The success of the local Deep River craft fair, which had been flourishing for over 35 years, convinced a few artists that there was a considerable talent pool and a supportive customer base to start up an Artisans’ Co-operative. Twelve area artisans rented a house on Highway 17 and turned it into a retail space for their work.
“From the Valley Artisans’ Co-operative Inc.” opened its doors to the public on 1 May 1987, with the mandate to create a permanent retail venue year-round for quality local work. The Co-op was incorporated as a “not-for-profit” organization in the fall of 1987. Other artisans soon joined the Co-op, and a greater variety of work became available. Consignments were also accepted.
Over the next 5-10 years, job transfers of members and spouses and other factors drastically affected the number of members in the Co-op. Consequently, the workload on the remaining 5 or 6 members became overwhelming. The members decided to seek a location with a bigger and brighter showroom to attract more new members and to reinvigorate the Co-op. The “Blimkie Place” on Highway 17 met these requirements and was available. The Co-op was successful in increasing its base to 17 members and moved to the new location in 1998.
After the move, the Co-op prospered – gaining more new members and establishing a “must see” reputation. Consignment sales were eliminated. By the year 2000, the Co-op had grown to 25 members and the need for “more space” became more acute. There was more space available in the Blimkie Building – but was it affordable? A Christmas exhibit was held in this “prospective” space in December 2001 with many new local artists and artisans participating, resulting in a tremendous success. Consequently, the members decided to move and expand the store into the new space in the Blimkie Building.
The new location for the Co-op was a success – by June 2002, membership was capped at 30 members. A waiting list of prospective new members was established, and a limit on the size of display space available to each member was put into effect.
After many successful years, a new logo and promotional materials were commissioned in 2010. In May 2012, with great pride the Co-op celebrated its 25 year anniversary and its reputation as one of the finest art and craft shops in the Ottawa Valley. In the fall of 2013, the Co-op was featured in the Ottawa Citizen’s “Five Worth the Drive”.
In the fall of 2014, the members took their “mobile store” to participate in “Taste of the Valley” activities in Renfrew and Deep River.
The Co-op was able to realize another dream – the celebration of its 30th anniversary in 2017! Unfortunately, the operation of the Co-op was not able to avoid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the store had to be closed for the period of March – June 2020. However, full operation of the store with regular business hours resumed in August, with all the required safety and health requirements in place.
So many years later, we are still here. Celebrating 35 years in 2022, we are proud to be one of the oldest operating cooperatives in Canada.