On The Park’s return to glory
The foyer at On the Park.
On the Park is offering breakfast on April 29, 2011, so that guests can view a broadcast of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The event takes place at 6 a.m. in the ballroom.
TORONTO—There’s no Inn these days, but On the Park Events and Conference Centre is thriving as a venue for conventions, fundraisers, weddings and “Bar/Bats” (Bar and Bat Mitzvahs).
In many ways, since it reopened in late 2009, the venue called On the Park has proven true to its storied roots.
Once again, the On the Park is an important centre for the Jewish community, and once again it is hosting the rich and famous—most recently Tzipi Livni, Israel’s leader of the opposition.
Inn on the Park could be called the original Four Seasons resort property. Built in 1963, by Issy Sharp, it was set among 600 acres of parkland in what was then North York farmland.
From the beginning it was a success, attracting famous guests including The Queen Mother, The Queen, The Rolling Stones, Nikita Kruschev, Guns N’ Roses, Henry Winkler and Glenn Gould. In 1996 the hotel was sold to a Vancouver businessman who was never able to recapture its former glory, and it gradually slipped into disrepair.
In October 2004, it was purchased by Bryan Rowntree’s holding company, Rowbry Holdings Limited. Rowntree demolished part of the hotel and built two car dealerships. Lexus on the Park (formerly Scarborough Lexus) and Toyota on the Park (formerly Yonge Lawrence Toyota) opened in early 2009.
The property also includes a tower with 128 adult lifestyle rental residences for seniors to be known as Residences on the Park.
On the Park Events and Conference Centre consists of renovated events and meeting rooms, including an large, all new kitchen boasting the latest and best in commercial kitchen equipment and facilities. It now operates the Oak Room, Trillium Room, Harvest Room, Seasons Room, Terrace Lounge, and the beautifully restored, 10,000 sq. ft. Centennial Ballroom and foyer.
On the Park GM John Neretlis has been in the military and worked as a butcher and in human resources—an unusual background for a GM and one that he feels gives a fresh perspective.
Award from JOIN
Dining in the On the Park kitchen are, l to r, John Neretlis, GM; Sheldon Stuart, sous-chef; Rebecca Hodge, business co-ordinator; Alastair Gray, executive chef; and Dennis Kucherawy, marketing.
In late November, the centre was named 2010 Small Business Employer of the Year by JOIN (Ontario’s Job Opportunity Information Network).
“On the Park recognizes as we do that many people with disabilities have the motivation, qualification and skill to be valued employees,” said JOIN chair Deepak Soni at the award presentation.
“As industry leaders, general manager John Neretlis and his staff continue to show remarkable initiative and foresight. As an outstanding corporate citizen, On the Park is a shining example of what can be achieved.”
Neretlis notes that one in seven of the general population has a disability. On the Park beats this ratio, with one in six employees having some type of disability.
“That’s our ratio now. If every business could do that, there would be no high unemployment rates among the disabled. We have waiters, general duty, marketing and reception [employees]. Some set up rooms and run the coat check. Every part of the organization is represented,” he notes.
Free space for major Jewish fundraisers
Earlier that month, On the Park announced the donation of the complete use of its venue to various philanthropic Jewish organizations including B’nai B’rith, the United Jewish Appeal, the Jewish National Fund, the Weitzman Institute, the NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) and the Israel Cancer Research Fund.
For Neretlis, this makes good business sense. “For every one night we give, they book two more. They book rooms on nights the [event venues] are not in use, and provide their own Kosher catering. The events are for better than1,000 people, and it’s great advertising to those 1,000 potential clients.”
Operating next to two car dealerships has its advantages as well. Toyota on the Park and Lexus on the Park have much better food than the stale coffee with creamer served at many dealerships, since On the Park executive chef Alastair Gray’s team cooks the meals. They are served in what’s billed as a “gourmet catered restaurant with convenient business lounge,” which also boasts $5 lunch specials.
Neretlis says, “this enables us to employ a full-time kitchen brigade.”
There are other synergies as well. For example, when a wedding was cancelled and the deposit was non-refundable, they were able to negotiate a transfer of the money to the dealership to pay for service to the client’s father’s Lexus.