Avenue's founding editor remains smitten with the magazine she helped launch.
By Tara Blasco Raj | August 29, 2016
Ten years later, I still recall huddling in the office lunchroom, gingerly slicing open the first box of Avenue Edmonton magazines. I repeatedly strolled through reception earlier that day, looking for any sign of the magazines’ arrival. With a second-floor walk-up office, I eventually heard the courier clunking the boxes up the stairs on the trolley, but that didn’t stop me from pacing in anticipation. It’s not like I didn’t know what the magazine would be like, I had romanced its pages for months. I was taken.
Since stepping aside as founding editor, I have religiously read every issue of Avenue. For years, you will have found me fawning over pages, Americano in hand, at Credo on 104th street downtown early on a weekday morning or Sunterra Market in Lendrum on the weekend. During my tenure, I would rarely read the magazine cover-to-cover after it was printed. We were swept up in the intense pace of back-to-back issues, launching. I would only review final proofs to make sure changes would be applied to the following issue. I cherish the stolen moments, marveling in all the magazine has become.
I covet every issue of the magazine – you’ll find a stack on my home office bookshelf that spans from the first one we launched in 2006 to the latest one from this past summer.
Nothing pleases me more than hearing people in our city mention the magazine and its impact. Whether they are avid readers, or were once profiled within its pages, inevitably their shoulders push back, their chests expand and they proudly speak of their experiences.
We spent the first few years of Avenue, particularly the first few issues, describing the magazine, its potential role within the city and what impact it could have on our transitioning city. It wasn’t till several months after the magazine was launched and people started seeing it around town that the description of “glossy magazine that could capture Edmonton’s evolution” did not preface my every conversation. Then it started. “You’re with that magazine, aren’t you?” followed by “you know who you should write about …”
Which is your go-to Christmas movie?
12%Miracle on 34th Street
24%A Nightmare Before Christmas
0%Jingle All the Way
Experiences during times of transition bond us – somehow our minds and hearts intertwine and we trust the relationship. I believe that’s how Edmontonians feel about the magazine.
At the time of Avenue’s launch, people from all over Canada were flooding into Edmonton. The housing boom was in full swing, with new home starts soaring in the ‘burbs, people waiting street-side for any hint of a sale close to the centre. The Anthony Henday ring road hadn’t fully opened on the west end, Dustin Penner would be signed to the Oilers in the coming months and Ed Stelmach was Alberta’s premier. Every few months, we would witness another “foodie-type” restaurant opening. You could feel the change.
From the start, the debate between how Edmonton is different than our neighbour to the south surfaced, particularly since the Avenue brand was born in Cowtown. But as we started to pull together contributors for the first issue and polled residents on what our community needed, the conversation surfaced around the arts, community-minded efforts, thought leaders making a difference in their field. We also tried to be of service, supplying restaurant reviews, profiles on upcoming events. Today’s Avenue soars in these areas, particularly with its themed issues focused on Best Restaurants or the Top 40 under 40 leaders. So too stands the push to stay as locally minded as possible, pulling from the many writers and artists within our midst.
We often asked our writers to pull themselves into stories, to set the tone. I enjoy that immensely in the Avenue that remains. I have my favourite articles but there are just too many to list; but it is usually anything Curtis Gillespie would write, or the work of Omar Mouallem. Curtis already had an award-filled career when he started writing for the magazine, Omar (whom I hired as I was leaving) worked at Avenue for quite some time before he went on to fill his shelf with many awards.
The atmosphere in the office was that of a family, helped that we were a lean crew. We celebrated every milestone. Like when the magazines started being distributed at a new location or when copies of issues would make their way to the office. Seemed like forever till the first few arrived.