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THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP IN TORONTO BRINGS “DOWN UNDER” FASHIONS & ACCESSORIES TO N. AMERICAN SHOPPERS

Many years ago, when jones’ing for a little taste of home, I found THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP at one of the big expos in Toronto and ever since then, I’ve been a fan as well as a customer.  Owner, JOHN KEATING (pictured below) has been carefully curating his catalogue of coats, jackets, hats and all sorts of other accessories and treats for the North American market for 40yrs and this year, due to Covid, has taken sales online.johnI recently spoke with John about the challenges of taking his business from the popular in-person sales booths at agricultural and downtown shows and expos, and he assured me that his Aussie products are still available and people can call to place orders, allowing him to chat with each purchaser and find exactly what they want or need. Contact details are at the end of this story.  I recently asked John a few questions about THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP and he kindly shared his story with me….

What inspired you to import the Australian-style clothing and accessories?  We were very inspired by the success of the Australian tourism campaigns in North America in the 80’s, probably due to the influx of Aussie films and the overwhelming popularity of Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee). It was very evident that people had become intrigued and aware of the practicality, quality and style of the authentic Aussie oilskin clothing which was well-suited to the N. American lifestyle and outdoor pastimes.croc dundeeWhen/where did you first open the Australian Shop as a bricks-and-mortar location and how do you manage sales now that you’re an online only store?  Our Australian clothing business started some 40 years ago, primarily frequenting various shows and exhibitions including provincial Highland Games, Border Collie dog shows, sheep shows, horse shows, The British Show, the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows International Equestrian Show and the Canadian National Exhibition. Now, due to Covid, 2020 has seen a loss of public events so we’ve focused more on online sales which are progressing favourably.duooverlandDid movies like Crocodile Dundee and The Man From Snowy River (pictured below) from the 80’s help boost sales?  Sales were tremendously boosted once the Australian “new wave” of films hit North America. The Australian theme of the Canadian National Exhibition (the country’s annual expo of products and fun-fair held in Toronto) also did much to feature Down Under fashions, foods, lifestyles and tourism. They certainly highlighted the Akubra hats and oilskin coats.snowy river movieApart from clothing and hats, do you sell any other Aussie products? Currently, we have a great carry-all bag which is great for weekends or even daily work chores and laptops. Plus we are very proud to offer Aboriginal crafts such as boomerangs and didgeridoos, although we don’t offer lessons for those! One of the most famous and esteemed didge players is Indigenous musician David Hudson so you can search YouTube for his performances as well as lessons.7502-BRN-ONE_1-B (2)

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Do you sell and ship across Canada AND the U.S.?  Yes, we ship across Canada and the U.S., as well as overseas. Everything is based on weight and size of package. During Covid, deliveries may be slower than usual so if you’re buying as gifts, please allow enough time to arrive for that special day.

What do your find are the most popular items?  Our oilskin coats, jackets and vests are always the big sellers. The world-famous Akubra hats worn by many Aussie outback folks are always in demand, too.cowboy coat and hathats_akubra_snowyYour customers are not just horsey or farm folks, right? Urbanites who love the outdoor lifestyle also order from you and I guess dog-walkers are also frequent customers?  The outback or drover coats and jackets are always in style – something about the rugged image of the Aussie mate, be it a man or woman, is always an attractive factor. Businessmen and women can also be seen in downtown centres around the world in the fashionable and durable oilskin coats.

What’s so special about Australian oilskin clothing?  The oilskin material is produced in Australia. This increases the quality of the clothing. It’s a material that wears very well, is rain resistant and offers protection from the wind as well.  For many years, we sold the clothing at the annual Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair here in Toronto as well as major dog and horse shows and rural exhibitions across Canada – we even journeyed to Scandinavia to showcase our clothing.short oilskin jktIf you’d like to learn more about The Australian Shop and see John’s full catalogue, visit the website: www.australian-shop.ca and you can follow the Facebook account: www.facebook.com/australianshopto  and Instagram:  @australianshopto

Thank you for supporting a Canadian small business!

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That’s not a hat, mate…THAT’s a hat!

