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Avenue Edmonton began as many things do; as a conversation. Later, conversations became ideas, and ideas became something material. Publisher Orville Chubb and associate publisher Trudy Callaghan remember how one conversation led to bringing this magazine to print in 2006.
Trudy Callaghan: We were driving back into downtown after visiting a client at a marketing business in Sherwood Park. I remember Orville was driving; I was in the passenger seat, and we were driving down the 98th Avenue hill, looking at this beautiful cityscape.
And it sparked this discussion about “Why don’t people have a good sense of Edmonton? Why is it that they don’t have a good feeling about it as a city?”
Orville Chubb:It was as if we, as a city, didn’t respect ourselves and I was tired of Edmonton being looked at as the ugly sister in the province.
Trudy Callaghan: We know a world-class musician who comes here to perform and teach and he would tell us how fantastic Edmonton was as an arts and cultural city. Yet, we felt like the people who lived here didn’t know it. So there was this weird disconnect.
Orville Chubb: At the time, Edmonton had suffered a lot. The National Energy Program had really knocked the stuffing out of the city. For close to 20 years it seemed like we were wandering in the wilderness. That’s when Edmonton lost its swagger. I think that the reality at the time was that we saw that the arts community was as vibrant then as it is now and there were a lot of cool things happening. But there was no place where people could rally around and celebrate those things.
Trudy Callaghan: The restaurant scene was changing. People were committed to eating real food, good food, local food – that was happening as well. We were driving and looking at this cityscape, and Orville said, “Well, a magazine could do that.”
Orville Chubb: We felt confident that a lifestyle magazine could be a lightning rod for all things good in Edmonton. And that was the original vision and still is today actually.
Trudy Callaghan: A friend asked if we had ever seen Avenue magazine in Calgary. We had no idea what that was, but I got on the phone and called down there to learn more about it. They sent up a copy, and we loved what they were doing.
Orville Chubb: But without the sound business model and financing, a magazine can’t survive.
Trudy Callaghan: See, I’m the one who goes after it, and Orville is the one who makes it work. It was no different here. I was saying “c’mon, c’mon, let’s do this.” And he was the one who was saying, “Well hold on, now, how does this work, how can we make this work? What’s the budget?”
We knew if we joined with a bigger group, like Redpoint (that published Avenue Calgary), we could offer two major cities in Canada “the full package.” Avenue Calgary was beautifully done, it was great writing, – and I am a reader, so I have always appreciated true editorial with integrity – so that was important to us. And to support local – use local writers and photographers and the talent in Edmonton and let them come together.
It was a big part of our conversation. We needed great editorial and great art to make it work.
In March of 2005, we made the agreement to publish under the Avenue brand.
Orville Chubb: Our first art director, Randy Hayashi, did his work off the side of the desk while doing his marketing work as well.
And we hired our first editor, Tara (Blasco Raj), as the full-time staff person. Our page count for our first issue was 68. And we started bimonthly.
Trudy Callaghan: Yeah, it took a long time to send the first files so Randy had to sleep on the floor that night.
We just made it happen. We had to.
Orville Chubb: And then there was the Avenue launch …
Trudy Callaghan: I will always remember the party we gave – that nobody came to.
We hand-delivered invitations with pizza boxes with an announcement that we were publishing to every agency in the city, and they didn’t come. We were in the private party room at Lux, and there were maybe 10 people.
It’s so intense trying to get this thing done that you really don’t lift your head to see what is happening. But, I was at an aesthetics place, and I walked in for an appointment, and I realized everyone in the waiting room was holding an early edition of Avenue, and I was like “Holy, people are actually reading it.”
Orville Chubb:In publishing, you don’t have the sounding board; you don’t have people telling you what they want. It took us six months to really find out if people liked it.
My moment of confirmation for me was at the Edmonton Film Festival, where there was a party afterwards. And an old friend introduced me to his girlfriend, and he said, “he publishes Avenue” and she almost fainted – in a good way.
And I’m like: “I’m just Orville.” But something about the magazine resonated with her. There had been a change.
Trudy Callaghan: And now we see how much we can contribute. We’ve been able to sponsor a number of arts groups and allow them a voice to talk about what they are doing in the city. That’s what I am most proud of.
Orville Chubb: I think Avenue has become something of an institution in this city. And it was really hard-won.
People used to look at the province and say Edmonchuck, Deadmonton and all those things, but Edmonton is a significant player in the culture of this country. And there are all of these wonderful things, people from here, come here, love it here, stay here. And it’s all connected. I always go back to the fact that the city was always something. All we did was reflect it back on itself.
This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.
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