Humble ‘Aristocrat of Scent’ Tells Ottawa: Get Sidified!

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In a small apartment over a grocery store in the working class Ottawa neighbourhood of Mechanicsville, a five-year-old boy named Sid peered out the window.

The street itself wasn’t remarkable: that summer of 1955, it was just a collection of working class mom and pop shops, the United 5¢ to $1 Variety store and, up the road at 1084 Wellington Ave, Alderman Laroche’s Elmdale Tavern, where Sir Wilfred Laurier once used to play checkers.

His nose pressed to the glass, he watched the cars rumble past on the street below. Considered one of the roughest neighbourhoods in town, it was, to put it mildly, a colourful place to grow up.

No surprise, then, that colourful is exactly what Sid Cratzbarg grew up to be. Now a local TV personality, fashion icon and the ‘Aristocrat of Scent’ whose flamboyant style alone drives perfume sales at Nordstrom’s Rideau Centre location, the 65-year-old’s joie de vivre is infectious.

“Back then, Mechanicsville was the roughest part of town. I mean, I never got in a fight—not once—but it happened all the time. Now it’s a sought after, hip area,” he laughs. “So I guess I have always been trendy!”

Thousands of Ottawa women would agree. Known as much for his oversized glasses and watches as his wildly creative outfits—who could forget the suit with the tailor’s basting stitch still in place he wore to an Ottawa Fashion Week—Cratzbarg is a unique beast: a lovable dandy whose passion for fashion and creative flair only really caught hold of him after retirement.

Now planning yet another fundraising event, Get Sidified, on Oct. 23 at the Sala San Marco, he says his driving force has always been the female of the species, whether that’s his wife, Sandy, or the well-heeled matrons he caters to at Nordstrom, where he works as the ‘Aristocrat of Scent’ .

“I love women and I love dressing them. Throughout my life, I have been so lucky to know so many beautiful women. They have always been my biggest supporters,” he says.

The first would have been his mother, Ann, a war bride from England who was swept away in the dizzying joy of post-War celebrations and fell in love with a Canadian soldier named Joe Cratzbarg. The couple married and Joe brought his bride back to Ottawa, where they put down roots with the Ottawa Jewish community, established their family grocery store and had Cratzbarg and his sister, Betty.

Whether it was a generational outlook or the hardship his father endured in leaving anti-Semitic Russia as a child (“it was the Fiddler on the Roof all over,” he remarks), Cratzbarg says their can-do approach to life coloured his own.

“My parents were very hard-working. They were kind people, and always insisted that we be accepting of other people, regardless of who they were and where they lived. We grew up in a tough part of town, but I think that just meant those lessons stuck more because of it,” observes Cratzbarg, a former motivational speaker and primary educator who once set up the ESL program for Vietnamese boat people settling in Leeds-Grenville county.

That generosity of spirit exists these days in the nine-and-counting fundraisers Cratzbarg has spearheaded for a range of charities, including ALS, the Heart Institute and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

This year’s fundraiser will feature 16 models showcasing 24 looks, including the work of former Richard Robinson muse and couture designer, Kadija Brown, as well as fashions from Isabelle Boutique and men’s shop, Berthonliny Boutique. There will also be a silent auction and four vendors, including Aura Atelier. Last year’s fundraiser netted the Foundation $12,207.

Best of all, the event, with decor by Dora Dalietos and Vis-a-Vis Events, will cater to Cratzbarg’s dance moves.

“I love disco. I love to dance. So this year will be something really different, with plenty of DDG glamour, TDF ** fashion and lots of over the top fun. The event last year was a sellout, for which I was very humbled. This year, I want to create something even more memorable.”

“My dad died of colon cancer and I’ve had mine removed, though not through cancer, thank God. I empathize with what people go through,” he says. “I am such a lucky man. Now I just want to give back.”

Tickets for the Get Sidified gala are $85 and can be purchased online at www.getsidified.ca.