OLD-WORLD STYLE
RENAISSANCE MAN

Boxer. Barber. Fifty-year fixture on Main Street Newmarket.

Everybody just calls him Joe. Joseph D’Agrosa was born in Potenza, Italy in 1936, the youngest of seven siblings. At the age of eight he started working in a barber shop sweeping floors and shaving customers with a straight razor.

“There were more shaves back in those days than haircuts,” Joe muses, “you couldn’t get razor blades.” He came to Canada in 1957 and in 1962 moved to Newmarket which was just a small town back then. “I opened my original shop with three chairs. We cut hair for a dollar back in those days. I used to box every weekend to help pay the bills. That’s why Monday was always my day off.”

Joe also played saxophone regularly in the Newmarket Band.

“I used to play professionally for a 160-piece orchestra in Italy, but here was just for fun—in the Santa Claus parade and such.”

As for how he became “the number one barber in Newmarket,” Joe simply says: “You look after the people, they look after you.”

And Main Street is looking after Joe’s legacy in his retirement. Long time friend and fellow stylist Dominic Prochillo —who opened on Main Street not long after Joe— has moved his salon, Continental Hair, south into Joe’s old location.

Many of Joe’s long-time customers still ask him to come to their homes to cut their hair. Now retired, Joe politely refuses them saying, “I want to be free. I want to work in the garden. I want to have some time to myself.”

No one can deny that at age 81, after 50 years cutting hair on Main Street, Joe has earned it.

NEW-WORLD STYLIST IN
GOOD COMPANY

Would you leave a successful business in a familiar city to take a chance on a dream? Theresa Kelly, owner of The Hair Company, did just that in 1997 when she moved to Newmarket from Ottawa to start her own business.

“I figured people living outside Toronto still needed quality hairstyling,” Theresa recalls.

She was really impressed with the charming Main Street shops: “There’s nothing better than when people get to come in off the street and meet the owner; that’s how I feel about my business.”

Originally from Montreal, her first Newmarket location was in the old King George Hotel: “It was the best building on Main Street at the time,” says Theresa. “Then one day in 2005 I saw a ‘for rent’ sign on this place; that’s when I came to our current location.”

To what does Theresa owe her success? “For me it’s people and it’s hair. I care a lot and I’m always telling my staff that you have to exude that passion and caring. It’s very different than going to a big box chain.”

With all the cool new shops, hip restaurants and exciting events, what do you think about the renaissance that is underway in downtown Newmarket? “I think it’s great. I love it,” Theresa exclaims, “and I feel like I’m adding to that.”

Theresa goes on to say she’s made great friends and “there’s definitely a nice feeling when you’re connected with other business owners.” That’s fine for business, but would she
recommend living in downtown Newmarket? “When you connect with your community and can just walk to get a coffee, a haircut, or a meal, there’s nothing better than that. We’re always in our cars. Maybe we have habits of going to chains because we know what to expect. But sometimes you step out of that comfort zone and it’s a little bit more interesting.”

Interesting, stylish, passionate and in good company.

TWO BOLD BAKERS TO
BUTTER YOU UP

Ontario’s Best Butter Tart. A bold claim. And true. Just try an award-winning tart from The Maid’s Cottage or chat with owners and sisters Debbie Hill and Pamela Lewis and you’ll be hooked.

Their mother began selling butter tarts on the front lawn before opening a small café on Main Street. Over time Debbie and Pam got involved and the business grew. In 2012, they opened their current tea room restaurant and bakery.

Founded on such old-school values as traditional European family recipes and high-quality baking from scratch, The Maid’s Cottage is, according to Debbie, “a truly local, Canadian, family-run business. We have generations of customers who come for their comfort food.”

“A lot of people feel like they’re coming home to Grandma’s house,” Pamela adds.

Clearly proud of their establishment and values, the ladies emphasize they’re not alone: “That’s what’s great about Main Street. There are practically no chains. 30 years ago, there weren’t a lot of places to eat down here. Then, about 5 years ago, the Town put in Riverwalk Commons, the splashpad, tore down the old arena and put in the Newmarket Community Centre.

That’s when you saw a lot of the great restaurants come in, and they’re all unique—I call it restaurant alley,” Pam says.

“There’s really good variety,” Debbie adds.

So how does it feel being famous for butter tarts? “It’s amazing how many people from Toronto who’ve had our butter tarts at Pusateri’s or at Druxy’s or wherever come up and say ‘wow, this is great!’” Pam replies.

Debbie adds, “they really like the small-town home cooking and walking around Fairy Lake; you don’t see that in a lot of places.”

Nor do you see such charming ladies buttering you up with their successful recipe of an English tea room, home cooked foods, baked goods and diet-busting butter tarts.

GROUNDED GASTRONOMICAL
GO-GETTERS

York Region’s best burger?

