After completing a year of university and being unsure what he wanted to do, Fred Gold decided the time was right to open an art supply store.
“I thought if I’m ever going to be stupid and take a chance … this is the time to take the risk,” he says. “And if it doesn’t work, no problem, no harm done. I can close and then pursue university again.”
With very little funds to his name, he opened the first Above Ground Art Supplies in 1983 when he was 20 years old.
“The only way I could afford to do it was I literally opened in a little office building so it was the second floor and the joke of it is it was in the cheapest spot I could find,” he says. “It was in the middle of the building so it had no windows.”
Although the store was only in that space for an initial three-month period, its aboveground location combined with his dad’s advice that the business should start with the letter “a” to top listings in the Yellow Pages, inspired the store’s name.
Since then, Gold says it expanded slowly and also developed a wholesale aspect, which supplies art programs across southern Ontario with its line of Above Ground products.
In January this year, Gold opened a second storefront on Dundas Street W. near Keele Street. Although it is smaller than the main three-storey space on McCaul Street, Gold says he decided to add products for kids because he was aware of how many families lived nearby. On a daily basis, he says, they can also send over any goods customers want from one location to the other.
“So the difference is that a lot of the departments, our portfolio presentation, our framing, our sculpture and our print making department got way smaller,” he says. “But we’ve pretty much kept our painting and drawing department in line with what we do at McCaul Street because we felt there were going to be a lot of artists out here who needed that.”
Although art store ARTiculations also recently opened in the Junction, Gold believes the community and the amount of artists and creative people living in the area can support both businesses.
“I think their workshops and their gallery are great, so I really don’t consider it competition,” he says. “And I think we actually complement each other and I think the two of us are going to bring more artists to the strip here and we’re going to bring more creative people to the neighbourhood and that’s going to be good for both of us.”
Nearly a month after the new store opened, he says it has already felt welcomed by the community, adding the staff is already getting to know clients on a first-name basis.
“We love this neighbourhood,” he says. “It’s been just fabulous. We’ve had so many people walk in on a regular basis and go ‘wow, this is great, we love you guys being here.’
“And that’s a really nice thing and it has made us really connect with the neighbourhood.”
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