Myron Love


It was in the summer of 2020 – at a time when Covid-imposed lockdowns were taking a heavy toll on his fellow Manitobans – and Earl Barish, Chair of the Board, and part owner of the iconic Salisbury House of Canada restaurant chain, was musing about how he and Salisbury House could make a positive difference for front-line employees working long hours under unprecedented and challenging conditions. His solution was Salisbury House’s Pay It Forward program.

“It was a win-win-win,” Barish noted in an interview with the St. Boniface Hospital Believe newsletter of the “Pay It Forward” program. “Our initiative allowed Manitobans to express their appreciation of our healthcare heroes.”

Salisbury House chain sold $25 gift cards, with $5 of each gift card donated to one of four hospital foundations – Cancer Care Manitoba, DASCH, Variety, and other pre-selected charities – of the buyer’s choosing, with Earl and his wife and partner, Cheryl, adding $2 more per Gift Card from their family foundation.

“The purchasers of our Sals gift cards can use them in our restaurants or give them as gifts,” Earl explains. “The gift cards can also be donated to any charity of choice in return for a tax receipt. The charities can in return give the gift cards to their employees – in a show of appreciation – or their clients. The Sals gift cards never expire!”

The St. Boniface Hospital Foundation has created a Salisbury House Employee of the Month using the cards, Earl points out, with the recipients in different departments being nominated by their supervisors or fellow employees. Every month, several worthy employees are each given a $100 Sals gift card as a sign of appreciation.

“We extended the program,” he adds, “to six items on our restaurant menu – with $3 of the price of any of those items being donated to the charity of the customer’s choice.”

Earl and Cheryl. Supplied photo.

The program was first introduced at Sals restaurant locations in August 2020, for a period of 10 weeks. Barish reintroduced the program last year to run for 10 weeks through September and October.

“To date, I have personally sold over 5,000 gift cards, with approximately 25% of the cards donated directly to the charities involved," Earl reports. “The initiative has so far raised more than $235,000 in gift cards and cash for the charities.”

I have known Earl Barish for something like 40 years and have always admired his sense of generosity. During our interview, he explained that his philosophy is tied to sharing his good fortune in life with those who through circumstance have not been as fortunate. A perfect example: in mid-August this year he celebrated his 80th Birthday with a strict NO GIFTS message. Instead, he asked invited guests to donate to the Children’s Hospital Foundation for their Shared Life program for children. Earl and Cheryl would match the total donated by the guests. The result: the children have a total donation of $22,638 to assist with their many needs while in the hospital. A great birthday present!

We conducted the interview in what he refers to as his Sugar Shack, a one-room, cabin-like structure behind his house, replete with mementoes of his varied business career and philanthropic endeavours. There is, for example, a Dickie Dee bicycle, the original iconic brand that Earl was associated with; a Richard D's freezer with a choice of gourmet ice cream bars and a full make-your-own sundae and milk shake bar with six flavours of ice cream as well as a variety of syrup flavours and dry toppings (can't forget the whipping cream and the maraschino cherry). There is also an old-fashioned popcorn machine with popcorn, a dish filled with M&M’s and another with chocolate kisses and more.

As with many successful businessmen whom I have known over 40 years as a journalist, Earl comes from modest beginnings. In 1957 and 1958 Earl rode a Dickie Dee ice cream bike for Syd Glow, the then owner. In 1959, while Earl was still in his teens, his parents Jack and Mary acquired the iconic Dickie Dee ice cream business which included eight of those then ubiquitous bicycles with which Earl was first associated in the public mind. From 1959 to 1963, Earl worked in Dickie Dee during the summers to earn enough to put himself through university. In June of 1963 he graduated from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Management (then called the School of Commerce) with a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Administration and Finance at the age of 19.

Initially, Earl pursued a career in management – first with The Bay and later Eaton’s – two other well-remembered brands. It was in 1970 that he resigned his position as store manager of Eaton’s warehouse bargain centre and rejoined the family business as co-owner with his parents and his brother, Sid. The siblings divided the territory between them, with Sid overseeing operations in Eastern Canada and Earl looking after Western Canada. Coincidentally the dividing city that was the beginning of the Western territory was Thunder Bay where Earl was born (then Fort William). Under the leadership of Earl and Sid, Dickie Dee bikes became a fixture in cities from Coast to Coast in Canada.

