|Stephen Bronfman is big on family. And having roots.
Both things are fundamentals of living for the soon to be 50-year-old businessman, philanthropist and father of four.
"I could never live a transient lifestyle" said Bronfman, the head of Claridge Inc., a family-managed private investment company. "It's important to have roots and tradition. For me there is no other way." the Bronfman name goes way back in Montreal.
In 1924, his grandfather, samuel, founded Distillers Corporation, which later became seagrams Distillery, which at one time was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world. It was, for decades, the family business until it was sold in 2000.
Samuel and his wife, Saidye, raised their family in a sprawling home in Westmount. It's where Stephen's father, Charles, grew up with siblings Edgar Sr., Phyllis Lambert and Minda. For Stephen, that house holds great memories of time spent with his grandparents.
After Bronfman's grandmother died in 1995, the family was unsure of what to do with the house.
"I practically grew up in that house, and right up until my grandmother died I had a standing weekly lunch date with her there every Tuesday."
Several years ago, Bronfman and his wife, Claudine Blondin, decided to bring it back into the family. they bought it and overhauled the property, building it the most ecologically "green" way possible, not surprising given Bronfman is on the board of the David Suzuki Foundation, a leading Canadian environmental foundation.
"It's kind of fun that my kids, Samuel and Olivia Saidye, are running around the same rooms Sam and Saidye once lived in all those years ago."
His kids aren't the only ones running. Bronfman is a busy man: "Every day brings new challenges, and when I go into the office I never know what can happen, I love that."
In addition to running the investment company, he sits on several boards and is heavily involved in philanthropic work.
Not to mention raising four children: three girls and a boy, all between the ages of 2 and 8. "I work hard," he said, "but you have to have fun in life and play. It's about balance, right?"
He finds that balance in Montreal, which he calls one of the best cities in which to live, though much of his family has left. only his mother and Aunt Phyllis still live here. "It's interesting," he explained. "My mother was born in New york and lives here, but my father was born here and lives in New york." His sister lives in Los Angeles.
If Bronfman were to live elsewhere, it would probably be New york: He knows that city just about as well as Montreal. "I know New york better than Toronto. I'm very comfortable there," he said.
But he's not going anywhere.
"Why would I leave such a beautiful, safe city? We have everything here: good friends, beautiful museums, gorgeous parks, vibrant nightlife, great food."
Not even the political scene makes him want to bolt. As he told Maclean's magazine several years ago when discussing sovereignty, "that's the nature of the beast. "There's always going to be ups and downs. It's what makes Quebec an exciting place to live."
There is one thing missing here, though, he lamented: "A professional baseball team." It was a sad day for Bronfman when the Expos left. He was an avid Expo fan. In the reception area of the art-filled downtown offices of Claridge Inc., is a sculpture of a baseball game in action.
Bronfman spends a lot of time travelling for work and pleasure.
One of the most comforting things he sees on his way back home, from whatever direction he's coming in from, is Montreal's Oratory.
"I know I'm home when I see it" he said.
As a kid, Bronfman used to skateboard and play baseball in the parking lot of the oratory. "I grew up behind it."
Other iconic places for Bronfman?
"The Julep, for sure. Seriously, that's Montreal. And Beauty's. There's nothing more iconic than that."
And what's a classic Montreal moment for him? "Eleven p.m., traffic snarled on René Lévesque because it's game 3 of the opening series of the playoffs."
Because he travels so much, when he's home he loves to relax and spend time with his family and friends.
They always see Cirque du Soleil when it's in town and wander around the Old Port or head to the jazz festival with friends.
"I love the simple things in life," he said.
He calls himself an art junkie, and has varied musical tastes. "I just don't like classical music; the symphony is not for me."
Rather, you will find him taking in shows like My Morning Jacket at the Metropolis, Jack White at the Olympia, or the Eels at the Corona.
And his taste in food, like most things, runs the spectrum as well. He's a fan of chef David McMillan and frequents Joe Beef and Liverpool House. He also loves Milos and the Satay Brothers, the stand at Atwater Market.
And then there's Pho Lien, a small neighbourhood Asian restaurant across from the Jewish General Hospital. "I've spent a fair bit of time there with each pregnancy." The memory brings a big grin.
Guilty pleasures? "Well, I enjoy a good nip of Crown Royal, for sure - I mean come on, it's in my blood - and a juicy fat smoked meat. I'm a big fan of Lester's."
An avid cook (he loves to eat, but stays trim and fit with regular workouts) he's s just started hosting his own Iron Chef competitions with a close group of friends.
"I made a winning chicken tagine, a recipe I learned from a Moroccan neighbour."
Bronfman readily admits he loves to play. He's as comfortable shopping at Off The Hook, a mecca for skateboarders and tattooed hipsters, as he is at L'Uomo Moda for the corporate look.
"We have so many glorious parks here, we have to get people outside to play again." -Stephen Bronfman
And he made sure to introduce his children to sports including soccer, swimming, skiing and tennis.
"Kids have to get out and play, scrape a knee, enjoy the environment," which is why The Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Foundation is working on The Nature Project, an initiative to preserve green spaces and get families outside to enjoy the beautiful communal green spaces we have in our city.
"We have so many glorious parks here, we have to get people outside to play again."
Growing up in Westmount, Bronfman didn't spend much time in the country, so he loves the fact he's able to introduce his children to life on a farm. He has two country homes, one in Mont Tremblant and a farm in La Conception, where the kids can run and play in big fields, and pick fruits and vegetables from the organic garden. There are also chickens and rabbits and cows.
"I love nature, and wanted them to experience that kind of thing, to ride horses and be outside and enjoy the great outdoors."
Bronfman says he is living the quintessential Montreal life: He's married to a francophone, raising their children to speak both languages and speaking "franglais" at home.
Sunday is "eggymixup" morning. Bronfman mixes up a concoction of egg, buttered toast and bacon, something his father used to make for him.
"The kids love it and so do I," he said.
Tradition: It runs deep in the Bronfman clan.
By June Thompson