA, Vaughan, Barrie, Milton, Waterloo, and beyond – it is no secret their burgers have become a Southern-Ontario sensation. 

Their food needs no introduction – the flavours, textures, and freshness speak for themselves. Their most popular burger, the Double Original, is Burger Drops in a burger. Its flavour profile is Greg’s idea of the most perfect cheeseburger. From burgers and chicken sandwiches to veggie patties; curly, crinkle, and cheese fries; paired with a classic soda and choice of decadent dessert – they’ve refined a classic combo with a twist. 

A simple burger and fries doesn’t really command a lot of respect but we care about our food and everything that goes into it… We love what we do and we love our people, so why not feed them the best?

– Greg Bourolias, Burger Drops’ Chef & Owner 

Everything is perfected. From Burger Drops’ famous Jalapeño Relish, never frozen AAA beef, in-house pickles, hand-crafted condiments, to using Martin’s Potato Rolls (their go-to puffy, pillowy-soft bun). Even their cheese sauce is hand made and created in-house for quality assurance. Desserts are not an afterthought either; they hand-mix their whipped cream, make their own brown butter cereal crumb, and self-caramelize their salted caramel.  

What really makes them stand out is their incredible attention to detail, use of the highest quality ingredients, top notch made-to-order freshness, talented professional chefs and team, and everything is made in-house with love and care. In fact, their produce, meat, and other ingredients are shipped fresh to their doorstep every morning. You know when you enter the Drop Shop or order delivery online, you’re getting simply the best.  

Now in it’s second year here in Liberty Village, First Capital couldn’t be prouder of the sheer success and well-deserved admiration Burger Drops has received. In fact, they were named #26 in Yelp’s top places to eat in Canada (all voted in by the people), their veggie burger placed in the top 9 of Toronto Life’s best burgers in the city (list includes beef burgers as well), and have been featured in BlogTO twice: read the most recent one here and the other here

The future of Burger Drops is bright, and we look forward to seeing them grow even more. From searching for their second location, expanding their team to innovating their menu, they are thriving more and more everyday! 

Be sure to give them a try at their Drop Shop at the Shops of King Liberty and keep an eye out for updates and special announcements on their website and Instagram

In reflecting back on this past year (and a half), it is no secret that it has been very trying for everyone, but imagine trying to scale a new business during the pandemic! In our ongoing Tenant Spotlights, we are meeting the people and places that are the driving forces within First Capital neighbourhoods. In this second installment, our spotlight is on Jennifer Halfin and Hillary Abramsky – two incredible women changing the face of physiotherapy in Toronto – with a youthful twist!

Jennifer & Hillary of Toronto Kids Physio

This past year has been an interesting one for many, but no year has been more eventful for the women behind Toronto Kids Physio, Jennifer and Hillary. While the idea of launching and scaling a business on the cusp of the global pandemic sounded daunting, Jennifer and Hillary were up to the challenge and have been crushing it.

The dynamic duo behind Toronto Kids Physio met at Camp Kadimah, an overnight camp in Nova Scotia, with Jennifer acting as Hillary’s counsellor one summer. This created a bond which led to years of back-and-forth discussions about life and career paths, resulting in a brief overlap at another Toronto based clinic. Whether or not they realized it at the time, their partnership would turn into a great entrepreneurial story, resulting in two Toronto-based Kids Physio practices.

Jennifer & Hillary in their 3080 Yonge Street Practice

Finding a job in the specialized area of paediatric physiotherapy is quite difficult for a new graduate, despite the significant need for services in the community. This ignited Hillary’s entrepreneurial spirit as she knew there must be a better way. She needed to think creatively after experiencing difficulties getting job placements. While she was working alongside Jennifer, she followed Kids Physio Group, a kids-only, physiotherapy-only company in British Columbia, on Instagram.  

It wasn’t long after, that she reached out to Laura Patrick, CEO and Founder of Kids Physio Group, and set out to Vancouver to work there for a year. She then coordinated with Jennifer to take the plunge and start a Kids Physio Group franchise in Toronto – the first outside of BC. For Hillary and Jennifer – the idea of creating a complete one-stop-shop for kids to get the therapy they needed was an exciting opportunity.

They saw firsthand the need for this service in Toronto – and after almost a year of working to build a business, including Jennifer’s signing of loan agreements from a hospital bed just after delivering her third child – the two were ready to open their practice. However, they still needed a great location to open up shop; one with convenient access for their clientele. It was through a familial connection that Hillary heard of 3080 Yonge Street, First Capital’s mixed-use property on the corner of Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue. 3080 Yonge Street is situated atop the Lawrence subway station and only a 5 minute drive from the 401, a location perfect for their first location in Toronto.

The pair knew that after bootstrapping their way to this point, using credit cards and small business loans to fund such endeavours, they needed a space that would be easily transformed into the practice they envisioned from the start. A space on the 5th floor had recently become available, a former small office with some self-contained rooms. The location checked a lot of the boxes for their practice, and the pair began a buildout and within 2 months, had the grand opening in November 2019.

Toronto Kids Physio at 3080 Yonge Street – under construction in 2019

Responding to COVID-19

Fast forward to March 2020. Like the rest of us, the first lockdown caught the newly minted entrepreneurs by surprise. The pair was left to shift their practice from in-person to a fully virtual experience. Hillary and Jennifer needed to think quickly and make difficult decisions, while also balancing the needs of their families. It was during this time that their partnership proved to be most valuable, in which their hard work really paid off.

The practice was able to sustain itself in its new digital capacity, but by no means measured up to the physical space they had just built. Taking consultations online meant Jennifer would often use her own kids as subjects in various exercises and stretches. It wasn’t long before the pair was able to rehire their existing and new employees and reopen their physical location, albeit in a very different capacity. New stringent cleaning protocols and safety measures left the team adapting their practices day-by-day to keep employees and clients safe. These safety measures and a team of dedicated volunteers enabled them to continue growing their practice and work towards opening their second location in Leaside Village!

The new COVID safety measures changed the protocols during an appointment, but not the team’s desire to help.

Hillary and Jennifer quickly recognized that they were ready to add a second clinic. Strong relationships with physicians in the field meant that they were able to connect with existing tenants at the newly completed mixed-use medical building in Leaside Village, and knew that it was the ideal location. First Capital’s new building, an extension to its Leaside Village Shopping Centre, allowed the pair to build a custom space and reach an established community in the Leaside neighbourhood. 

Jennifer & Hillary inspecting the buildout of their new Leaside Village location

The Road Ahead

On the heels of International Women’s Day in March, Jennifer and Hillary served as true examples of leaders in our community. Today, through the hiring of new grads and interns, they are working to build the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. They continuously credit the people they surround themselves with for helping them get to this point.

We look forward to seeing where this pair of entrepreneurs take their business next!

I really loved building a team and sharing success with them…It’s really all about the people!

– Hillary Abramsky
The women behind Toronto Kids Physio in what is soon to be Leaside’s newest kids only physio practice!

You can learn more about Toronto Kids Physio on their website and Instagram. Join us in welcoming them to Leaside Village next month!