The Chemij Family Passes the Keys to the Blue Goose Tavern

Blue Goose Tavern in Toronto's Lakeshore

Daniel Bartchouk for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The Blue Goose became crowded as the tavern filled up with people, life-long members and new visitors alike, for the customer appreciation celebration on September 16, 2018. The Chemij family, long-time owners of the tavern have decided to pass the keys to the next owners. The buyers will continue to carry on the spirit that the Blue Goose has built for sixty years.

I had the great pleasure to talk to Terry Chemij, and in our conversation he spoke about the history of his family, his experience with the UNF, and the legacy of the Blue Goose.

Hi Terry, thanks for talking with me.

No problem.

Can you tell me about your family history?

My mother’s father first immigrated from Ukraine when she was about ten. He got a job building the Trans-Canada Railroad for a wage of twenty-five cents a day, and then brought the rest of his family from Ukraine. As a teenager, my mother started working at Tip Top Tailor’s on Lakeshore as a seamstress just before the war. She settled in the Etobicoke area and has been there ever since. My father came to Canada before the war.

How did you get started with the Blue Goose?

My father bought this business in ’58. He had owned a grocery store before that. I guess it was always a dream of his to own a bar, so he bought the building and converted it into his own pub.

So you inherited and been running it ever since?

Well, we ran a couple hotels as well. When I twenty-seven, my family bought a business in the east end of Toronto, across the street from the race track at the time called the Orchard Park Tavern— which was licensed for about a thousand thirty five people.

Wow. Does your family still own the business?

Yes, After the race track closed down, we converted it to a hotel. It’s a Days Inn now.

The Blue Goose celebrated customer appreciation day recently, can you tell me about the tavern’s history?

My brother Jerry Jr. used to run this place but he passed away twenty four years ago. Heart attack…

I’m sorry to hear that.

It’s a small community. Everybody knows everybody. I have three generations drinking here. Grandfather, son, and grandson.

It’s like the movies.

(*laughs*) Exactly, it’s like Cheers. No aggravations. It’s a real, small town pub.

So it’s got spirit.

The Stanley Cup has been here four times.

Wow.

Brendan Shanahan of the Red Wings, current president of the Leafs, brought it here the first time he won it, and then Dave Bolland brought it here three other times. Shanahan’s mother actually still comes in sometimes. It’s really something special. People have met here, married here, and we’ve had people’s wakes here. We also support a lot of community endeavours.

So you’re very involved with the community then?

You have to give back. We support the people who have supported us.

Absolutely. What does the rest of your family do?

My oldest oversees traders at a firm downtown Toronto. Catherine works at Metro— she’s a floral designer. I have twin boys, one went to Uganda as a missionary and now works for World Vision. His twin brother is an urban planner and works for a big company that has many properties focusing on upgrades.

Definitely opposite sides of the spectrum there. It’s interesting that they’re twins too, they couldn’t be more different.

One twin went to Uganda and the other went to Kuwait, one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the richest countries in the world, where Starbucks cost more than gas (*laughs*). My oldest son wanted to run the business, he changed his mind— that’s when I decided to sell.

It is my understanding you have been supporters of the UNF for quite some time.

My whole family. When I was about eight or nine, I started out at the UNF college in Spadina, my parents were members there. I would go to dancing lessons on Saturday mornings. I was a camper and then counsellor at the UNF’s Camp Sokil, up north in Hawkestone, Ontario.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today.

My pleasure, take care.

It’s more a thank you, than a goodbye. Maintaining the Blue Goose and building a community around the tavern has been no easy feat for the Chemij family, but the Chemij’s are confident its time the torch be passed on to someone else to carry its legacy.

Daniel Bartchouk is this year’s winner of Ukrainian Credit Union’s New Pathway Journalism Scholarship

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