Fred Connors’ big city dreams

By Brandon Young

Fred Connors strikes a pose
Fred Connors strikes a pose (Brandon Young / Peninsula News)

What do you do when your hair salon meets café meets art gallery is a local success? If you’re Fred Connors, you take it to the the Big City.

“Anyone who’s involved in any creative industry probably dreams of doing what they do in a city like New York,” says Connors, owner of FRED. “I’ve been travelling to New York City very regularly throughout my entire adult life and I’ve always wanted to be part of the scene there.”

FRED is already up and running on the corner of Agricola and North street. As soon as you enter you can feel the vibes of a trendy metropolitan hotspot. Contemporary furniture, minimal design, and ambient music all come together to create a sense of place that is refined, cool, yet cozy. To the right, furniture for purchase; the middle features a café that serves up espresso beverages in shiny metallic cups, and to the left is the hair salon where Connors is finishing up with one of his many clients.

Weaving a dream

Despite his exuberant personality and big city dreams, the 48-year-old entrepreneur was born in Middleton, Nova Scotia, to a military family that lived in a few cities across Canada, but he says that he was mainly raised in Dartmouth. Since graduating from Dartmouth High, Connors has been devoting his life to becoming a success.

“I’ve always been one of those people who is obsessed with learning, having, achieving, and experiencing more today than what I had yesterday,” explains Connors. “That has been my operating style my whole life.”

And what a life it’s been. Connors’ résumé includes work as a hairstylist, make-up artist, makeover expert, self-esteem coach and much more. A good part of his working life has been spent in New York City, which makes his expansion into The Big Apple seem like a natural progression.

“I realized there is an opportunity for me there to be as great as what I am here,” says Connors. “I need to be in a community where there are 12 million people instead of 20,000.”

No lost hair here

When asked about how he’s planning to deal with the day-to-day pressure of owning a trendy Manhattan business, Connors shrugs it off.

“I was shooting a television show all over the country and running a business full-time, and nobody noticed,” he says. “I’m able to handle a high level of busy-ness. I don’t feel that work provides me with stress because I absolutely love everything that I do.”

FRED on corner of North and Agricola Street
FRED on corner of North and Agricola Street (Brandon Young / Peninsula News)

The right treatment

In 2012, Connors ran for mayor of Halifax. Although he didn’t win the election, he says that what he’s best at is people, something that he feels will make his New York City spot stand out when it hits the scene.

“There are a lot of people who deliver skill and talent – the expected level of customer service,” says Connors, referring to other competing salons’ service. “No one has ever delivered hospitality.”

“Everyone has value. You’re not just a customer, you’re a somebody,” he says. “The way we do business here is not just about delivering service, but about building relationships. Being successful isn’t just about having the edgiest or coolest spot, it’s about being able to differentiate yourself on every level from anybody else.”

Combing attractions

Connors feels that the success of his Lower East Side location is inevitable.

When it is a success – if is not part of my vocabulary,” says Connors. “My goal is to be able to take all of the expertise that I have developed both inside and outside of the beauty industry and share it with people on a much bigger scale.”

Café at FRED (Brandon Young Peninsula News)
Café at FRED (Brandon Young Peninsula News)

You better work

An advocate for a strong work ethic, Connors says that he hopes that he can be an inspiration for up and coming entrepreneurs from Halifax. Giving examples such as Ellen Page and Sidney Crosby, he touches on the international success of Nova Scotians who are “awesome at what they do.”

“Being successful really is about committing yourself to being the best you can possibly be,” says Connors. “I hate people who say ‘oh that’s good for Halifax,’ I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with that. If it’s good enough to be successful in the world, then it’s good enough for Halifax. When we see that happen it opens doors for other people to see themselves as successful in their community and the world.”

True to his roots

However, it’s clear that no matter how big he makes it in America, Connors knows where his roots lie.

“I look at the way people live in a city like New York,” he says. “They live in tiny apartments, they can’t take a stroll on the beach, they don’t have the flexibility to have joy and leisure in their lives the way that it is possible here.

“The thing that keeps me grounded is the fact that I have a home that I love; I actually have two of them, I have a family that I absolutely adore, I have friends that uplift and empower me … I will not have any of that in New York City. I will have a hair salon, a busy schedule, lots of meetings, and a very small apartment. The thing that will keep me grounded is I have a life here that I love, and when you have a life that you love, what more can you ask for?”

Spring? Bring on the shopping and cleaning

Spring has officially sprung, and for some of us, so has the rejuvenation of our dwellings.

