Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP Are Lighting Up Riverside for the Holidays

This year again the Riverside BIA is proud to partner with long-time BIA member Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP, along with new co-sponsor Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX, to present Light Up Riverside – the area’s annual tree lighting and cheer event, inviting the whole community! The fun festivities are happening on Saturday, November 25, 2017, from 5pm to 7pm in the Mustard Seed Courtyard at 791 Queen E – just steps west of the Baird MacGregor offices.

Originally formed in 1979, Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP eventually relocated to and purchased their Riverside home at 825 Queen Street East in 1988. This fall, the company completed and publicly celebrated extensive improvements to the face of its beautiful vintage building, which was built in 1915.

The Baird MacGregor team celebrates at their ribbon cutting event for extensive building facade improvements, Oct 19/17.


The company has over 30 years of history supporting individuals and the community. At the helm of the company is President and CEO Philomena Comerford, a woman with an outstanding career and a proven leader who is equally compassionate about her employees as she is about her clients.

The brokerage is 85 members strong, with many longtime employees who now have the opportunity to have their children work alongside them. In fact, an example of this familial workplace relationship is Philomena Comerford herself and her son Dylan Luft.

We interviewed Philomena to find out more about the firm’s long time ties to Riverside, what the company stands for, and why supporting Light Up Riverside is important to them.

Tell us what you’d like the neighborhood to know about your company:

Baird MacGregors Insurance Brokers LP are not the traditional insurance broker. The firm has a long track record of success through caring for its clients, strong family ties and taking the time to have fun. Employees at Baird MacGregor have to be people persons. This is furthermore exemplified in Baird MacGregor’s long tradition of giving, whether it is supporting Light Up Riverside, to clothing drives, Interval House or the Fred Victor Centre.

You’ve been in this neighbourhood for nearly 30 years – what’s made your firm stay here in Riverside?

 As an east-ender myself, much like many of the associates at the firm, Riverside has always felt like home and from the start it suited the firm’s ‘outside of the box’ character. Originally, Riverside was a rougher neighbourhood but we saw its potential as a place that was changing for the better and we were right. Today, Riverside is a vibrant, colourful and artistic neighborhood that has an eclectic feel to it. It’s a bit of an oasis outside of the city. The area is convenient considering its closeness to downtown and major  highways so it was not a difficult choice to settle here.

Finally, we have invested a lot in the neighbourhood, and last year our building (825 Queen Street East) turned 100 years old –  it has become an important part of our identity. This past month we cut the ribbon on our extensive “awning project” rejuvenating our vintage building’s facade. With a $100,000 investment from us, and a $12,500 grant from the City of Toronto, we have helped enlighten Riverside’s street scape with our new lighting, awnings, windows and our art deco entranceway, which was designed, built and installed by my talented brothers.

Baird MacGregor President & CEO Philomena Comerford (centre) with local Councillor Paula Fletcher and Riverside BIA Chair Mitch Korman at awning project ribbon-cutting on October 19, 2017


Why did you decide to sponsor Light Up Riverside 2017? How does it connect to Baird MacGregor’s values?

 Light Up Riverside is all about family, fun and warmth: virtues that Baird MacGregor values very deeply. The event is an opportunity to combine some of our favorite things about the season with the aspect of giving, making it an enjoyable time for the community and for us. Sponsoring the event again this year continues in our tradition of giving back while being able to take part in the festive ceremony and meet the community.

Sketch of Baird MacGregor’s offices by CEO Philomena Crawford, who is also an artist(!), 1989.


What is a fun fact people may not know about Baird MacGregor Insurance LP?

 One of the more unknown parts of our firm is the 1950s-themed diner as well as the gym on our second floor. The diner is complete with leather booths, a jukebox and lunch counter, and serves as employee lunchroom and party venue.

What is your favorite part about the work that you do?

 The relationships we build with clients, that is: supporting people in times of need, being of value to them, and earning their trust. The feeling of helping others is unmatched, and being able to do that must be part of your DNA in order to work here.


A BIG THANK YOU to Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP and to Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX for co-sponsoring the Light Up Riverside 2017 festivities! Let us know you’re coming, join in the fun and meet our sponsors.


Light Up Riverside Gives Back: Welcoming Donations to Nellie’s!

Light Up Riverside, the Riverside BIA’s annual holiday event, will once again enliven the community with a tree lighting, photos with Santa, live choir music and lots of cheer! The fun festivities are happening on Saturday, November 25, from 5pm to 7pm in the Mustard Seed Courtyard.

