Two of Ottawa’s oldest surviving LGBT businesses are coming together to preserve Ottawa’s gay history and remain a destination in the city’s future.
Trevor Prevost, owner of Wilde’s adult store, and Michael Deyell, owner of After Stonewall gallery, plan to move the stores into one location at 370 Bank Street next month.
Both businesses have a long history in the community, but when they recently went up for sale (Wilde’s in 2015 and Stonewall in 2012) many feared for the worst. Though they were both bought and remain open, Deyell admits it hasn’t been easy.
“It was harder than I thought,” said Prevost. “Small business is difficult right now and it’s been a difficult year, and not just for us. This is another way to save the businesses. We don’t know – if things continue it would be hard to say what would happen in the next six months.”
Both owners are hoping the plan to raise $12,000 on crowd-funding site IndieGoGo for renovations and expand Wilde’s into the basement will put an end to that uncertainty.
Merging the businesses together will cut down on overhead costs like rent while enabling more opportunities to create product lines together, expand online and open the space to events.
“Both business have been around so long it would be a shame to not have them anymore. That’s why we’re trying to work together and bring things into one area,” said Prevost.
After Stonewall started in 1990 as a LGBT bookstore and is now part-bookstore, part-art gallery.
Wilde’s opened in 1993 as an adult store aimed primarily at gay men, but since taking ownership Prevost has aimed to widen its audience to include everyone under the rainbow, including trans, bisexual, lesbian, queer, straight, leather and bear customers.
“Villages are disappearing,” said Deyell. “It’s not that there isn’t a need for this stuff, it’s just that they can’t afford to be in these places anymore. That’s another reason to combine. People still need it, they just don’t know where to go.”
Prevost said businesses today need something extra to bring people in the door. The two plan to make Stonewall Wilde’s a destination and a meeting place, with literary and art events as well as educational product workshops.
The store will also carry an LGBT product line including T-shirts, flags, jewellry and ceramics that cater to different subsets of the community.
Gallery and books will remain upstairs while adult products will be on display in the lower level. In order to make the store all-ages friendly, Wilde’s will stop selling videos but continue its focus on toys, cards, lubes and possibly leather products.
Deyell said he doesn’t expect to lose customers who are turned off by the sexy products – instead, cautious customers will appreciate the bright and colourful gallery storefront.
“It’ll open some people’s eyes,” he said. “We’ll have signage so if they want to go downstairs they’ll know what is downstairs. I’ve spoken to two dozens of my clients and they think it’ll be a fun environment.”
So far supporters have raised over $500 on the online campaign. With three more weeks to go, Deyell and Prevost are hoping to raise $12,000 to cover new signage and the renovations that will allow for Wilde’s to move into the building’s basement.