 

Although our recent episodes of snowy weather would have us believe otherwise, spring has indeed sprung; and for some of us, so has the rejuvenation of our dwellings that is closely intertwined with the season.

Katie Brousseau is in the process of cleaning and re-decorating her house and is ready to invite the season into her life.

“I think it’s super exciting,” she says. “I love having that kind of fresh start in my house. I don’t like ever having a messy house, but I feel like in the spring you’re able to open up the windows and freshen up the house. It feels clean and fresh.”

Brousseau is planning to do a series of things to freshen up her home, including purging her closet of clothing that she doesn’t typically wear every day in preparation to make a donation to the Salvation Army, something she usually does in the spring.

“Obviously it [clothing] has to be in good condition, I’m not going to donate garbage, but good quality things that I won’t get much use out of.”

In addition to de-cluttering, Brousseau has some cleaning to do. She pulls out her recently purchased Swiffer WetJet and shows off her cleaning skills.

“I know it’s a bit of a silly thing to get excited about, but I can’t wait to use it,” says Brousseau with a chuckle.

Out with the old

After a short cleaning session of her sand coloured laminate, Brousseau is ready to replace some of the old with the new. She heads to town for a bit of shopping at Thornbloom, a local home decor store.

“I’m looking for a couple of things to liven up the place,” says Brousseau.

One of the employees of Thornbloom, Melanie Stetson, cannot wait for the cold weather to subside and says that the business usually picks up around this time of year.

“I think for us [Nova Scotians], where we are, it’s the weather thing,” says Stetson. “People want a change even leading up to the season and sort of hope to bring it in a little sooner.”

What’s in?

Easter decor
Easter is a sure sign of spring. (Brandon Young / Peninsula News)

Stetson takes a minute to provide a few tips and tricks for spring renewal and also shares some of the season’s trends.

“We’re already seeing lots of different colours. People want colour because it’s been so dark,” says Stetson. “And nautical is always great for spring and summer, it just works for our climate and area.”

As for re-organizing, she says that simply by removing everything from a room and putting back only the essentials is a fresh way to go about spring home renewal.

Candle holders in the forms of jars, Easter rabbit figures, and bowls ideal for salads are a-plenty. However, Stetson has her eyes on something quite nautical.

“I’ve got my eye on a quilt set up there,” says Stetson, pointing. “It’s got little sharks all over it and I think that’s hilarious and adorable. Sometimes that’s all you need.”

After a browse of the store, Brousseau decides upon a couple of the jar shaped candle holders.

“They’re super cute,” says Brousseau. “I’ll think they’ll fit the simple feel that my house has going on.”

The drop

Brousseau browsing
Brousseau browses for something new for spring. (Brandon Young / Peninsula News)

Brousseau then makes her way to the Salvation Army thrift shop located in the south end for a clothing donation drop off, and after a bit of browsing, takes some time to reflect on the beneficial aspects of spring de-cluttering.

“I really think it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” she says. “Look, I’ve cleaned my house and it smells amazing, the clothes that I don’t really wear are going to a good cause, and I bought new stuff to make my house look on trend for the season. There isn’t really a downside to this at all.”

Syphilis and Grindr are a match

Syphilis is still on the rise in Halifax, and according to Capital Health, dating apps such as Grindr are to blame.

By Brandon Young

Is Capital Health correct in blaming Grindr for increased syphilis cases in Halifax?

Capital Health office in Burnside
Capital Health office in Burnside (Brandon Young/Peninsula News)

What’s up? Syphilis cases.

Syphilis is still on the rise in Halifax, and according to Capital Health, dating apps such as Grindr are to blame.

Capital Health stats indicate that the app is No. 2 on its list of locations (both online and physical) where men report having contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

Holly D’Angelo-Scott, an epidemiologist with Capital Health, says the syphilis outbreak can be traced back to the year that Grindr stepped on the scene. According to her, there have been 202 cases of infectious syphilis since the outbreak began in July 2009. Only three of them are women.

Pointing the finger

Source: grindr.com
Source: grindr.com

D’Angelo-Scott addresses the reason why Capital Health blames Grindr for rising syphilis rates. She says patients being tested for STI’s have reported meeting their sexual partners on mobile devices. Of the top five locations for men to meet other men for sex, four of them are websites or mobile apps.

“That’s why we say there is a link,” she says.

D’Angelo-Scott says the rising number of syphilis cases may reflect the fact that more people are informed about the outbreak and are coming forward to be tested. She adds that education surrounding the infection is helping more and more people to get tested and cured while the infection is still in its early stage. In fact, 49 per cent of cases are being caught in the first stage of the infection.

Let’s talk about sex

When it comes to syphilis and dating apps like Grindr, it’s what the users make of it.

