Over the years I have written often about the Leaside Business Park, its remarkable history, promise, challenges and importance to our community as a whole. But most importantly, about the entrepreneurs and their businesses that call Leaside home. With the recent, and hopefully ongoing reopening of things as they nearly were…I had the pleasure of attending the first Leaside Business Park Association (LBPA) event in more than two and a half years. Rubbing elbows with the businesses and organizations that care about Leaside’s core employment zone at the meet & greet, I couldn’t help being amazed at all the talent.
In addition to the local businesses that participated, our new MPP Stephanie Bowman dropped by as well as representatives from Metrolinx. But it was the presence of Leaside’s entrepreneurs with their can-do attitude and the creative, problem-solving energy they bring that bodes well for the park’s future success. One such Leaside-based business that always stands out to me is Amsterdam Brewery.
Perhaps it is the affable and generous nature of its owner Jeff Carefoote, or the fact that the LBPA meet & greet was hosted at the brewery, or maybe it is Jeff’s deliberate effort to engage the community by supporting so many initiatives we Leasiders care about (think of 2013’s Leaside Lager), or the recent fifth anniversary celebration of Amsterdam’s Barrel House, or maybe it was the July news that Royal Unibrew was buying the brewery for $44 million. Regardless, Jeff’s story of purchasing the brewpub in 2002, and then proceeding to build a successful business worthy of attracting international investment, is a testament to Carefoote and the team he’s put in place. The fact he chose Leaside as the home for his growing enterprise is the icing on the cake. When you get a chance to sit down with Jeff, you listen and learn!
Owning a business is like being a farmer…
On that note and with the permission of the LBPA, I am sharing a recent Q&A with Jeff (courtesy of the Leaside Business Park Association) as an introduction to a follow-up story about the Amsterdam Brewery that Leaside Life is keen to publish when Jeff and his leadership team can discuss their future and the opportunities they see.
Tell me a bit about yourself
Born and raised in Toronto, specifically Scarborough. I went to the University in Waterloo and studied at Wilfrid Laurier University; afterwards I attended Ohio University for a Master’s degree in business administration. When my studies were completed, I realized I liked two things: drinking beer and sports.
I worked in professional sports in Toronto for a couple of years and then joined Molson Breweries. In 1989, I moved to Reston, Virginia to work for Molson and subsequently to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work for the Miller Brewing Company. Later in 1998, I returned to Canada to work for Molson again and in the year 2000 decided to tackle the entrepreneurial life of craft brewing.
I have been married for a long time and have three daughters, two who work in the business with me and one who is attending school in the United States. We have been living just north of Leaside at York Mills and Bayview since 1998.
How did you start Amsterdam Brewery?
Since early 2002, I have owned Amsterdam; I purchased it as a brewpub on King Street West. Before my purchase, the Amsterdam was Toronto’s first brewpub, located on John Street, and it was established in 1986. We moved to Bathurst and Front Street for six years and then to Leaside in 2012. We added the Amsterdam BrewHouse at Queen’s Quay in 2013 and the Amsterdam Barrel House on Laird in 2016. This is the 35th year of Amsterdam doing business in Toronto.
I had watched the craft beer segment develop in the United States. I thought the two major brewers in Canada at that time were less attentive to consumer tastes and saw that as an opportunity to build a business. Amsterdam had built a decent reputation in downtown Toronto over 15 years and it seemed a good base to build upon so I acquired the business from the founder.
What challenges have you faced?
There have been numerous challenges but in Canada, we have a lot of reliable government support programs that have helped. As well, I have a very supportive board of directors. Recently, two of my daughters have joined me in the business. Owning a business is like being a farmer; there is always something you should do.
What do you enjoy about being in Leaside and the community?
Leaside is a great community, they tend to treat their own with care and compassion and it is a great thing. The community is growing very fast, and changing; but to me, it seems to be able to maintain its history and personality, due to the many people who dedicate themselves to the multitude of activities taking place. We are proud to participate in the events when called upon but it is the tireless work of many that makes it happen. It is a place where I am grateful to work and reside close by.
Any words of advice for the next generation?
I think three things are required for ultimate happiness. Your family, where you live and what you do. Working and living in the area have provided me with the ability to achieve all three, for which I am very grateful.
What is your favourite Amsterdam brew? Do you know successful entrepreneurs in Leaside? Do you know growing businesses that would benefit from locating to Leaside? Let us know at .
About the next LBPA event: the AGM will take place on Nov. 9th in person and virtually. Interested individuals can learn more and register to attend either online or the in-person event at the LBPA’s website (leasidebusinesspark.com).