Stratford tips from Leigh Cooney

Leigh Cooney emigrated to Nova Scotia from Ireland with his family when he was six years old. Upon arriving in Canada he was often bullied because of his Irish accent and being part of a poor immigrant family. In his 20’s, Leigh returned to Ireland but like Canada, he didn’t feel like he belonged there. After returning to Canada, his working life ranged from manufacturing to hospitality until his artistic talents took off.  Instead of creating art for the masses, he chose to work on unique pieces that energized him. You can start to gain an understanding of Leigh Cooney by checking out his Facebook group. The Stratford Free Press is a place for local residents to share topics of interest. In a recent post by Leigh introduces a GoFundMe campaign to  pay an independent journalist to do some impartial investigative journalism. 

WHY STRATFORD?

Small community feel with big city amenities. It’s a place where I could find a very good cup of coffee. 

WHAT HAVE YOU GAINED BY LIVING IN STRATFORD?

Having grown up poor, I hadn’t experienced fine dining and really good, creative food. I was introduced to the world of flavours.

WHAT RESTAURANTS DO YOU RECOMMEND?

Raja’s Indian food is phenomenal. The food is authentic. The menu doesn’t change much, it really doesn’t need to. I also enjoy Red Rabbit. It has a great atmosphere and changes its menu to reflect the season. You never know quite what will be on the menu. It could be octopus or rabbit. The kitchen experiments on traditional foods. The one constant is that whatever they cook, it will be very tasty. 

WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO EXPLORE? 

I’m drawn to older neighbourhoods that are preserved. My favourite time to go for a walk in the city is at night when cars don’t stand out as much. Check out Coburg Street, Water, William and Caledonia. I especially like to lose myself in the old section of the cemetery.  There is so much history there. It ties us to the past and is so peaceful. 

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR VISITORS?

It only takes a few minutes to get to a really quiet place within the city. Outside of the city, choose a side road and see where it leads. There is so much nature to celebrate within and outside of Stratford. Get to know the local people.

HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Death no longer worries me. My body will turn into dirt and feed the trees. I am also much more active in my community. It’s up to each of us to create the change we want. My store gives artists and avenue to sell their goods with the intent of getting money back in the hands of the people.

Meet Your Maker is a very unique store offering artisanal limited run quality products sourced in Canada the USA. According to Leigh, “the more local, the better.” Meet the Maker is fiercely independent. The shop is definitely worth a visit!