For the owners of After Stonewall and Wilde’s, it has never been just about the money. It’s about helping sustain queer culture in Ottawa — and now they’re asking for help to keep their businesses alive.
“This hasn’t been a great year, business-wise, along Bank Street. It’s not just us,” says Trevor Prevost, owner of Wilde’s. “You sort of have to look ahead six months in retail and say, ‘okay, can I continue this way or not?’ And right now we can’t.”
As with many queer businesses before them (most of which were small businesses), the bills have become more than they can handle. So they’re running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to merge the two stores, which will reduce overhead costs and provide more opportunity for collaboration and growth.
Prevost bought Wilde’s late in 2015, and Michael Deyell bought After Stonewall in 2012. They each had plans for their respective new businesses, but it was never just about making money.
It’s also about preserving two of Ottawa’s oldest surviving queer businesses — After Stonewall opened in 1990, and Wilde’s in 1993 — and about supporting local queer culture in other ways.
“When I took over the store, we really wanted to promote the area — we wanted to promote the Village,” Prevost says. ”Because people keep talking about places where the villages have gotten sketchy, and rough as well.”
“Being a business owner in the community we sort of have a louder voice and can do things.”
After Stonewall sells queer books and Canadian art, and Wilde’s is a sex shop. The two stores also sell tickets for local events, and After Stonewall hosts book launches and art exhibits, and throws occasional fundraisers.
Prevost says that if the merger happens, it will mean the new business, called Stonewall Wilde’s, will be able to host more events in the community, turning into a one-stop shop for arts, literature sex positivism, among others.
“We want to have community events . . . we want to do movie nights, and we have some other ideas,” Prevost says. “Just stuff to get people out in the community again. If I’m going to be here then I want to engage, and we can do that a lot more with the new space.”
The merge will be received warmly by both owners, for both personal and professional reasons. In addition to being prospective business partners, Prevost and Deyell are also a couple, and live in the area.
The plan is to move Wilde’s into the currently unoccupied space beneath After Stonewall at 370 Bank St. The ground level will still be books and art, and the lower level will be a sex shop.
Some of Wilde’s cards and novelties will go upstairs — depending on the appeal — and Wilde’s may expand its collection of toys and underwear. Prevost is also considering starting to stock leather gear.
But renovations and the entire plan hinge on the success of fundraising efforts, such as the crowdfunding campaign. The goal is to raise $12,000 by Sept 14, 2016. If all goes well, they plan to merge the stores in early November. While Prevost is excited for the future of the businesses, he says he feels the pressure to keep them thriving.
“I guess there is a little bit [of pressure], because they are iconic businesses in the community,” he says. “And we’re sort of the torch-bearers right now, and we’re doing our best to keep them going.”
UPDATE: The deadline to contribute to the After Stonewall and Wilde’s crowdfunding campaign has been extended to Sept 19, 2016.