Canadian Immigrant | August 11, 2021
Meet Sam Mizrahi – the mastermind behind ‘The One’, Canada’s first supertall building (an occupied structure that reaches over 300 metres). Located at the country’s important Yonge and Bloor intersection in Toronto, when completed, this will be the tallest building in Canada (CN Tower will still be Canada’s tallest structure).
Mizrahi’s journey in Canada began when his family first visited from Tehran, Iran, in 1976 to see the Montreal Olympics and fell in love with the country. They decided to immigrate when he was a young boy.
“My parents felt the underlying currents at that time in Iran, and the possibility back in 1977 for what became the actual reality of the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution and felt that for us as a young Jewish family, we would have a better life here in Canada,” says Mizrahi.
Like any other immigrant family, they had to learn to adapt to their new environment. “The early years were challenging for me and my parents, not knowing the English language fully, but we learned quickly,” he says.
At age 16, Mizrahi started on his path to entrepreneurship. “I started buying and selling batteries and blank audio video cassettes while I was still in high school. It was a way for me to make extra money,” he says.
Parallel to his electronics business, he started rezoning and development work but was hit by real estate recession and market downturns of 1990-1992.
Mizrahi then moved to Los Angeles looking to start a business in an industry where he could harness technology and bring better environmental systems, similar to what he had done with the electronics business. He started Dove Cleaners, a successful upscale dry-cleaning company that he then brought back to Toronto and took public on the TSXV.
Eventually, Mizrahi sold his interest in Dove Cleaners and, in 2007, decided to focus fully on real estate development.
“I wanted to bring the same technologies such as ISO 9001 and processes to construction and development that I had learned in my prior businesses,” he says. “The main underlying ingredients were taking care of your customers and to achieve excellence and exceed expectations in the products and customer experience.”
Thus started his journey with Mizrahi Developments a well-known name today in the Canadian luxury condominium marketplace.
In 2014, Mizrahi bought the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor for $300 million and, after a three-year process of gaining proper building approvals, began construction in 2017. Once completed, this 85-storey building at 1 Bloor Street West will be Canada’s tallest residential and retail tower.
Mizrahi says that all his enterprises have had something in common. “What was unique in all of my businesses was that I was always serving and started companies that served a niche market. A market segment that nobody really was competing in or providing the products or type of services.
“At Dove Cleaners we served a high-end, detail driven, first of its kind and best in class in Canada, environmentally friendly cleaning systems, and an attention to detail like no other in the industry. Nobody had served this market at that time and [it] included valet services and the first of its kind of internet order and tracking back in the late ’90s and early 2000s,” he says.
“At Mizrahi Developments, when I first started the company, I was building luxury mid-rise buildings that were too big for the small builders and developers and too small for the established builders and developers,” says Mizrahi, referring to the vacuum that existed back in 2010.
“Then came The One Development, which served the exact opposite side of the real estate market sector, but again served a niche market. The first supertall tower in Canada that nobody had yet developed or built, or envisioned in Canada,” he says.
As it nears completion, he says, “I feel incredibly proud and grateful. It’s incredible that the collective vision and support of the City and all of our stakeholders made The One possible.”
Behind his success
Mizrahi attributes his success to many factors. “I do not believe there is a single reason or ingredient. One needs a lot of forces to come together to create success, and success is never easy. But I believe for my own personal success, there are two of them. One of them is passion and the second is those I surrounded myself with.”
Passion, he says, can take you through challenging times by providing the perseverance to push forward. “I think challenges are the test and the ingredient that allows success to happen by holding a mirror up to oneself and asking how badly you want this to happen, and passion provides the energy to get through these obstacles.”
Mizrahi has made an effort to associate with people who were older than him, with more experience. “This way one can know their knowledge and experience at a younger age and be able to use it now and do something great with that wisdom, as opposed to later.”
Failure is not an option. Challenges to me are the rites of passage. Everyone who achieved any level of success at anything that one does, must confront and conquer the challenges that life presents. It’s a part of life.
He says that for him, “Failure is not an option. Challenges to me are the rites of passage. Everyone who achieved any level of success at anything that one does, must confront and conquer the challenges that life presents. It’s a part of life. It’s the only way that one can grow. That’s really the main job of an entrepreneur, to solve for the challenges that are presented and overcome them, so the world becomes better and so much more interesting.”
What guides Mizrahi in life is his philosophy: “I want everyone that comes into contact with me or my company to feel that by knowing me or us, they were better off.”
At the end of the day, Mizrahi says that what sustains him is his family. “My wife and children. I love to experience life with them and to explore new places and new experiences together.”
Mizrahi is also very active in the community. As a philanthropist, he has supported a diverse range of charities in health care, the arts and the communities in which his company is active. This includes building the Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre on a philanthropic basis, serving as a board member of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and the B’nai Brith of Canada, a non-profit organization that promotes tolerance and human rights around the world.
Being the product of two cultures has impacted Mizrahi in very positive and rewarding ways.
“I was able to bring the best elements from both worlds/countries and cultures together. I am so proud of being a Canadian born in Iran. The world today is so much more beautiful in so many ways because of how we have brought the best of different cultures together into one.”
Words of advice
It’s only appropriate to ask Mizrahi for real estate advice: “Buy any real estate you can when you have the opportunity to buy it,” he says.
“Only sell the real estate when you have something better to purchase with it, as it will continue to always appreciate over time, and it is the best hedge against inflation.”
He says that COVID has provided many lessons. “In regards to real estate, COVID has taught us how valuable outdoor real estate space is.”
Mizrahi’s advice to newcomer and immigrant entrepreneurs is: “Get involved in the community as quickly as possible when you arrive into a new country. By getting involved, you automatically have the community help you find new opportunities and contacts. Success is found through the people that surround you.”
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