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Toronto Through the Eyes of Kyle Maling

"You fucking terrify me" were the first words Kyle Maling heard when the then-aspiring publisher debuted his magazine idea to friends. Not exactly encouraging.

The year was 2003. The location was Vancouver. And the concept was Highrise: a magazine for the modern day Renaissance man, one that would cover the latest in contemporary living, style and design culture. It wasn't the concept itself, however, that had naysayers trying to dissuade Maling and business partner Dylan Crawshaw from giving publishing a go, it was their business strategy.

"[Our friends] had a point," Maling chuckles today. "We were going national right off the start with 35,000 copies and using extremely high quality paper, [while] being independent and self-financed. Sometimes, I look back and think, 'Wow. There is a fine line between taking a risk and being a complete fucking idiot.'"

The success of Highrise, however, has saved Maling from a fate in the latter camp.

With three years under its belt and the quarterly's winter 2006 issue hitting newsstands in December, it would appear that Maling--Crawshaw has since left the publication to found Cheek Weekly--has beat the odds. And he is looking to repeat his go-big-or-go-home recipe for success again. Maling is giving his recently launched design house, Double Vision Design, five years to become a leading force in the Canadian design and advertising industries. "DVD has all the necessary tools and skills to design pretty much anything," he boasts.

While Business Logic may roll its eyes and tsk-tsk the young entrepreneur for being overly ambitious, unrealistic and foolish even, Maling remains unfazed. They can say whatever they want, he figures, but he's going to prove them wrong.

Indeed, the co-founder of Highrise has always followed his gut instincts. For proof, look no further than the Hamilton, Ontario, native's schizophrenic CV. After a hazy more-booze-than-books undergrad at York University, Maling flitted from odd job to odd job, toiling anywhere from snooty golf clubs to small-town Money Marts to dingy drinking holes. After a few years of dilly-dallying from coast to coast, the business and political science grad decided it was time to settle down and get a real job. The insurance field seemed like a decent way to pay the bills and so that's where he wound up.

It was late one night, however, over a few bottles of red wine and some scotch, when Maling and Crawshaw revisited a magazine concept the friends had dreamed up once upon a time.

"It was just drunk talk at the time. I had money and stability, and they were good," Maling recalls. "Later, I get home and hit the sack. At 4:00am, my cell phone rings. 'What the fuck? Hello? Dylan?' I groan. 'Dude, I can't stop thinking about the magazine idea,' he says. 'You serious?' I ask. 'Because if you are serious, really serious, I will quit [my job] tomorrow.'

"He was, so I did," Maling grins.

Though they were Vancouver residents at the time, Maling and Crawshaw packed their bags for the business and publishing heart of the nation, arriving back in Toronto in 2004. Today, although Maling calls Parkdale home, you won't hear this West Queen West dweller waxing about the artsy vibe many of his neighbours rave about. He holds no such pretensions.

"[I chose the neighbourhood] for the cheap rent. Price Choppers, the beer store and the liquor store [are all nearby] and I like back patio spying," he confesses. "The neighbourhood is good but going downhill fast. Too many try-hards are moving into the area, forcing the drunks and crackheads farther west."

Come again? Though we at blogTO are no realty experts, we never realized that "crackheads" ranked among "close to the TTC" and "parking spot included" as key property selling points.

"[Highrise is] a design magazine featuring a mix of high and low. My partner was the high and I was the low," Maling laughs. Indeed, despite what the glossy magazine with high society ambition may suggest, its publisher is, at the end of the day, a more beer than Belvedere kind of guy. Opting for the Wheat Sheaf instead of Ultra, and Toronto Island instead of media industry shmoozefests, Maling has preserved a down-to-earth nature that is oft-quixotic when it comes Toronto's image industries.

It's not surprising, then, when he reveals his ten-year plan: "It's always been a dream of mine to build my own house and start an organic farm. So, in 10 years, I hope I am sitting I my self-built house on my organic farm in Northern Ontario or in the BC islands with a couple of kids and a golden retriever or two. Sounds pretty good to me."

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Kyle Maling on Toronto.

My favourite place...

...for breakfast: On weekends, it has to be the grilled fruit breakfast at Musa (847 Dundas W, 416.368.8484). It's the best, though I can never remember the real name of that damn thing. And, not only are the waiters there entertaining, they are also amazingly creative photographers. But I'm looking forward to trying the Growler, where the old Banzai Sushi (134 Peter, at Richmond) was, when it opens this week.

...for lunch or dinner: If it's between Sunday and Tuesday, and there's a Leafs game on, it would have to be the Wheat Sheaf (667 King W, 416.504.9912). My dad took me there when I was a kid and we were on the way to a Leaf or Jay's game. They let kids drink back then, didn't they? The Dumpling House (328 Spadina, 416.596.8898) is awesome as well - check out the pictures of Paul Martin on the walls. Kultura (169 King E, 416.363.9000) has also been amazing. Great appies and great interior design.

...for drinks: Again, Wheat Sheaf is awesome for a beer and the Leafs. The Hemingways (142 Cumberland, 416.968.2828) patio is great in the summer and, closer to home, I enjoy the Rhino (1239 Queen W, 416.535.8089).

...for dancing: Bird (503 College, 416.323.3957). It's small and tight, but small and tight is good...

...to unwind: Toronto Island.

...to get inspired: Anywhere and everywhere is inspiring if you keep your eyes open. I also love my bedroom... there is either someone in there or a lack of someone in there to provide a whole shitload of inspiration...

Everyone should know about: I hope I don't ruin this, as it is so damn quiet, but I'd have to say Toronto Island. For under $10, you get a round trip ferry ride to any of the islands. Once you are there, you get this sudden feeling that you are out of the city. There is so much to do... you can lie on the nude beach and tan your ass, play frisbee golf, bike or blade for hours or just smoke some grass or drink a beer and watch the sun set. The view of Toronto from the island is amazing and really makes me appreciate the fact that I work for myself and, on any given day, I can just take off and get away from the craziness of Toronto. The islands are truly Toronto's hidden gem.

Biggest pet peeve about Toronto: Cold winters and dirty snow!

An ideal day in Toronto would consist of: Wake up around 10--hopefully there is someone beside me--shower and jump on our bikes and head to Musa for a little breakfast. Lots of coffee and water will shake off the hangover. After breakfast, ride down to Kensington Market to pick up some cheese, fresh fruit and a baguette. Hit the Chinatown LCBO and grab a bottle and a few cans of beer. Then bike down to the ferry terminal... Toronto Island here we come. First up, a round of Frisbee golf, stopping at nine for a little mid-round smoke--good for the concentration--before finishing up. In a perfect world, there would be an easier way, but it's back to the mainland to jump on the Hanlan's Point ferry for a little lunch on the beach and maybe a short nap. When the sun starts going down, it's back to the mainland and to the Sheaf for some half-priced wings and a few pints. Finally, back to where it all began... the bedroom.

Finish the sentence "Toronto is...": like anywhere else in the world. It is what you make of it. Yeah, the winter is cold and shitty, but you've got to get out! Give the waterfront skating rink a go. It's damn cold but the cold makes that hot chocolate (and Baileys) that much better.

Highrise's fourth issue of the year launches in December. The magazine is also currently accepting applications for interns and writers. Please contact kmaling@highrisemag.com for further details.

Double Vision Design currently specializes in print and logo design, but possesses a range of design talent that can taken near any job (or so they claim!) Inquiries can be directed to kmaling@highrisemag.com or boliver@highrisemag.com.


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