This year, donation items will be welcomed for local not-for-profit Nellie’s, in support of their mission “to operate programs and services for women and children who have and are experiencing oppressions such as violence, poverty and homelessness”.

Nellie’s is currently supporting a number of immigrant families with infants and toddlers, and is most in need  of baby formula, baby shampoo, baby wipes, baby cereal, gift certificates (e.g. Walmart) and cash donations. Everyone is welcome to bring their donation items to Light Up Riverside from 5pm-7pm or you can always donate online.

Let us know you’re coming to Light Up Riverside!!

A BIG thank you to our 2017 Light Up Riverside co-sponsors, Baird MacGregor Insurance LP and Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX, and to Fontbonne Ministries for hosting again in the Mustard Seed Courtyard.

Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX is Helping Light Up Riverside This Holiday Season

On November 25th, Light Up Riverside, the Riverside BIA’s annual holiday event, will once again enliven the community with a tree lighting, photos with Santa, live choir music and lots of cheer! The fun festivities are happening on Saturday, November 25, from 5pm to 7pm in the Mustard Seed Courtyard.

This year the Riverside BIA is proud to work with event co-sponsors Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX and Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP. It’s fitting that Light Up Riverside is once again happening at 791 Queen E, right beside the local RE/MAX offices and just steps west of the Baird MacGregor offices.

Patrick Gillis and Dianna Kennedy of Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX, Light Up Riverside 2017 Co-sponsors (Photo courtesy of PawelecPHOTO)


Dianna and Patrick have strong ties in Riverside, with a combined 48 years experience in the area’s real estate market. They have a lot of enthusiasm for how the neighbourhood has changed and grown.

We sat down with the dynamic team of Patrick Gillis and Dianna Kennedy to get to know them better, and their connections to the Riverside neighborhood:

What do you love about Riverside-what makes this area unique?

 Dianna: My father owned a textile business in the neighbourhood so I know it well from that connection. Aside from the art, festivals, history and architecture, I feel that Riverside has a strong charisma which comes from the neighborhood retailers. It’s infectious and you just can’t help but be caught up and want to be a part of it.

Patrick: I know this neighbourhood inside out, including the streets and laneways. I visited the neighbourhood as a teenager and I’ve seen the changes in the Queen/Broadview area. I’ve always thought Riverside would really explode since it’s situated just east of the downtown core and the DVP. Today, the neighborhood boasts a 24-hour streetcar, original brick buildings, cool shops and restaurants, all of which make the community unique. Even in the last 10 years, such a change has happened, and the area has an amazing future in store.

Why did you decide to sponsor Light Up Riverside 2017 and how does it connect to you?

 Dianna: We want to make a difference, whether that is through supporting local businesses or sponsoring events. It’s an extension of all the volunteer work we do in our own personal time. We do business in the neighborhood and want to give back.

 Patrick: Christmas is one my favorite times of year and to support this event helps celebrate this special time even more. We’re here to help people, and we want to give back through this event.

What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?

 Dianna: My nickname is Dee Dee – my father called me that as a kid and all my friends and family call me that. My license plate is DeeDee, so you’ll always know where to find me!

Patrick: I’m known as the “Monopoly King”- I am very good at the game. My kids have really learned how to strategize against me.

What’s your favorite thing about the work you do?       

Dianna: The people that I meet are so different and come from all walks of life.  I love that I get to help change lives.

Patrick: It’s exciting to be a part of the process of helping people though some of the biggest decisions of their lives. My friends become clients and clients become friends.


A BIG thank you to our 2017 Light Up Riverside co-sponsors, Gillis & Kennedy RE/MAX and Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP, and to Fontbonne Ministries for hosting again in the Mustard Seed Courtyard. 


Find out more and let us know you’re coming to Light Up Riverside!

Park your Kids in Toronto’s Riverside Neighbourhood Any Day

Riverside, along Queen Street East, just steps east of the Don River and Toronto’s downtown, has certainly evolved over the years into a super family-friendly neighbourhood. You can tell just by the strollers everywhere, especially on weekends, that this east Toronto ‘hood is a place to play and grow.

“Riverside is like this perfect little pocket in the city,” says local mom, Cindy Wagman.