“I’ve been using it for about two and a half months and I have very mixed feelings about it,” says Joseph Lajeunesse, a user of the application. “Some days I feel like it’s a very useful app, but at the same time I feel it is not used properly.”

While it is good news that people are being tested, Lajeunesse believes that simply discussing STI’s with prospective sexual partners before arranging an encounter via mobile app can go a long way.

“I think the best time to talk is as soon as possible. Obviously you’re not going to want someone to give you their medical records right away, but not being aware that you have a certain STD might not only be dangerous to your partner, but also to yourself.” he says.

Your business is your business

Lajeunesse believes that testing is crucial, but cites internalized homophobia and fear of being identified as gay as possible deterrents for homosexual men seeking testing.

D’Angelo-Scott, on the other hand, says that workers at sexual health clinics couldn’t care less when it comes to someone’s sexual orientation.

“We don’t really care who sleeps with who,” she says. “It’s no business of ours. We only need it [information] to stop the outbreak.”

Putting it to the test

Ultimately, D’Angelo-Scott says that testing and treatment for syphilis should be relatively easy for most people and that the negative long-term effects of the infection can be avoided.

“Get tested, get treated, and the cure is easy,” she says.

#Incomingfax: Halifax joins a worldwide community of independent gaming

Halifax has its very own Winnitron – an independent arcade game.

By Sophie Allen-Barron

A collaborative effort between friends several years in the making lands downtown Halifax with its very own Winnitron – an independent arcade game.

At first glance, the HalifaxMachine5005 looks like a classic two-player arcade machine. However, you won’t find any Super Mario Brothers on it. Winnitron is essentially software that supports independent games, housed in a classic arcade shell.

There are now Winnitrons located worldwide, with each machine logging play times on their website. Winnitron gets its name from Winnipeg, where Marlon Wiebe started the project with a few friends. He credits nostalgia for the social gaming era as the inspiration for the project.

“I had good memories of having my own NES, the four-player thing, and having my friends sleeping over and playing games endlessly.”

Wiebe, 32, came to Halifax last August, yet is already part of a close-knit gaming and programming community. Wiebe was already well acquainted with Allan Lavell.

Lavell, the impetus behind bringing the HalifaxMachine5005 to life first met Wiebe at a game development conference in San Francisco. Lavell was in the process of building the machine’s body at the time, but only ended up programming the game a few months ago before officially launching it last Friday.

“Basically it’s just a four-player smash-‘em-up. It’s designed so that four people can play on a two-player arcade machine. You’re dodging and jumping over obstacles like holes in the track and things like that. The whole object of the game is to get to YOLO mode,” explains Lavell.

YOLO, or You Only Live Once, is a motif in the game. One of the four characters is even named Hans Yolo.

“You have to be in YOLO mode to win,” says Lavell.

“Like in life!” his friend pipes up.

Lavell, 24, began programming at age 11. After graduating from Dalhousie University with a degree in math and computer science last May, Lavell founded his company Thinkrad. Being able to combine his love of programming and art means that he’s living the dream.

“The way in which I’ve been collaborating so far with Thinkrad is that I’m retaining full aesthetic control over everything,” says Lavell.

“I’m at this point where – I’m 24, I’ve seen enough things, I’ve been in enough bands, I need to have that hardcore level of control.”

Lavell is lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of like-minded people, but recognizes that his hometown of Halifax is still working towards supporting indie gaming. Halifax’s many schools contribute to the pool of talent – the Nova Scotia Community College even offers a concentration in Game Design and Development. Still, he would like to see some more opportunities in the city for independent projects like the HalifaxMachine5005.

“The idea is to foster that indie community,” he says. “In my opinion Halifax is still finding its feet, there’s a lot of programmers, a lot of game developers, but it’s very corporate.”

“Being indie is not about trying to make a living, it’s about trying to make art.”

Despite taking the project seriously, Lavell and collaborators have infused the HalifaxMachine5005 with a healthy dose of humour. Take the frequent references to YOLO mode for example.

At the end of the day, the emphasis is on the social connection.

“We just had one stipulation before we let somebody have the launcher, and that was that we just wanted to make sure it was going into a public space,” says Wiebe.

The HalifaxMachine5005 is to be set-up at Stillwell bar on Barrington Street sometime in the next few weeks.

“Drinking and playing video games is awesome. I just wanted to have it in a place like that. Bring it back to going out, games as a good social activity instead of something that’s confined to a basement.”

For updates on the move into Stillwell go to thinkrad.net or follow @allanlavell and @mr_m_wiebe on Twitter.