Anyone who grew up in Toronto pre-1970 remembers a time when the milkman delivered fresh milk to your door, and when the local knife sharpener (proper term “cutler”) would drive through the neighbourhood ringing his bell to let you know he was on your street and could sharpen knives, tools, mower blades, and scissors! It’s a unique and niche business, but a very handy one. Who doesn’t need a good sharp knife in the kitchen? How long has it been since you had a decent blade? The local cutler is a rare sight these days, but there is a new guy in town if you need one.
Enter Nathan Hunter. Nathan and his young family live in North Leaside. Nathan was a successful club/bar/restaurant owner when the pandemic hit in 2020. He owned and managed vintage arcade bars Tilt and Zed*80 on the Danforth, and concert venues such as 3030 on Dundas West. “I had a good thing going, but when the pandemic hit, it was game over.” He saw the writing on the wall for the restaurant and bar industry and decided it was time to get out.
Having often decried the lack of a good knife sharpener in his restaurant kitchens, he made the leap to provide that niche service for businesses and homes alike. It was also his way of helping his former colleagues and fashioning a business that was based on reusing and refurbishing tools rather than discarding them. Hunter took courses in professional blade sharpening both here in Toronto and in, of all places, Saskatchewan. “I studied traditional Japanese hand sharpening and then expanded and built my own system around those techniques. Now, I use all power equipment,” he says.
Then he went looking for the perfect mobile shop. What better vehicle than an old ambulance? Why an ambulance, you ask? Well, apparently you can get one on Kijiji for a reasonable price, and they come pre-fitted with storage banks, electrical and battery packs. This very enterprising man designed his own logo, refitted the ambulance and set up a website for bookings. The Blade Medic was off and running.
He gets most of his bookings through word of mouth, and has an active social media profile. He does pop-up locations around the city and custom visits. And he believes in giving back. Having his first child during the pandemic has changed his world view and he’s all about giving back and making people happy.
He does cross-promotions with other businesses where he’ll park outside and offer deals. Free coffee outside a coffee shop, or he often partners with hair salons.
He’s passionate about community gardens and growing local food. He gives 2% of his profits back to community gardens and often pops by the Thorncliffe Community Garden and sharpens their tools for free.
A typical Leasider might ask if he sharpens skates. Hunter laughs and says “I don’t do skates, it’s too short a season, and there’s a lot of other people doing it. It’s different equipment and I take a lot of pride in the specific part of what I do.”
As we spoke, Hunter sharpened my ancient kitchen scissors. I got them back newly aligned, razor-sharp and they can cut a single-ply wet kleenex! – apparently the litmus test for a job well done.
Oh and he does house calls in Leaside. Only Leaside. He will pick up your blades in the morning and return them end of day, a special deal for us locals.
Hunter is charming and clearly very smart and entrepreneurial. He comes across as amiable, centred and easygoing. His pride in family is obvious. And he is making a difference in his own small way. He thrives on being completely in charge of his own gig with no rent to pay (or landlords) and he can go where he chooses.
Business is going well in what he calls “the never-ending pandemic.” “I’m just trying to roll with it right now. Get through this year being a Dad (to a newborn). …Just happy to work.” Find Blade Medic on the web at: blademedic.ca