Along Riverside’s Queen Street East there is no shortage of shops, restaurants, and drop-in centres that cater to the wants and needs of parents and their little ones. Prohibition Gastro House (kids can eat for $5 on weekends) and Lan Vietnamese ($6 meals for kids daily, dine-in only) are just a couple of the kid-friendly spots to chow down.

At Queen East and Grant, Little Peeps, a neighbourhood staple for the past 10 years, offers a wide array of chic baby and kids’ clothing and environment-friendly products.

“I’ve been here five years and there are a lot more parents strolling up and down Queen Street,” says Little Peeps staff Justin Dahl.

A few doors down, BRIKA specializes in hand-made kids toys, clothes and keepsakes among other home decor items. In the summer, ice cream at Sweet Jesus is not to be missed! Then there’s  Smash Ping Pong where cool kids have birthday parties.

Smash Ping Pong


Oma Chiropractic & Wellness Centre has no shortage of supports for the whole family – from pre-natal education to babies (check out their Riverdale Yoga Babies), children and beyond – Oma is right at Queen St East and Munro, just steps east across the bridge from Toronto’s downtown.

“It’s still urban and you have access to incredible food and shopping on Queen…but it’s also full of families with children of all ages,” says Cindy. “We know all of our neighbours, are active in the local school and there are parks on practically every corner.”

Probably more than anything, parents love the parks here in Riverside. Just steps from Queen there’s De Grassi Street Parkette on Cummings with state of the art playground facilities, there is Joel Weeks Park (with a splash pad in warm months) and gorgeous greenery, Jimmie Simpson Park and Rec Centre, and McClearly Playground (built in one day by 500 volunteers – check out the cool backstory!). This doesn’t even include the slides, monkey bars, and sandboxes in the yards of all the local schools.

De Grassi Parkette


Playground at Joel Weeks Park


McCleary Playground


“There are literally four different kids parks within a five-minute walk from my front door,” says local dad, John Davies.

Adding to the neighbourhood’s family-friendly qualities is The Ralph Thornton Community Centre, including the Queen/Saulter Library Branch and the South Riverdale Child-Parent Centre, all at Queen and Saulter. John Davies says it’s been fantastic, especially in the early years.

“When my wife was on maternity leave she would stop by there with her daughter and meet other new parents, and it helped her not feel so alone during the year away from adults,” he says.

In addition to after-school programs and March Break camps, the Ralph Thornton Community Centre itself offers a special childcare service every Sunday. SUNDAY ESCAPE allows parents to do whatever parents do while their kids aren’t around while kids enjoy fun activities, including special theme nights, crafts, and movie nights.

“As the holiday season approaches, more and more parents are taking advantage of this opportunity to escape and shop or the other things that are hard to do with children underfoot,” says Ralph Thornton executive director John Campy. Parents are also invited to take advantage of 20 percent off their meal at a participating local restaurant through this program.

Beyond that, the Riverside neighbourhood and BIA put on all sorts of family-friendly events throughout the year, in partnership with local businesses and organizations. Some family favourites are Light Up RiversideRiverside Eats & Beats Streetfest and Riverside Halloween – all of which have free live music, kids activities, treats and more!

Aden Moir, right, and Ethan Nutt play with the Christmas tree lights during Light Up Riverside – this year on Nov 25th


“You couldn’t ask for a better place to raise kids,” says Heather Conway. “The drop-ins, many parks, community centres, restaurants and neighbourhood activities – there’s always something to do.”

Mom Dawna Dingwall adds, “We’ve never regretted our choice to buy a home here, especially after our kids arrived.”


Karen Lloyd is a writer, photographer and website designer in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood. This blog is part of the series giving you the inside scoop on  Riverside, Toronto. Read other blogs in the series: Riverside PatiosPlaces to Stay in Riverside, and Brunch Spots


Riverside Businesses Shine again in NOW Best of 2017!

This year, Riverside businesses racked up 14 nominations as part of Now Magazine’s Annual Best of Toronto awards. We’re so proud to have many of them in our ‘hood:

*Tabule – Best Middle Eastern Restaurant and Best Falafel
*Ruby Watchco – Best Prix Fixe
*Arts Market – Best Unique Gift Store

*Freedom Mobile – Best Cell Phone Provider
*La Carnita – Best Taco

Also, a special shout-out to runners-up, St. John’s Bakery (Best Bread), Waxon Waxbar (Best Beauty Spa), and Pulp Kitchen (Best Juice Bar).

Thanks to all the readers who voted and see you around!