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“Genius” author holding book signing

Gallagher tells untold stories

Author Danny Gallagher holds his newly released book about Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s founder, Rick Mauran. (Photo by Stefany Harris)

By Stefany Harris/The Oshawa Express

A local author is hosting a book signing to celebrate his new biography of the founder of two of Canada’s most iconic restaurants.

Danny Gallagher will be signing copies of his ninth published book called “Genius” at Indigo in the Oshawa Centre on May 19 at 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The book focuses on Rick Mauran, the 85-year-old founder of Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s.

Having written seven baseball books, including five on the Montreal Expos’ franchise, and one true crime novel, the author isn’t used to writing this kind of book, noting he is “spinning off of sports with this biography.”

He has been working on the book on and off for about a year and half, and has decided to release it this year because Swiss Chalet is celebrating its 65th anniversary and Harvey’s is celebrating its 60th.

Gallagher mentions that a big factor of creating “Genius” was speaking with Mauran personally on

multiple occasions.

However this wasn’t an easy task, as he said Mauran was reluctant to talk to him or any other reporters or writers until Gallagher coaxed him into it.

“To get him to talk was really a coup,” Gallagher said. “Without him, I wouldn’t have written the book, because he filled in a lot of holes and questions.”

Gallagher first met Mauran 12 years ago after he wrote an article for the National Post about the founder called “Behind the burgers, a man of mystery.”

After the article published in July 2007, he received a tip that Mauran was currently living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., so he called his number, and Mauran picked up.

They eventually met at a Swiss Chalet restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, and the story began to unfurl then on.

According to Gallagher, his book “Genius” offers never-been-told stories of the origins of Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s.

Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s were both founded in the 1950s by Mauran and two temporary partners.

In 1954 at age 20, Mauran and his partner René Prut’Honne founded the first Swiss Chalet on Yonge Street in Toronto.  Five years later, the first Harvey’s was founded in Richmond Hill by Mauran and George Sukornyk.  After a while, he split with both of his partners to become to main owner of Swiss Chalet.

Mauran worked in his father’s restaurant Chalet BBQ in Montreal before moving to Toronto at age 20 to open the first Swiss Chalet.

“I used to help my father in the restaurant business on weekends and when I finished high school, I wanted to get into business for myself,” Mauran told Gallagher.  “I borrowed about $25,000 from my father.”

Mauran wanted to name his restaurant after his father’s, but the Ontario government’s business registration wouldn’t allow that to happen.  Instead, Mauran decided to put Swiss in front of Chalet, so it would become Swiss Chalet BBQ.

Both of the original Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s restaurants were torn down in the early 2000s to make room for condos.  The oldest remaining Swiss Chalet restaurant is located in Toronto on 362 Yonge Street.

Mauran went offshore in the 1970s and became a private investor after selling off his famous restaurant chains in 1977 to Cara Operations (which is now called Recipe Unlimited) for $15 million. He owns two properties in Fort Lauderdale and residences in Paris, London, and Roquebrunne-Cap-Martin, France.

Mauran was “wildly successful” according to his late friend and billionaire Peter Munk, the founder of Barrick Gold, who initially had reservations about Mauran’s venture.

“We thought it would be a bust,” Munk told Gallagher during an interview.  “We thought he was crazy, just wanting to sell chicken.  He came up with this simple idea of selling chicken.  He was tremendously successful.  He did a huge business.  The money and cash poured in.  Bags and bags of cash.  He had huge cash flow.”

Mauran discovered more success when he, Alex Christ and Jim O’Donnell founded Mackenzie Financial, a mutual-fund company, in 1967.

According to Gallagher, while Mauran made most of his money with other ventures, Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s are his legacies.

“I love history and success stories, and Mauran is a great success story,” Gallagher said.  “I’m exposing him as a great Canadian.”