ARTS AND CULTURE
Most People Pass Through Truro. Why Jonathan Torrens Stayed
Well-known Canadian actor (Mr. D; Trailer Park Boys) on why he relocated to this revitalizing Nova Scotia town that boasts a huge urban park
When I moved to just outside of Truro, Nova Scotia, five years ago, I thought the town was a dive. I’d drive in to get my groceries, and back out again as quickly as possible.
In the past few years my feelings toward the place have warmed – from not hating Truro as much, to actually starting to like it. Still, I was pretty surprised to keep running into Canadian TV personality Jonathan Torrens around town, and wondered why he lived there too.
Over coffee at Jimolly’s Bakery Café, Torrens, also known as J-Rock from the Trailer Park Boys, aka vice principal Robert Cheeley from Mr. D, teen star of youth CBC show Street Cents, and filler of dozens more Canadian TV roles in the past 25 years, told me that he had moved here for love.
Long story short, Torrens had just moved back to Halifax from Los Angeles, and was trying to figure out what his next move would be. “I made a lifestyle choice to move back to Nova Scotia from California, renovated a house in Halifax, and thought maybe I’d be a realtor, maybe I’d go back to school,” he says.
“The last time I’d been in Venice Beach I was escorted to my door by a cop with his weapon drawn, he’d said, ‘There’s someone on the loose in the neighbourhood. It’s probably cool but we’re taking precautions.’ That was the sign that I should leave LA.”
Despite considering a career change, Torrens’ manager in Los Angeles kept calling to say that he needed new headshots. “The friend who was helping me renovate the house was a stills photographer, who happened to be from Truro, said, “Lets take new headshots in this space we’ve renovated, and my friend Carol just did a makeup course so she could come do your make up,” he says.
“I opened the door, there was Carol, and I thought, ‘There you are, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.’ ”
Today, Torrens has been married to Carol for eight years and has two kids. “She is from just outside of Truro. My feeling was as long as she is willing to live with me, I don’t care where we live,” he says.
Courtesy Steve Currie
That being said, Torrens thinks that Truro is a great place to raise his kids, and find the balance he feels is key to his quality of life. “We’ve put down roots here. Built a log home out in the country, got lots of room to store the trailers for our movie trailer rental business, my wife has a horse so we’ve built a barn,” he says.
Torrens is always busy, so it is no surprise that he loves the quiet life that living out here offers. He is still in high demand for acting roles, and just finished writing a book for Harper Collins called Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing.
The book is based on the highly successful podcast that he does with Jeremy Taggart, named Taggart and Torrens which has 1.5 million downloads and is a collection of tales gathered from the road from trips across Canada. “The book comes out in October, and that’s been very satisfying,” he says.
Middle of Somewhere
Before living in Truro, Torrens says, “I didn’t know much about this part of the province. It was always a destination on the road to Prince Edward Island, where I’m from, but I’d never really spent a lot of time here. And Truro is great.”
Truro has a population of 23,261, as counted in the 2011 census. It is fairly rural, and home to the Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus.
Truro is somewhere that most people just drive through on the way to somewhere else but, but it makes a great hub to live in if you do travel often, as Torrens does. “Geographically, living in Truro gives you a head start to the States [versus living in Halifax], and to PEI. It’s 40 minutes to [Halifax Stanfield] airport and there’s never any traffic,” he says.
The town is also home to a stunning park filled with walking and biking trails, waterfalls, an outdoor pool, and awesome newly renovated kids playground. Until a few years ago, the 1,000-acre (404-hectare) Victoria Park on the city’s doorstep was one of the few places in Truro worth visiting.
Courtesy Jeff Babineau
“When I moved here I didn’t even know about Victoria Park, and it seems like most locals don’t either. As a friend of mine said, “Truro is the only place in the world where there’s a 1,000-acre park that I can only find some of the time,” Torrens says.
Now, as Torrens says, Truro is having a moment. We have a beautiful new library and outdoor skating oval, a beautiful four-year-old rec centre, the RECC, plus a bunch of cool businesses are thriving here.
“I see this as the first wave of Truro’s – well, I don’t want to call it a revitalization because I don’t want to suggest in any way that the town was inferior – but it feels like in the last few years somebody has been considering the future of this town in ways that have been overlooked for a long time.”
Where to eat and what to do
Dynamic young power couple Kim and Mitch Cooke have built two super successful businesses in Truro. They own Jimolly’s, the lovely café where Torrens and I met, and HAF Skates, the super cool skate label and store. They recently bought a pair of massive buildings in the heart of downtown that used to be a nightclub, and moved both businesses there.
“They are young people who are invested in the town,” says Torrens, “I admire the moxie that it takes to say, ‘We’re going to put down stakes and invest in this town, we see a future here.’ Because these two huge old buildings could just have decayed and fallen into the ground, and it takes people with youth and enthusiasm to do this.”
Jimolly’s is a great place to grab lunch or coffee (plus the “ooey gooey squares” are amazing), but there are a few other great restaurants in Truro too. If you love a big burger, then Hub Grub is exceptional, with local ingredients used wherever possible and twists on classic burgers with kimchi and more (the owner lived in Korea for a few years before coming home to start Hub Grub). “It is one of our take-out faves, and the fries are exceptional,” says Torrens.
Lola Augustine Brown / Billy
“Other staples are Bistro 22, we try to go there for a lunch date every Friday. The biscuits are extraordinary so get soup and a biscuit,” he says. “For fish and chips I love Shillelagh House. Going there it feels like you just walked into your aunt’s kitchen in 1997 – comfy and … staff is friendly.”
Torrens is a big fan of Sahla Thai. “It was the first restaurant of any other ethnicity other than Chinese to open in Truro and I was so excited when it did,” he says, “I also went to the new Thai and sushi place at the weekend (Yoka Japanese and Thai) and it was great too. It looks like a restaurant you’d find in any city anywhere.”
Not surprisingly for a rural town, Truro has a great farmers’ market, and some pretty neat local vendors. Two terrific local stores opened recently too – Beck and Boosh, a jewellery store, and My Home Apparel, where you can pick up fantastic locally themed gifts and cards.