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EXCITING NEW CONFERENCE/MEETING CENTRE OPENS IN STUNNING JAMAICAN RESORT

Welcome to Ocean Coral Spring Resort & Conference Centre in Trelawny, Jamaica – just 45mins East of Montego Bay. Can you imagine holding your corporate events or team building exercises where this is your view each morning? Ah, Paradise… what a perfect location for motivating work and play!20200220_064308As part of it’s brand new resort on Jamaica’s sunny north coast, the Ocean Hotels int’l group has created a full-service, fully equipped Conference Centre that can accommodate up to 800 visitors in its main showroom which can also be divided into 2, 3 or 4 separate spaces, depending on the client’s needs. It will offer full A/V services, catering and furnishings. Additional local event suppliers and support businesses can be coordinated thru the resorts’ professional events office. The beautifully appointed accommodations feature all the luxury mod cons and the staff are charming, friendly and most efficient. And the resort has its own private beach with palapas, loungers and beach towels available for guests. Here’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Tanesha Clarke, to tell you all about this unique location for your upcoming meetings….

Thank you for sharing all this information, Tanesha, it was a pleasure experiencing the resort and all its facilities first-hand.  20200222_145612The resort itself opened in December and its imposing conference centre is undergoing the final tweaking and decorating stages, and should be open and ready to present your events by late Spring  (2020). Between or after meetings and business activities, there are multiple dining venues and activities for you to enjoy as a group, or just relax on your own…20200220_151117 20200222_142041 20200224_06412520200222_141936 20200222_142052If you’d like to learn more about Coral Ocean Spring Resort & Conference Centre, visit their resort website: www.hoteloceancoralspring.net
or contact Tanesha directly to receive the corporate events information package (and ask for the wedding package, too, if you’re planning a destination wedding):
Tel: (876) 615-8100 Ext. 9150
Mountain Spring Bay – Coral Spring Trelawny Jamaica
Email: tanesha.clarke@oceanhotels.net  20200219_162509Your rum cocktail is waiting for you in the lobby bar (above). Come check your group in today!

 

9781459739239

RIP-ROARING TALES OF A LIFE SURROUNDED BY MUSIC AND DARING ADVENTURES!

SKINHEADS, FUR TRADERS and DJs
An adventure through the 1970s

Book launch party at The Rivoli on Queen West, Toronto, this coming Sunday Sept. 10 @ 8pm

When I heard that tv personality and music media insider Kim Clarke Champniss was writing his autobiography covering his childhood and teen years in England and his 70’s adventures in Canada, I knew I would be reading much about my own history…but with just a few geographical differences. I was born at the end of 1953, a few months before Kim came into the world, so we were both exposed to the same popular music of the Brits and American rock-and-roll in the mid to late 50’s. But while Kim experienced the whole mods’n’rockers evolution in person, I would only hear about it from far off Australia to where my parents had emigrated in ’59. Unfortunately my family would end up way out in the bush, cut off from any form of entertainment other than 4 radio stations and two television channels that only broadcast from 11am until 10pm. Kim, as he tells it in his book, was right there at ground zero in London for the changing social moods and music styles, going from bovver boys to The Beatles. So it was with a touch of envy that I turned the first page…..

Champniss writes like Jackson Pollack painted: bold colourful strokes with trickles of familiar music history, lobbing in droplets of names that suddenly come back to me – Régine, Slade, Lyons tearooms and Marc Bolan. Then once the reader arrives with Champniss in Canada’s far north, his descriptions of living and working for the Hudson’s Bay Co in the isolated, snow-bound Eskimo Point during the early 70’s will have you pulling a blanket up around your ears – so cold, so windy and wild you can almost feel the biting gusts of Arctic air whirl around you.

The pages turn easily as the reader follows Kim’s journey back to civilization (Winnipeg?) then several road trips across the States and through Canada, with the music of the time playing in your head: glam rock, Motown hits then disco. His brief 1975 return to England plugged Champniss into the emerging sounds of new pop and rock music along with an increased social and political awareness – these were also the days of random IRA bombings and economic unrest as the European Common Market developed. Upon returning to Canada, Champniss soon found his calling as a DJ, working in top nightclubs around Vancouver and he enthusiastically shares his memories of the dawn of the disco era.

Apparently, our lives had intersected in Perth, Western Australia, my childhood home and Kim’s home for a short time in the mid-70s while waiting for entrance into the University of Western Australia (my alma mater). He and his (by now) wife Lily even lived close to where my family had once resided, the beachside town of Cottesloe. But Oz didn’t work out as expected and they soon returned to Canada’s west coast where Kim immersed himself even more in the music scene.  Rock, pop and soul would be joined by punk and new wave, and reading through the artists’ names Champniss notes, the clubs, the cities that gave rise to the new music, gives readers of a certain age that warm feeling of remembrance that sends one off to the basement to pull out the old vinyl and dust off the ancient turntable.