In 1992, the Barish Brothers sold their ice cream business to Unilever-Good Humor-Breyers. In succeeding years, Earl became involved with Pop Rocks. He acquired the world rights to sell Pop Rocks in bulk (that were produced in Spain) as an inclusion in Ice Cream followed by the exclusive world rights to sell Pop Rocks to Nestlé worldwide as an inclusion in their chocolate and other products. He was successful in selling to 50 countries in the world.

Earl and Cheryl promoted major entertainment events such as Buddy (the Buddy Holly story) and The Legends of Rock and Roll outdoors at the baseball park and a rock and roll event called A Night to Remember at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. In 2002, Earl promoted a successful tennis match in Winnipeg between Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova.

A passionate sports fan, Earl helped found the International Basketball Association (IBA) – which included his own Winnipeg Cyclone. He served as president of the IBA for its first four years in existence. After six years, it merged with the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). For two years, the well-known NBA Star, Darryl 'Chocolate Thunder' Dawkins was the coach of the Cyclone, a real coup for Winnipeg.

His involvement with Salisbury House began in 2001 when the now 92-year-old Winnipeg-based restaurant chain was purchased by a group of Winnipeg businessmen – including Earl and Cheryl – from a Montreal-based company that had owned the operation since 1979. Earl became Sals’ President and CEO and majority owner in 2006 when the previous people in charge ran into financial trouble.

Earl proceeded to revitalize Sals – refreshing older locations and adding new locations in Winnipeg and, for the first time in many years, outside of Winnipeg. Today, he remains Chair of the Board and part owner along with Cheryl.

Earl and Cheryl have had a long association with numerous charitable endeavours over the years, but his longest association is with the Jewish social service organization B’nai Brith Canada, where he has been involved for over 50 years. His commitment to community through B’nai Brith earned him the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award for Service which was bestowed on him in 2013. In 2020 he was awarded the International B'nai Brith President's Award for achievement in greatness in the name of B'nai Brith. Worldwide there were recipients from nine countries. This was the first-time award to a Canadian.

Over the past 15 years, the annual B’nai Brith Afternoon with the Goldeyes, this year on August 13, has provided a special afternoon for more than 12,000 recipients from more than 70 social service agencies in our community. " This year, we provided more than 1,300 packages.” he says. The package – in addition to the ticket to the baseball game – consists of a full Salisbury House lunch – including a beverage, a hand-dipped chocolate iced donut, an orange and ice cream and a gift set composed of a commemorative knapsack, sunglasses, an LED pocket/purse flashlight, and a baseball cap, all at no charge.

This is not a one-person, one-day operation. Earl spends several months lining up sponsors/donors, buying the gifts and working with agencies and providing them with what these need for their clients. Close to 70 individuals and businesses donated to this year’s Afternoon with the Goldeyes. More than 30 volunteers helped to make it happen.

A more recent Earl and Cheryl Barish initiative – through the B’nai Brith League for Human Rights – is the Diverse Minds Creative Writing Competition intended to encourage Manitoba high school students to imagine, create, illustrate and deliver an original book geared to grades one to five that promotes human rights and, at the same time, benefits and enlightens other Manitobans. Earl and Cheryl underwrote the cost for the initial year and based on its success, it is now in its fifth year. The competition has expanded from coast to coast in Canada. “Focusing on the values of diversity and inclusion, the goal of the program,” Cheryl says, “is to empower youth to become role models for each other and understand that their impact can reach beyond the classroom.”

The Canadian winner, chosen in Winnipeg in September, is selected from the five regional finalists across Canada. This finalist received $5,000 and had their book published. These books are then provided at No Charge to all the schools and libraries in Manitoba. The award for second place is $2,500 and for 3rd place is $1,500.

Earl and Cheryl are also currently supporting B’nai Brith in expanding its two-year-old food box program and clothing depot for those in need in our community. Earl reports that the organization will soon be opening a physical location to be able to ramp up the new service.

In summing up, Earl states "Those who are able to, ought to nurture our community. I am a businessman and a firm believer that people who are successful should Pay-it-Forward and give to others in need."