The year is 1992 - Reflections on a family business, 28 years on.

Canada is in a recession. Otto Ahlers is exploring options after losing his corporate job. Chris Ahlers is a Toronto artist with a day gig selling art supplies. Margaret Ahlers is a writer with the Hamilton Spectator.

Open an art store in Guelph during a recession? “Why not?” we figure. “Fortune favours the brave.” (Some might have said “foolhardy.”) 

Our doors open on May 22 in a main street space occupied previously by a men’s wear shop. There are abundant mirrors and a back door leading to a big parking lot.

Marg continues at the Spec. Chris moves to Guelph. Otto does the one-hour commute each day from Burlington. Marg drives over on Saturdays just to soak up the excitement. 

When it’s time for more staff, a high school friend of Chris’s joins the crew. Jacob Yerex is now a full-time Toronto artist and well known philanthropist with his husband Salah Bachir.

Over the years, our store’s footprint doubles twice- first, sideways and then into the lower level.

Time passes. Our business grows. Chris marries staffer and acclaimed printmaker Tammy Ratcliff. Their son Odin shows artistic talent but grows up to choose civil engineering. Otto and Marg move to Guelph.

In 2008, we buy an empty retail space across the street saying goodbye to our landlord. Another brilliant stroke of timing? We sign the mortgage the same day that Lehman Brothers collapses, ushering in another bruising recession. Staff take turns giving Chris neck massages.

Today, we are wrestling with a global pandemic which has closed our doors to browsers. Orders are picked up curbside, delivered to front porches, or shipped around the country.

We are more grateful than ever for our extended family of customers.

Perhaps we are biased. But we believe the world needs art now, as never before.

Creativity will heal us and pull us through.

- Marg Ahlers, May 22, 2020 -