This book definitely leaves the reader wanting more…and fortunately, there is a lot more as Champniss ends this story just before he heads to Toronto to join the new music and video tv station that we came to know as MuchMusic.SONY DSCNot only is this an autobiography with exciting adventures we can relive with the writer, it is a great music history lesson to be shared with younger readers. I first met Kim when he had arrived in Toronto from Vancouver whilst hanging out at renowned music publicist Richard Flohill’s apartment in Cabbagetown. I remember thinking what a bright, energetic young man Kim was, full of music trivia and fascinating stories of his many adventures around the world. I cannot wait for the next chapter when I know he’ll have some great tales to share.

 

SKINHEADS, FUR TRADERS and DJs
An adventure through the 1970s
Published by Dundurn Press
200 pages, 29 illustrations, black & white
Available in Paperback $23.99 ISBN: 9781459739239
Or  eBook $11.99  ISBN: 9781459739253

Kim Clarke Champniss (a.k.a. KCC) is an award-winning broadcaster who was a popular VJ on MuchMusic and special assignment reporter for The NewMusic. KCC is also the author of The Republic of Rock ’n’ Roll. He lives in Toronto.

ABOUT THE BOOK
A true story of an adventurous pop-loving teenager who, in the early 1970s, went from London’s discotheques to the Canadian sub-arctic to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. His job? Buying furs and helping run the trading post in the settlement of Arviat (then known as Eskimo Point), Northwest Territories (population: 750).  That young man was Kim Clarke Champniss, who would later become a VJ on MuchMusic. His extraordinary adventures unfolded in a chain of On the Road experiences across Canada. His mind-boggling journey, from London, to the far Canadian North, to the spotlight, is the stuff of music and TV legends. Kim brings his incredible knowledge of music and pop culture and the history of disco music, weaving them into this wild story of his exciting and uniquely crazy 1970s.

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TALKIN’ MUSIC WITH LAURA ROCK

Move over all you insipid little girls with guitars…here’s the real deal: hard rockin’ singer/songwriter LAURA ROCK is heading back into the studio to record her 3rd album in as many years.1011097_570786989681039_626053128_nI met this talented lady a few years ago when she was launching her first solo album of pedal-to-the-metal, hard-driving contemporary rock music and she won me over completely upon first listening…I got hooked on her ballsy songs. But this lady is not just your typical “rock chick”; Laura is all heart and can frequently be found mentoring and encouraging young emerging artists, sharing her stories of performing live in clubs of varying sizes, recording studio protocols to dealing with dodgy club owners. This lady has been there, done that, written the songs…and she’s happy to impart her knowledge and expertise with those just coming up through the ranks.

Earlier this summer, Laura performed to a packed house at Toronto’s Hard Rock Cafe, proving once again that Rock’s Not Dead…. which just so happens to be the name of her current album and lead single! As she heads back into the studio, I sat down with her and asked a few questions…..

IMG_2559Where were you raised and has that influenced your music or performance style?
I originate from Newfoundland..let me count the ways that my home town of St. John’s has influenced me both musically & performance style!  Musically, growing up I was blessed with some great folk-rockers along with many other genres.  Newfoundlanders are know for being friendly and outgoing. Our storytelling abilities and sense of humor shines through – in the way we speak and in my case, write lyrics and sing.  The term “front person” comes to mind.  People say that my Newfie hospitality and genuine love for what I do translates well to stage.

Who were your musical influences?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. Don’t make me choose!! I mean it’s massive, there are MANY. Areosmith! Areosmith!! Areosmith!!! Did I say Steven Tyler? LOL!! Can’t forget AC/DC & OMG! Can you say Sammy Hager? Also Tom Cochrane,Kim Mitchell, Colin James, The Guess Who, Nikki Sixx, Eddie Veder, Dave Matthews, Matthew Good, Jane’s Addiction, MatchBox Twenty/Rob Thomas, Heart, Lita Ford, Holly Woods, Sass Jordan, Melissa Etheridge, Biff Naked , Allanah Myles, Holly McNarland, Mae Moore. And I can’t not mention my fellow Newfs Kim Stockwood, Ron Hynes, Great Big Sea, plus Hey Rosetta, Belinda Metz, Buffy Ste Marie, Joni Mitchell, Ricki Lee Jones, Joan Osborne, Pink, Chantal Kreviazuk, Van Halen, But seriously I could go on and on and on and….1907491_851190768307325_4821469725654246649_nDo you play any instruments and how do you compose?
My instrument is my voice.  Regarding composing, well I can hack a guitar but I’m not all that great.  For the most part, I am a lyricist. It all comes to me in waves…it feels like it’s channeled from somewhere else, I swear! I often hear guitar riffs or drum beats in my head but I am absolutely blessed to work with a fantastic producer, Brian Gagnon, who helps interrupt my ideas.  Sometimes I go in with the lyrics and he creates the music – sometime I add some musical ideas or sometimes he has the music and my lyrics are created afterwards. Sometimes it’s a simultaneous process.

