102 Brock – Whitby

Both our restaurant properties of 102 Brock are fully leased by happy tenants and their businesses are doing well.

Obviously, we like the east end of the city and Whitby is no exception. Downtown has great potential and we decided many years ago to be part of what is going to happen in this vibrant up-and-coming town. These two buildings were stripped down to the studs and brought back to life and now house some great restaurants in the core.

Beach Walk Flats – Cobourg

Beach Walks flat is in full steam build and fully sold out with occupancy targeted for late 2024.

Clearly, we love Cobourg but what’s not to love? Quaint main street and probably one of the best beaches and Marina’s in Ontario. We’ve been investing here for more than 20 years and we plan on being here for many more. We had a number of people that were disappointed they missed out on our very successful Beach Walk Place project so we decided to do a follow-up with Beach Walk Flats. Different concept but the same quality in the same vibrant beach community. We maintain that Cobourg is still one of Ontario’s best-kept secrets but the word is definitely spreading faster these days.

Beach Walk Place – Cobourg

Beach Walk Place commercial units are fully leased out and the beautiful condos are desired by many, but unfortunately, none are available for resale.

We believed a vibrant beach setting deserved a building with substance and class. Certainly not cookie-cutter and built to create a living experience that didn’t exist at the time. All the suites have a different design, none of the balconies are covered and very large rooftop patios grace the penthouse suites. It was really nice when one of Canada’s top architects took notice and paid us a compliment. Yes, it felt good, we are human…

Live Real Factory Markham

The live real factory was born out of the ashes of our restaurant Marca on Main. After we shut down operations, I was close to renovating this space into offices. I had a hard time thinking about ripping it out though because the space simply has an incredibly warming embrace and almost magical feel. Everyone that enters the factory has the same experience which I put down to my wife and Joe’s build and design talents.

One night I was reflecting on the next chapter of my business journey which involves workshops on work-life balance as well as one called retirement’s a lie that breaks down the myths & preconceived notions that aging must mean decline. I hopped into bed and a few hours later woke up with the epiphany that I should convert the kitchen of the restaurant into a stage and that I should rename Marca on Main the live real factory.

The purpose of the new space is to celebrate, educate, inspire and motivate everyone at every stage of life and to recognize that time is our most valuable asset, the only asset worthy of being locked in a vault. Thankfully the vision has been embraced and the live real factory continues to share the philosophy with all those that enjoy being in the moment.

Take a 360 tour of the Live Real Factory

Marca Restaurants

While our restaurants were a failure, Marca continues to hold a very special place at harry james enterprises. We owned a beautiful commercial location overlooking the Cobourg Harbour. My wife and I always thought it would be a great place for a wine bar or boutique restaurant. We were real estate investors not restauranteurs so when builder / developer / restauranteur Joe Ferrara walked into our lives and saw our vision we were happy to have him sign a lease. He however had other plans, he wanted us to partner with him. “Partner with you? we don’t even know you and we are not in the habit of marrying people we don’t know. If you like the space lease it but no thanks to the partnership”.  Well Joe, who’s personality is best described as a combination of red bull and double espresso, wouldn’t let up. “Just come and visit my Mara restaurant in Whitby, we are different” I was thinking you are different all right. Regardless we visited Whitby, got to know each other, opened Cobourg and two other restaurants and proceeded to lose a lot of money over the next 6 years.

How could I let that happen? It’s much easier than you think, somehow you always convince yourself next week is going to be different; this Chef is going to be different; we just need to persevere and build a loyal clientele. Finally, you break out of your delusion and start to make some sane business decisions. The reality is however as we were losing money in the restaurants, we were making money in our true sweet spot, real estate. We were building, renovating and innovating left, right and center. Maybe we had to be successful at real estate to feed our cash hungry restaurants but regardless the partnership worked.

With Joe’s incredible talent and creativity in building, my pretty good skills at finding value and negotiating deals and my wife’s incredible gift of decorating and design we literally built a real estate dream team on top of three sinking restaurants. Marca was eventually changed to harry james enterprises and the rest as they say is history.


Padgett Business Services

I took a step of faith and bought out a client’s business because he said he wanted to retire. As time went on I noticed the clients were leaving, apparently retirement didn’t agree with him so he got a cheque from me as well as the clients I bought that continued to do business with him. It was a small deal and I simply put it down as bad judgement on my part. I didn’t sue him or make a big deal about it because it would have taken too much time and energy from my main gig. Everything doesn’t always work out and sometimes people take advantage but it shouldn’t you stop from doing deals. Also for those of you thinking well you should have had everything in writing, you can’t legislate or mandate character and integrity. When trust is involved, If someone wants to rip you off, they’ll find a way.

Play It Again Sports

Many years ago a very successful executive shared his dream with me to own his own sports store, he was passionate and sincere. I jumped in and suggested a partnership to make it happen. At the time it wasn’t clear to me that the skills to be very successful in the corporate world didn’t necessarily give you what you needed to excel in the very ambiguous and unstructured entrepreneurial world. He tried to tell me numerous times but I didn’t listen and paid the ultimate price of having to shut it all down. By the time I tuned into the real problem and what was needed it was simply too late. Always be aware that employees and entrepreneurs exist in two different worlds. Two very different skill sets in my humble opinion. One path isn’t better or superior than the other, they are simply vastly different. Both can offer incredible rewards but assuming one skill set can be seamlessly transferred from one side to the other can be a financially fatal mistake.

HJ Group

When I sold Harry James Financial I didn’t think that any of my kids would want to come into the business. Regardless I was a big believer in letting them create their path and their own success before they would entertain coming into anything that I started. I think if the perception is kids are handed something it ultimately becomes a burden for them. My son Justin ended up going into and focussing on an aspect of the business that wasn’t my main forte, employee benefits. He worked in the west end of the city where nobody knew me, my reputation or practice. His work ethic and single minded focus on becoming an expert in this area attracted a lot of attention and it wasn’t long before some of the top brokers in the city were seeking him out to join their team.

We met for lunch one day as I was helping him analyze the exciting opportunities laid before him when he casually asked me “why don’t I build my business under the HJ Group banner instead?” To say I was honoured would be an understatement but I quickly warned him the perception would be that I brought him into my business other than the reality that he was bringing me into his. Thankfully that didn’t deter his vision to bring HJ Group to a new level.

Visit HJ Group website