It has been just over 10 weeks since Arts & Craft Collective SHOP opened on June 22. Here's the story of how Calvin and I went from 2 friends with an idea to a collective of over 30 artisans in a little under 4 months...
Calvin and I created this business because, frankly, we went a little stir crazy in Gananoque over the winter. We were 20-something and car-less, not able to conveniently travel to Kingston to take advantage of the fun (it still blows my mind Gananoque doesn't even have a bus stop! Come on, Megabus. Get with it). We were active members of the 1000 Islands Trivia League and frequent attendees of Thursday night Open Mic at the Stonewater Pub. But aside from these activities, there was so little to do if you wanted (read: had) to stay within Gananoque.
This boredom led to us working together on one of my insane pet projects, a Christmas Courtyard in Gananoque. While not as successful in the first year as we would have liked, we did a pretty respectable job for four days' notice (stay tuned for Christmas Courtyard 2.0 coming winter 2018). And it showed us that we made a pretty good team.
After this, Calvin showed me the major stock of work he had in his house and garage and I wanted to help him start showing and selling his work at local farmer markets, mostly to return the favour and continue having fun. While we planned our market booth over beers in the (dis)comfort of my living room floor, we started talking to locals like Chelsea and Matt from the Stonewater Pub about art. It was Chelsea who suggested we try our hand at running an art night on Mondays at the pub. We got it planned and started marketing it and found that it sold out in February. Success!
We reached out to the local Gananoque Farmers' Market to get a regular stall on Thursday nights, but we were told that we would have to wait for space because there were so many returning vendors. Without a guarantee, we didn't want to hedge our bets so we started to think of alternative locations for us (and now possibly other makers who may have been told the same thing).
In March, our thoughts went out the patio at Moroni's restaurant because we had worked with Nick Giannakouras in November to make the Christmas market. While the first year didn't go exactly as we had planned, it DID provide us with a great working relationship with Nick and he was pretty open to us experimenting on his patio. When we went to talk with him, he actually offered to show us inside the house (who would say no?!) and we started to think about having an outdoor market and a shop.
We got access to the unfinished space in early May, after literal weeks of going in to talk to Nick at Moroni's once a week, every few days and then finally every day. Persistence!
Calvin and I put our handiwork skills to the test and spent the next 6 weeks cleaning and renovating. We started in HAZMAT suits and ended with what you see in the shop today. We set our opening day for the weekend that kids were out of school and just hustled to get there. Without a car, we had to pay for delivery, pull in favours from friends and family and be super creative. But we got there. When we opened on June 22, we had live music, a clothing swap and taco bar. While we didn't actually have the where-with-all to count, we are pretty sure we welcomed over 200 people through our little shop that day.
We didn't/don't have any rich parents/uncles/investors supporting us (a weird thing to say, but one question I've gotten a lot!). We were both laid off from our jobs/ working very occasionally as servers at local bars and had time and commitment to the idea...but there was no guarantee it was going to work. We used our own money to run our first two painting classes at the pub and then we in turn took the proceeds and invested it in renovating the shop. We have depended on favours, goodwill and trust of our artists to get here and we just hope to keep growing further into our new home. In late June, we were accepted into the Leeds and Grenville Small Business Enterprise Centre's Business Bootcamp program and were one of 6 of 30 businesses to receive $5000 in start up funding. This money will be used to help us purchase extra awesome equipment to start up our printshop and pottery studio and run classes & workshops later this month. #Winning
If you also live in Gananoque (or surrounding area) and you love art (or also hate being bored in the winter...)- leave us a comment or feedback on how we are doing. We are actively planning for our first winter here and we would love to know what our community thinks of our project so far!