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A photo taken on Toronto’s Corso Italia 49 years ago became a family legend. No one saw it — until now

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Mary and Nick Pascale have always told their children about the summer day, nearly 50 years ago, when a newspaperman snapped their photograph on Corso Italia.

In 1970 they had just started dating. Nick was 19, welding in a factory by night and studying at the Marvel Beauty School by day. Mary was nearly 16 — in high school, working part time at Mr. Textile on St. Clair W., the place where Italian ladies shopped for imported silk, wool and Crimplene, that miraculous stretch fabric.

On St. Clair Ave. W. in 1970, photographer Bob Olsen asked Nick if he would pose for a photo, then he saw Mary walking toward them and changed his plan slightly.
On St. Clair Ave. W. in 1970, photographer Bob Olsen asked Nick if he would pose for a photo, then he saw Mary walking toward them and changed his plan slightly.  (Bob Olsen / Toronto Star)

It was a Saturday in July when Mary and Nick decided to meet on St. Clair. Mary had lived in Canada for about four years, and the street felt like home with all the Italian voices. Money was tight, and if she wanted the latest fashions, she sewed them herself. Nick can still remember the softness of the jersey knit fabric of her red paisley mini-dress. He was about two years in Canada then, by way of Milan, and he lived with his sister in Toronto, where fashion was “zero.”

A Star photographer named Bob Olsen was walking along St. Clair W. and College St. that summer, taking pictures of Toronto’s growing Italian community.

According to the 1971 census, there were 270,000 Italians in Metro Toronto, many arriving after the Second World War. Men found jobs in the construction industry, and many Italian women worked in factories. More than 90 per cent of Italian families owned their own homes or were planning to buy them, according to a survey by Corriere Canadese, the city’s Italian-language newspaper.

Italians had changed Toronto forever, and it wasn’t just the cement verandas. “The town’s cosmopolitan flavour, due in large part to the Italian influence, is several kilometres removed from the homburg-and-briefcase, roast-beef-sandwich Toronto of the early 1950s,” Star reporter Trent Frayne wrote in 1970, noting that Italians had worked hard for a good life in Canada, but faced challenges. Children learned English in school, but the language divide was hard on adults.

According to the 1971 census, there were 270,000 Italians in Metro Toronto, many arriving after the Second World War.
According to the 1971 census, there were 270,000 Italians in Metro Toronto, many arriving after the Second World War.  (Bob Olsen / Toronto Star)
The image of Nick and Mary, who in 1970 had just started dating, was arresting. But what became of the photo, and the couple?

Olsen asked Nick if he would pose for a photo, then he saw Mary walking toward them on the south side of St. Clair, east of Lansdowne Ave., and changed his plan slightly. He didn’t know that Nick and Mary were an item ever since they met at La Rotonda, a restaurant and dance hall on Dufferin St., where every Sunday afternoon Italian teens danced to live bands. Southern Italian parents were especially strict so Mary pretended she was going to the library, but her dad knew better.

One Sunday, Nick was there. He ordered a Coke, and held a cigarette to look cool. He saw Mary in her red leather skirt and white blouse, turning down every guy who asked for a dance. What’s she here for if she doesn’t want to dance? he thought. He walked over to her, prepared to make a point, but he asked her to dance instead. She had already noticed him when he walked in, handsome in beautiful Italian clothes.

Part of a photo series on Toronto's Italian neighbourhood in the summer of 1970.
Part of a photo series on Toronto’s Italian neighbourhood in the summer of 1970.  (Bob Olsen / Toronto Star)

They danced all afternoon.

They were both born in small towns in Calabria, the sun-drenched southern region where the air was fragrant with sage, rosemary and oregano, and a faint smoky smell from the small fires that always seemed to be burning.

At the dance, someone had a car, and a group of them went to Vesuvio’s Pizzeria in the Junction. Nick passed her a family business card for a painting company. Call me, he said. “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles was playing on the radio.

Olsen didn’t know any of this, when he snapped their photo in front of a small grocery store on St. Clair. The story about the Italian community ran that fall, but not their photo, which was filed away in a plastic box of slides in the newsroom. The couple married four years later. Mary sewed the blue silk bridesmaid dresses. Three children followed. She worked at COSTI, an organization that had been founded to help Italian immigrants adjust to life Toronto. (As the city became more multicultural, the organization widened its focus.) Nick became an in-demand hairstylist in Yorkville.

  (Bob Olsen/ Toronto Star)

In 1993, they opened a gourmet grocery shop near Yonge and Eglinton, with Italian deli, cheese and imported food. All the while, they wondered about the photo. It became a family legend, and even this past Christmas they were talking about it. Their daughter Cinzia always wanted to see it. Her parents didn’t have a lot of money then, and cameras were expensive. There weren’t many photos.

Toronto Star visuals editor Kelsey Wilson, who runs the @torontostararchives account, recently found the box of extrachrome slides in the newsroom. She posted the photos online in January, and one of the most arresting images was a woman in front of a St. Clair grocery shop, a young man beside her, with a child in an apron holding an orange. People recognized her face.

Not long after, Mary was at the back of Pascale Gourmet when a customer came in waving her phone: Is this you?

Mary and Nick Pascale and their daughter Cinzia hold a framed copy of the photo taken by Bob Olsen in 1970. They're pictured at the grocery store they own, Pascale Gourmet.
Mary and Nick Pascale and their daughter Cinzia hold a framed copy of the photo taken by Bob Olsen in 1970. They’re pictured at the grocery store they own, Pascale Gourmet.  (Toronto Star)

Mary saw the sunny Saturday of 49 years ago on the screen. She screamed. She jumped up and down. She drove home where Nick was busy making dinner. He shrugged it off at first, and then he “really saw it.”

It was the photo. The photo.

“I had tears,” he says. “I really had tears.”

At their shop, where you can buy sandwiches named for customers, or try “The Mary” or “The Nick,” they hold up the slides to the light and Mary reflects on how they “grew up together.” “The Long and Winding Road” was on the radio this morning, she says. It’s been the song of their life.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re still together. That’s what I find is amazing,” she says. “Here we are 50 years later … still very much in love the way we were then.”

  (Bob Olsen / Toronto Star)

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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