Since 1997 when James Sharman graduated from Ryerson’s media arts program, he’s worked in sports journalism. He started at the Score with an unpaid internship. He stayed on to become the pre-eminent Canadian writer and commentator of soccer at Sportsnet. This all came to an end in 2019 when the decision was made by Rogers to stop broadcasting English soccer games.
“I loved working there,” Sharman says. “But I saw my job vanishing. What with all the mergers and acquisitions in broadcasting, Rogers would be scaling back on programming. It’s pointless to leave with acrimony. I sank everything into my job, and I enjoyed two decades of speaking out about sports.”
In fact, Sharman had already begun his second career while still covering soccer at Sportsnet. He realized that with all the profound changes in the media and the growth of the giant streaming services, he’d need to look ahead to another career to sustain him.
Born in the U.K., Sharman grew up eating savoury pies, so it was a good move to begin making his own cooking creations in Canada. Everyone needs a plan B these days. His was launching Sharman’s Proper Pies, now a thriving business where he and his wife Toni relied on Toni’s mother’s pie recipes to launch their new business. “I went to pie school taught by my mother-in-law” who sold pies at a farmer’s market in Red Deer, Alberta,” Sharman explained.
After perfecting his pie-making skills in 2017, he started selling his savoury treats at the farmer’s market at Danforth and Woodbine in the east end of Toronto. He was cooking the pies at night at a local butcher shop to ensure that health and safety regulations were followed to the letter of the law.
The business grew. Sharman says, “Five years ago, I couldn’t dream of having my own pie company.” Still, by the time Sharman departed Rogers, he and Toni needed their own space, a building with a storefront and a commercial kitchen, as well as ample room for Toni’s osteopathy and wellness practice. That’s when they purchased a building on the Danforth and turned it into the home for their enterprises.
Then the pandemic hit. “In an ideal world,” remarks Sharman, “we wouldn’t need to build a business during a pandemic, but it worked out fine.” Last summer, James hired a commercial chef. He finds it refreshing to manage employees and create a commercial kitchen. Today he operates two Sharman’s Proper Pie shops: the one on the Danforth and another on Baldwin Street in Toronto’s historic Kensington Market, both with curbside pick-up.
The pies are delicious, the pastry better than any I’ve eaten in Canada. Today, James Sharman is as good at marketing pies as he was at presenting soccer to Canadians. My husband and I order them to be delivered to our home in Oakville. Sharman employs a driver who delivers his pies anywhere from Oakville to Pickering, in and around the GTA. Last week we received the Haddock and Potato pie, which was so delicious, we’re now joining the individual pie club. These savoury meals arrive in increments of three, four or six pies per month. You can also change your pies each month to try out new flavours from the menu. Contactless delivery is arranged within 24 hours of placing your order.
James admits that he’s happy and proud of his new career. For so many these days, a one-career life is no longer the norm. Many older Canadians who have retired —or been retired —retain loads of energy and are searching for something to do. James’ example of beginning his business before his broadcasting job ended, finding something he enjoyed doing and investing the time and energy to successfully launch a new business and a new career is inspirational.
In my own case, I retired from teaching eight years ago, and it’s been an eventful and rewarding journey working as a freelance journalist, editor and novelist. If I didn’t have my work to count on, I’m not sure how I would get through the pandemic. Working keeps my mind off the dark details of the virus and on the tasks at hand.
Not only do many of us need to bring in the extra income, but also, as James says, “doing nothing can be a cancer in your head, specifically doing nothing during this pandemic. There’s too much time to overthink.”
If you have stories about second careers you’ve launched since retiring, I’d like to hear from you. Please contact me.