Balancing a business and family during the year is tough, but during the holiday season it gets tougher.
The smell of genuine Italian leather creates the aromatic atmosphere of Cleptomania Shoes. Behind the massive window display, among the leather goods is Rocco Marzano, holding a shot of espresso in his hands. He has operated his store at the southwest corner of Weston and Finch since 1974, maintaining the quality and durability expected of authentic Italian leather. The store is usually closed on Sundays, but for the holiday season Marzano keeps it open everyday. “Everybody keeps it open, so do I now,” he said.
He strives to find balance between family time and his store. He stays open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but to keep with tradition, “I go home and cook,” Marzano said.
On Christmas Eve he will make spaghetti with lobster sauce. He is very specific about his dinner because it is an, “Italian tradition to have only seafood on Christmas Eve.”
He is adamant about eliminating meat from the diet for this occasion.
“If someone doesn’t like seafood they eat something else, but no meat, that’s for the next day,” he said.
The family may either attend festivities at their usual Catholic Church or just spend the night together he stated.
“Together we wait for Babbo Natale (Italian Santa Claus), and open gifts right after midnight,” Marzano chuckles.
After the clock strikes 12 it is Christmas, and there is too much excitement in the air to sleep prior to opening gifts.
Christmas Day is the time for a feast at the Marzano household. He wakes up Christmas morning to his traditional shot of espresso and begins preparing the food for dinner. There are usually traditional Italian beef dishes such as ragu, and cannoli. The meal will typically end with a desert such as a simple cake or tiramisu. After having a delicious day off, he is back behind the register of Cleptomania Shoes, smiling and serving his clients.
A few steps away down Weston road are the walls of Lloyd’s 1hr photo shop. Entering the store, one will see Te’Shawn Dwyer stand enthusiastically ready to greet the client. The walls are covered in beautiful wedding and family photographs.
Dwyer is the son of the owner, taking care of the business while his father runs a few errands. He sits behind the desk in a bright red hoodie drawing incredible characters preparing to go to ComiCon at the Metro Toronto convention Centre on Dec 15.
As a freelance artist, Dwyer helps his father manage the store at times during the busy traveling season. The holidays consist of clients constantly coming to get passport photos developed, before heading to the airport and catching their flight.
With this in mind the store stays open until the night of Christmas Eve.
The Dwyer’s offer customers the development of “last minute passport photos” before closing the shop and heading home with the hopes of spending Christmas Day together.
Similar to Marzano’s Italian dietary traditions Dwyer and his family have a feast filled with seafood. But it is not limited to Christmas Eve; they have seafood dishes on Christmas Day.
A typical dish would be a king fish that has been marinated for two days in various spices to ensure maximum flavor. The drinks generally consist of Eggnog and “ Sorrel, similar in taste to ginger beer” Dwyer notes.
Both these business owners only take Christmas Day off, maintaining their constant service to their customers, sacrificing valuable time with their family. Prioritizing their clients by keeping their business open all year round exemplifies their dedication to the community.