Brigette Gall and Michael Bainbridge said getting trapped at home by a 2018 cold snap inspired the unique business they are starting in Haliburton County.
Locked in with a group of friends, a large jigsaw puzzle became the centre of attention. The two had searched for another business model for Bainbridge, a professional mineral photographer.
The idea struck to turn his photos into puzzles, which led to their new business “The Occurrence.” After months working from their home and online, they soft-launched a new jigsaw puzzle shop and factory Nov. 30.
“There is increasingly a need for people to disconnect and have a real, physical, tactile experience,” Gall said. “It’s reminiscent of all those rain or snow days at the cottage or hanging out with the family.”
The two kickstarted the business on Industrial Park Road in Haliburton with the help of the Haliburton County Development Corporation, which helped secure more than $40,000 in matching grants through the Rural Innovation Initiative Eastern Ontario and Business Expansion and Innovation Program.
Their property features a factory-floor with all the tools needed to print puzzles in the back and a space to sell them at the front.
The two decided to print for themselves upon discovering how few places do. They said they could not find any printers based in Ontario and few in Canada. Most large printers who could work in bulk would not do the limited runs they were interested in.
“You got an artist, ‘I want to do a limited edition number, my artwork in a puzzle.” You have to order in large quantities to make it financially worthwhile,” Gall said. “Printing in house, we can do small batches and high-quality puzzles.”
One of the pieces they use is mural art owned by the County. It is a depiction of a map of the County, featured at the land registry office.
The two presented to County council Nov. 27 and got permission to use the image, with a portion of sales going toward the Arts Council Haliburton Highlands artists in the school program.
“This is great stuff and it will help promote the area,” Coun. Brent Devolin said. “Let it happen.”
Bainbridge said their new business has gotten a positive reception so far.
“I don’t think there’s been a single sense of anyone who has said ‘that’s a stupid idea, you’re crazy,’” Bainbridge said. “Almost invariably people say, ‘that’s really cool.’”
The two are not completely up and running yet, anticipating regular store hours to start in January.
“Really enthusiastic about the opportunity to do this and it couldn’t happen without the help of HCDC,” Gall said. “That’s what’s so great about this area, is people really are supportive of each other in a small community.”