“Let’s do it.”

That’s how chef Tim Pettigrew responded when restaurateur Grant Buckley pitched him on creating unique restaurant experiences in Newmarket. “I used to have Grindhouse Burger Bar in downtown Toronto,” Tim explains. “We were wildly popular, we were very busy,” but facing a twenty percent increase in already high rent, Tim explains it was a nobrainer to partner up with Grant: “There’s no other place that I’ve seen— locally anyway—that has a historic main street. Toronto was so congested, then we looked up here where the local BIA doesn’t allow any chains downtown.”

The guys also looked at all the other new restaurant activity in Newmarket.

“Joia, the Italian restaurant that’s been in Aurora for 30 years is building a new 250-seat flagship location right downtown,” Grant says.

The Ground Burger Bar and soon-to-be opened SnackMrkt are the result of Tim and Grant’s mash-up which has “really been received well by all ages—from little kids to folks in their nineties.” Where Tim’s passion for unique culinary experiences meets Grant’s vision for downtown Newmarket, you end up at a truly hip yet thoroughly grounded place:
“It’s a destination. You walk down here, grab a coffee, grab an ice cream, shop, eat a burger, go home. In the summertime, this becomes a splashpad. And our farmers’ market is one of the biggest in Ontario. There’s so many events down here, it’s exciting times. It gives us the ability to showcase our vision that there is that old school, but there’s also this young crowd that wants change.”

Tim and Grant are nailing it with their vision, because young and old alike agree that Ground Burger Bar and SnackMrkt are helping York Region bust out of the box chains big time.

PIONEER FROM
NEWMARKET’S PAST

Thomas Jaffray Robertson was born in Dublin in 1841. He came to Canada with his family in 1847 where he eventually studied law, practicing in Napanee and Petrolia before setting up his own practice in Newmarket. He quickly became one of the strongest voices for incorporating the village into the Town of Newmarket.

A true visionary with an eye to modernization in the industrial age, Robertson played a significant role in bringing electric light to Newmarket, which made the small downtown literally a shining beacon in York Region. In establishing the town’s electrical power plant and water works, Robertson was instrumental in helping usher in a new era of economic development. As much as he loved Newmarket personally, Robertson knew that economic development required people, and those people would need somewhere to work. He convinced the Office Speciality Mfg. Co. from Rochester New York to locate its Canadian branch in Newmarket. Later, as a member of city council, he wrote letters to rate payers in the Newmarket Era so a by-law would pass which allowed the Davis Leather Co. to build the now famous Tannery in front of the old one, creating over 50 jobs. He also saw that the modern age would put new demands and require a different skillset from the next generation. In addition to establishing a free library system, Robertson was active on the board of Newmarket High School and convinced Pickering College to relocate to the area. From 1882 to his retirement from public life in 1905, Robertson served Newmarket as City Councillor, Mayor, and Reeve.

On November 13, 1917 Robertson received word that his only son, 33-year old Lieutenant Thomas Jaffray Robertson Jr., was killed on the battlefields at Passchendaele, Belgium. His heart broken, T.J. Robertson Sr. would pass away on November 19, 1917 at the age of 77. He left behind a legacy of dedication and commitment to Newmarket that can still be seen today.

CHAMPION FOR
NEWMARKET’S FUTURE

Jackie Playter has lived in Newmarket and worked tirelessly to promote the economic development of the downtown for the past several decades.

“When I came to Newmarket in 1967 there were ten thousand people and now there’s 93,000,” she says, “Main Street, which has been my life’s focus, has changed so much.”

Speaking spontaneously from the heart she exclaims confidently, “No one loves Main Street more than I do.”

Jackie promotes development in downtown Newmarket, “because if you have the heart of Newmarket you have to keep that heart beating, right? So you need development—you need people— done properly. And that’s why I’m so excited about the King George project…it’s perfect for downtown.”

Jackie sits on the Newmarket Downtown Development Committee, part of the Economic Development Committee of the Town of Newmarket. They have been active for the past ten years revitalizing Main Street through the Community Improvement Program which offers various incentive packages through the Ontario Government to entrepreneurs and independent business owners. Recounting a story from when she was dating her now husband (in 1967), she received a postcard from Scotland, one simply addressed, ‘Playter’s girlfriend, Main Street, Newmarket.’

“And it’s still that way. If someone were to send a postcard today addressed ‘Jackie Playter’ or ‘Glen’s wife, Main Street, Newmarket’ I would get it. Because downtown Newmarket still has that feeling. Downtown Newmarket is a great place to live. There’s no place I’d rather live; no place in the whole world.

It’s been the love of my life (don’t tell my husband I said that) [laughs].”

Sorry Jackie, but we’re pretty sure your secret Historic Robertson House, Main Street Newmarket is already out.

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