Guest Writer: Robert Iantorno
Robert Edward Iantorno (1986) is curious; always has been. Raised by his Nonna, he grew up in Toronto in the family business and learned the value of kindness and good work. Robert studied at U of T and has designed products and managed companies in the building products space, always with the ethos of customer service, quality of product and responsible Canadian industry. Robert lives in Singhampton with his lovely wife Maria and their dogs in a Quonset shell house that he built. He loves sharing his enthusiasm for rural places and bringing people together over common ground. Robert especially likes the popping sound of his Triumph motorcycle under deceleration when heading down Grey Road 30.
High up on the Western edge of the Beaver Valley is Markdale. This is rough and beautiful country, home for ages to the Wyandot people, with settlement from poor Irish immigrants in the 1840s onwards. Fun fact, Markdale is literally named after a guy called Mark -Mark Armstong sold lands for the train station under the condition that they name the station after him.
Main St. Markdale is characterized by its many intact old buildings. Remember to “look up to look back”, as the top storeys of old buildings are usually original dating back to the Victorian era. Also this is perfect place to practice your small talk. People here are friendly, so be forewarned: as you visit the businesses in town, you will run into folks and your visit will take longer than anticipated!
This place smells so good, you’ll wish that you had a bigger nose. Brilliant Bread is renowned for their fresh sourdough breads, made without dairy or eggs, and using a 100 year old starter affectionately called “Ethyl”. They have authentic empanadas, and a rotating menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, with house made ingredients, including roasting their own roast beef.
The classic general store (check out that tin ceiling!), run for decades by old stalwart Ray and his cheery sidekick and daughter Lauren. In addition to all of the expected staples, they have a great selection of birdseed –“Ray’s special Blend” of birdseed has kept the Cardinals coming back to our place for years now.
Celebrating their one year anniversary this September, the slogan here is “Meet me at Susan’s” -and ain’t that the truth. This is a place for a diverse range of people to meet and chat while enjoying the smell of fresh coffee and anticipating their hoagie sandwich. Susan’s Deli is an eclectic place, with rotating hoagie specials including Tofu Banh Mi, Muffaletta, the Sloppy Jane, and their Baby Brisket (featuring the tremendous Casero Brisket). They also have goods from local makers such as macrame from Owen Sound’s Macra Dazed, and a range of hard to find light grocery ranging from the tahini (the good kind in the white jar with the red lid) to imported ramen noodles.
Classic, feel good pizza here. The cheese has great pull, the dough is yeasty and fluffy, and the sauce has a nice balanced tang. Service is friendly and fast, and they always have fresh made slices are ready to go -which is good, because I want to eat three slices immediately when I’m in this place. Big Cheese also has DVD rentals, which are so much nicer to savour compared to streamed movies!
PJ’s has a great selection of toys for kids of all ages. This is a great place to grab a board game to enjoy with your special people, and a jigsaw puzzle to enjoy on your own. They have building blocks, costumes, arts and crafts activites, and fidget toys of all kinds. Vibes are playful and welcoming here, and owner Pam is friendly and makes great recommendations.
A Markdale favourite, this little family run store is the spot for local produce, whole bean coffee, spreads and syrups of all kinds. They have a great selection of meats and cheeses (I like an extra old cheddar, thank you), as well as frozen prepared meals like a hearty, stick to your ribs shepherd’s pie. I was excited to discover their new offering of sausage on a bun, complete with bun from Brilliant next door and tangy sauerkraut.
When you walk into Markdale Flowers at the West end of Main St., you’ll immediately be greeted by Bobby the cat. I’m typically scared of cats, but this guy is super friendly. Kimberley and Danika are happy to arrange a cut bouquet to you budget and preferences, and they offer a selection of potted plants and arrangements for all occasions. They even have a bouquet of the month club!