Rally for Go­rilla Cheese owner

Restau­rant owner get­ting help af­ter can­cer di­ag­no­sis

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - NATALIE PADDON npad­don@thes­pec.com 905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec

When one of their own needs a hand, Hamilton’s culi­nary en­trepreneurs step up to lend it.

That’s been the case for Graeme Smith, one of the founders of Go­rilla Cheese, who was di­ag­nosed with Stage 4 oropha­ryn­geal can­cer at the base of his tongue in Fe­bru­ary.

A crowd­fund­ing cam­paign has been launched to help sup­port the busi­ness and its 46-year-old owner through his treat­ment. By Thurs­day af­ter­noon, al­most $3,400 had been raised.

A fundraiser fea­tur­ing a spe­cial menu, games and face paint­ing is be­ing held this Sun­day at the Go­rilla Cheese restau­rant on Ot­tawa Street North.

“I was re­ally touched by it,” said Smith. “It kind of showed the char­ac­ter of Hamilton busi­ness own­ers.”

Smith, who started Go­rilla Cheese in 2011 as a food truck with a part­ner af­ter be­ing laid off from his job with U.S. Steel, was de­ter­mined to keep work­ing de­spite un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy ev­ery three weeks and ra­di­a­tion treat­ment from Mon­day through Fri­day. But three months ago, he had to “hand over the reins” to girl­friend Andi Nis­bet and long­time staff af­ter a cou­ple week­long hos­pi­tal stays made him re­al­ize “I can’t do ev­ery­thing.” (Smith and his part­ner split in 2013).

“I’m re­ally lucky to have her … and a good staff that picked up where I left off,” Smith said.

Smith plans to be at Sun­day’s event, dubbed the Ham­mer­town Throw­down to Smash Can­cer. The fundraiser is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Cake and Loaf Bak­ery, Go­rilla Cheese, Jonny Blonde Food Truck & Kitchen, Pokeh and MeatVen­tures.

“It all stems from the small busi­ness com­mu­nity in Hamilton,” said Cake and Loaf ’s Ni­cole Miller. “In­stead of be­ing com­peti­tors, I find that we’re all sup­port­ing one an­other.”

Along with her busi­ness part­ner Josie Rud­der­ham, Miller first met Smith in 2011 when their bak­ery was brand new. He was new on the food truck scene and look­ing for bread to use in his sand­wiches. A match was born.

“He was our first whole­sale bread client,” she said, not­ing they have since parted ways be­cause they’ve dis­con­tin­ued that slice of the busi­ness.

Miller says she’s heart­ened by

the re­sponse to the event and hopes the sup­port might pro­vide Smith with “a lit­tle cush­ion.” “When it calls for it, we will come into ac­tion and help our fel­low small busi­ness own­ers. It gives me the warm-and-fuzzies.”

THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Graeme Smith in­side his Go­rilla Cheese restau­rant on Ot­tawa Street North, when it was be­ing built in May 2015. The busi­ness be­gan as a food truck in 2011.

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