It is not often that a person is involved with so many projects, businesses, and volunteer gigs that their “main job” remains largely unknown. Mr. Raymond Greenwood was a salesman at Pitney Bowes for more than three decades, but he’s far better known for his dazzling personality as Mr. Fireworks or the King of Bling, flashing LED pins ablaze on his lapel.
Mr. Greenwood used to run the Vancouver Sea Festival, a nautical weekend at Kitsilano Beach born in 1963 which included the Bathtub race extravaganza from Nanaimo to Vancouver. “The festival went bankrupt in 1975 so we, the Jaycees [now Vancouver Junior Chamber of Commerce], took it over and I ran that for about nine years,” he explains. That year, a record 50,000 people turned up to the nine-day celebration, which included a 10-minute fireworks display. Mr. Greenwood’s involvement in the Sea Festival sparked a new career, one that earned him the moniker “Mr. Fireworks.” His supplier at the time was unable to provide low-going fireworks, so Mr. Greenwood sourced them on his own and then started selling them and putting on firework shows for parties.
In 1990, Mr. Greenwood brought the annual multi-day fireworks competition known as the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire to English Bay, and chaired the festival for more than a decade. Later, his son, Matthew, also a TCC member, worked as a pyrotechnician for six years. “I apprenticed under the guys who did the 2010 Olympics,” he says. “It’s really cool work because you’re basically entertaining 100,000 people.”
The Greenwoods certainly enjoy reaching a crowd. In 2012, they went into a franchise called SNAP and published a weekly paper in downtown Vancouver. “It was an interesting 18 months,” Mr. Greenwood recalls. “Of course, our competition was The Georgia Straight, and it’s extremely successful. Unfortunately, as we now know, newspapers were on the down when we got involved, so it was a business error, but it was fun for a year or so.” Matthew did the majority of the copywriting, editing, and photography, working 12-16 hours a day; 12,000 copies of SNAP Vancouver would arrive the day before it was to be released, and father and son would load up their cars and set out on a delivery route to hit 325 distribution points in the downtown core. “It’s amazing how many people read the newspaper,” Matthew says. “We had a ridiculous pick-up ratio; people would call us for back issues, and many times we didn’t have any left.”
Shortly after they folded the paper in 2013, Matthew started a new career in real estate. While trying to help a friend sell his condo in a non-rainscreened building, he saw a new opportunity in the market to specialize in Strata Wind-Ups. “I started talking to [TCC member] Moojan [Azizi] about this idea,” he says. “It took me a year, riding the bike next to him at 6:30 a.m., picking his brain. The reason I’m successful in my job as Associate Vice President, Strata and Land Assembly, at RE/MAX Commercial Advantage right now is because of the mentorship opportunity that I got at TCC, no question about it. If it weren’t for Moojan, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have met my current business partner, Steve Da Cruz.”
Matthew, a new father, practically grew up coming to the Club. “I remember being six years old, getting an orange car from Santa in the old Club,” he says. “I remember getting in trouble from Sergio for cannonballing into the pool when it first opened.” Later, while he was studying at UBC, Matthew even worked at TCC. He was a bellhop, then a Member Services Agent, and a bartender and banquet server during the busy wedding season. “Tri, Rowena, and Elaine all took care of me, especially when I worked here when I was 18, so I call them all ‘momma,’” he says. “This place is a big family; it’s really cool in this sense. Jean-Louis is great, and Sheila is amazing – a ray of sunshine in the morning.”
The Greenwoods are also both involved with the Canadian Club, which hosts many of their guest speaker events at TCC. They have managed to secure impressive speakers over the years, including former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Governor General Julie Payette, and the Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin. “The idea of the Canadian Club is to celebrate our national pride,” says Matthew. “We want to bring in diverse speakers so we can get a better scope of what Canada really is, and what being Canadian means to different communities.”
Mr. Greenwood has been a member of Terminal City Club for 36 years. “I met with [former GM Mr. John Meloni]; I was selling him a mailing machine and he was selling me the Club,” he explains. Mr. Greenwood served on TCC’s Board of Directors for four years in the 1980s, and was part of the decision made to allow women to become members of the Club. “We used to have a separate entrance for women, and it was a crazy rule!” he recalls. “In actual fact, it made me very proud when we allowed women as full members when other clubs in town didn’t for a time. I was also very proud to see the new building go up. New members don’t know about it, but it was a lot of hard work. At the end of it, we didn’t have any money to add extra things; we had to borrow from the bank. But this beautiful building is the legacy of the Club now; we were the first ever multi-use building in the country, ever to be built with a club, hotel, offices, and a strata title.”
Mr. Greenwood is a council member of the Westside Senior’s Hub, sits on the Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services Advisory Committee, and serves on the Museum of Vancouver’s Board of Directors, just to name a few. So although Mr. Greenwood still offers both indoor and outdoor firework shows for weddings, birthdays, and events today, he’s still quite active in the community, lighting up lives in different ways.