Who has been your guiding light in the industry?
Wow, good question.  I think I have always followed my own heart, but one “guiding light” in particular was the late great Nik Beat of CIUT’s Howl! radio show.  Nik’s incredible belief in me and my music lead me to L.A. and many other places. He introduced me to so many talented people in Toronto that I otherwise would never have known.

Remind me of your previous albums and the hit singles off each…and haven’t you won some pretty awesome awards, too?
My first album was called Law of Attraction, which was released in late 2011 and my current album, Rock’s Not Dead was released towards the end of 2014.LoA_front_cover_450x385I’m happy to say that my music is played on many internet stations across Canada, the US and the UK – as I say: “all the web’s a stage”.  Regarding awards, well, I’m proud to mention that I was nominated for 6 HMMA awards in L.A.  (Hollywood In Media Awards) which has resulted in some amazing opportunities and business introductions for me. I was nominated for the following songs:
November 2014 Lightning
July 2013 Law of Attraction
Mar 2013 98.5
Jan 2013 Get Your Rock On
July 2012 Blindsided
June 2012 Light My Fuse

You’ve played some pretty great venues over the past few years….
I’ve played many venues in Toronto as both a cover band artist and as a original project.  Sadly, a lot of clubs have shut down in this city but more recently I played the legendary El Mocambo before it was sold and closed, and in June we did our official CD Launch for Rocks Not Dead at the Hard Rock Cafe.IMG_2608Can you tease us with a little news about your next album?
I’m heading back into the studio to work on my third album but I’m still promoting Rock’s Not Dead which I sadly had to put on hold due to the death of my mother, father & best fiend all in a very short span of time last year. But you know what they say….what doesn’t kill you makes you write more music!   So this next album is about love, loss, and the key phrase…Bait & Switch! 11412264_1594586234156065_8810531013978382576_oYou spend a lot of time mentoring emerging young artists, sharing knowledge about the business of making music. For you, what is the most rewarding aspect of that?
The most rewarding aspect of that is simply watching them grow as an artist.  After speaking with them about several subjects, particularly “critical opinions” – as you know, we live in a society that always has something to say about whatever we do. I always like to let young artists know that there will always be a critical opinion and I offer ways on how to deal with it, how to protect your creative ego.  Once they overcome this, they soar….that’s the fun part to watch.

In a city the size of Toronto where there are a lot of performance stages, why aren’t we seeing more accessible multi-genre music stars rising from the ranks? In other words, how easy/hard is it for young performers to play on a main stage AND make money?
The music landscape has changed drastically – it’s not just localized to the city you live in.  With access to the web, you are your own record company, your own manager, and this is the concept I try to instill in to younger artists. You can make money in the music industry if you’re motivated enough to put in time and effort into your art.  The simple fact is, if you love what you do, there are going to be hurdles in the way and you will have to compromise, especially when it comes to the financial part of the business.  Having said that, I think no one should play for free…know you’re worth and stick to it.10457525_10152983333693098_7303762277621657028_nAny ideas how we, the fans, can help improve the music scene and support the artists?
You can do this simply by buying their music online or showing up at live venues. At the end of the day, the music business is a business and everyone needs to make a living.

So what’s in the future for Laura Rock?
Music is a way of life for me, it’s not a destination…I try to live in the moment for the most part, because I feel so good making music…it’s like heaven on earth.  But having said that, I do aspire to write for other artists or help/mentor those who need a little guidance.  I love films so having one of my songs in a movie soundtrack would be the biggest dream come true!bg_lrock_splash

You can learn more about Laura Rock, buy her music and keep up with news on her new album and upcoming shows by visiting: http://lrockmusic.com/