Story Contributed by Aarti Sharma
A Story from the diary of the Storefront Window at Riverside’s Broadview Beauty Parlour:
I am the window pane at the Broadview beauty parlour, at 741 Queen St. East. I give passers a look into the hair salon run by George Iliadis, the seasoned barber of Riverside since 1964.
Caption: Me (the window) with George the Barber
For more than 55 years now, I have been the delighted onlooker to the transformation of the Riverside neighborhood – from a working-class, industrial hood to a trendy locale that now hosts award-winning restaurants, over 100 mostly small-independent businesses including eateries with diverse cuisines, retail shops with locally-sourced products, and many other stores and attractions. The Riverside BIA, one of Toronto and Canada’s first BIAs (then called the Queen Broadview Village), came along in 1980 and has played an instrumental role in the development of this area.
While the outside view of my world has witnessed many changes, the inside gives me an eye to my diligent, constant, George, a native of Greece who moved to Canada in 1963 at the age of 18. He reflects on his childhood days and says, “I have been working since I was 10 years old. After school, I would help my father cut tobacco in the farm. I often went to the mountains too, to cut wood for the winters. It was only in 1957 when my father suggested me to learn a skill, that I learned hairdressing as a 14-year-old apprentice in my hometown Agia Kyriaki, Greece.”
Since then George’s pair of scissors has been gliding through the hair of regular and new customers whom he delights with what he calls as ‘top service at half the price.’
George featured on the Riverside Quarterly Magazine in Spring 2006
He is called as a kind guy by many, not just because of the complementary gifts like pens, lights, key chains and Christmas calendars that he gives to his customers but mostly because of the interesting conversations that he strikes with them. He likes to talk about sports, weather, history and geography. Some customers even get treated with some Ouzo (a Greek liqueur).
George’s wife worked with him for 25 years, I must admit that I could have used a small couple-fight- of course, for entertainment purposes only. Alas, the couple disappointed me on that front.
Nevertheless, our famous George offset that by giving me the exclusive and close up view to the many honorably savage chess games that he has played with his customers or with any itching pedestrians who were up for a game. Some people have even stopped to watch and take pictures.
Do not overlook that I mentioned ‘famous’. Besides his barberly skills, George is also popular for acting parts in 14 movies & commercials including My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Cinderella Man. I remember the time when TD bank approached George for renting this parlor for a commercial, and ended up putting him behind the camera. Now he is an ACTRA member. His seven grand children from his three children feel very proud and say, “Grandpa is a movie star!”.
When George is busy acting, he puts up a ‘Gone for acting’ sign at the parlor.
The idea of retirement seems indigestible to George as he likes being busy. Sitting around makes him stressed. Even on slow days, he comes back and forth to me to look outside or to make small talk with people in the neighborhood. However, the straight out of a movie COVID-19 lockdown was the longest break George has ever taken in 55 years. I can bet that his hands were itching to get back to the business of hair and chess .
As George says, “Many businesses have come and gone but I am the constant here as no one does it like George the barber”. He is happy to be back to work now and I am enjoying my unwavering inside view again. I am positive that the footfall in the area will get back to normal soon. I am hankering for some chess games!
Georgios (George) Iliadis gets his hair cut by his wife of 50 years Kalliopi, councillor Paula Fletcher, and his daughter Helen Konstantinidis during a celebration to mark 50 years of business at his barber shop
The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.