“With new blood comes new ideas.”
So says Francis Gaudreault, the newly elected chair of the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (BIA). And when he says new, he means new. Gaudreault, along with two members of his executive committee, has no prior experience on the BIA, but he shows no sign of feeling intimidated.
“My goal is to bring more business and attention to this area,” he says.
He’s been doing that for years.
Originally from Nova Scotia, Gaudreault moved from Jasper, Alberta, to Toronto when he was 21. Within two weeks he got a job at Woody’s. “That was my first introduction to the Village,” he recalls.
He worked there for five years, during which time he earned a business management degree from Ryerson University. After graduating, he became marketing manager for the gay hook-up website Squirt. In 2010, while still working at Squirt, and at Woody’s part-time, he and his business partner, Steve Palmer, started the gay entertainment company Pitbull Events. Gaudreault was also co-owner of Fuzion restaurant and worked at other Village businesses, quickly becoming a staple in the Village.
This past October, he and Palmer opened a shop called The Men’s Room in the space above Woody’s.
That’s when the BIA came into play. The old board’s term was ending in December; as a Village business owner, Gaudreault was encouraged to attend the BIA’s annual general meeting. They needed new board members and he stepped up.
His election as chair, however, came as “a little bit” of a surprise to him. He attributes it in part to several new business owners who have big visions for the neighbourhood. “I think I was able to identify more with them,” he says. “It’s not easy. We’re one of the smallest BIAs with one of the smallest budgets, but we’re one of the most visible ones within the city.”
Despite a lack of funding, he commends the old board for their efforts. “The neighbourhood probably never looked better.”
Continued beautification and safety are on his radar, but he also has a set target in mind. “My goal is to really aim to push to turn the Village into an international destination,” he says. “There will be a lot of visibility in the neighbourhood this summer.”
In addition to Pride, which now includes two weekends and a week’s worth of activities, there’s the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. The BIA will team up with PrideHouseTO during the games, which, Gaudreault says, means five weekends of street closures as the neighbourhood bustles with events.
Between now and then, and beyond, Gaudreault and the BIA will have plenty to do, and he’s looking forward to it: “I’m really excited to see what we can do.”