Old Mill Toronto owner Michael Kalmar says goodbye to ‘a magical, beautiful place’
Party held to celebrate outgoing president and VP; new owner Frank De Luca promises a ‘seamless transition’
Old Mill Toronto is under new management. A reception was held in former owner Michael Kalmar’s honour Thursday evening to celebrate his 24-year contribution to the Toronto landmark. He is pictured here, at left, with new owner, Frank De Luca, a long time Etobicoke resident.
Family, friends and colleagues gathered Wednesday evening at the Old Mill Toronto for a final farewell party to bid adieu to its president Michael Kalmar and VP of finance Blain Parsons after more than two decades owning and operating the century-old landmark.
The iconic restaurant, hotel and banquet complex on the bank of the Humber River has been sold to a property management group directed by Frank De Luca, a long-time Etobicoke resident.
There was lots of reminiscing at the reception, held in the Old Mill’s Guildhall Room, July 23, that featured none other than acrobatics, even a mime, who welcomed celebrants at the hotel’s front entrance.
Those closest to Kalmar wouldn’t expect anything less to celebrate a man who is described as the life of the party.
“It’s better than a wedding,” Kalmar quipped, “because I know everyone here.”
After partaking in appetizers and beverages, guests were treated to a trip down memory lane through stories shared by Kalmar and Parsons’ long time friends and coworkers, as well as Kalmar’s son.
Natalie Bauer, Old Mill Toronto’s director of marketing, communications and events, called Kalmar a “fabulous leader, an extraordinary person, who I think is quite awesome.”
“I’m sad because when I think of the Old Mill, I’ll think of you. You’re one of the best mentors I’ve ever had,” Bauer said.
Catering manager Helen Weech expressed her mock frustration at Kalmar’s departure.
“I was supposed to retire before you,” she pretended to scold.
Wheech recalled when her office was situated directly below Kalmar’s and all the times she had to bang on the ceiling because it sounded like he was having a party. At the podium, Weech told of Parsons’ John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever impersonation, which garnered laughter from her audience.
Kalmar’s son, Lorne, took a turn behind the microphone to share memories and express gratitude and pride for his father.
“I grew up here, running around. We consider this a second home,” Lorne said of the Old Mill, standing beside his two sisters, Rachel and Alana. “Even if it took our dad away from us a bit, he made up for it with free buffet food.”
He added, “This is quite emotional. I’m so grateful for all you’ve done. I’m so proud of you, dad.”
The Old Mill’s heritage and its integrity will remain, vowed new owner De Luca, who celebrated Wednesday evening, but chose not to speak, making sure the spotlight remained on Karlmar and Parsons.
De Luca stressed the change of ownership will be a “seamless transition” in a statement.
Recalling his many years with the mill, Parsons said, “It’s been a rewarding and wonderful journey.”
“I can honestly say, every morning when I came in here, I felt refreshed, invigorated. It’s a magical, beautiful place,” he said.
Where does one begin when trying to say thank you and goodbye, mused Kalmar, as he expressed his appreciation for the Old Mill’s management and staff. Kalmar paid tribute to its founder, Robert Home Smith, and his predecessor William Hodgson. He didn’t get emotional until acknowledging his late father, George “GK” Kalmar, with whom he purchased the Old Mill, in 1991. The duo would go on to expand the Old Mill to include a spa and hotel.
By Lisa Rainford