Haven Living Pulls the Plug on Third Avenue

Kristi Dobson

Desja Walker, owner of Haven Living, just pulled the plug on her plans to move into the vacant building on the corner of Argyle Street and Third Avenue. She made the decision last Monday after months of conflicting ideas and unanswered questions. The overall renovation process was the final straw that allowed her to follow her intuition and remain where she has gained a loyal following.

She said she starting weighing the pros and cons of moving about six weeks ago when the rumours started.

“I was at a luncheon and Sharie (Minions) asked what was happening with the renovations,” Desja said. “She told me Jay Ward was now the project manager and I didn’t know he had taken over the contract.”

She went to the building to have a conversation with Jay who said the owner, Martin Tessler of Karman Industries, was trying to lease the building to another business owner for the two to share.

“I felt thrust into sharing the building with another business and there was unnecessary confusion,” Desja said. “It was just one thing after another and that didn’t fit with my vision.”

Desja’s responsibility as a tenant would have started after the renovations, for which Tessler is responsible, were complete and she signed the lease. From there, she could do interior work. She said so far the renovations were not what was planned originally.

“The construction of the building is not what I agreed to,” she said. “I have the rendered drawings and they show that it would have a wood front façade. The interior walls were removed where Tashia (Potter) would have her photography studio and it changed the dynamics. I was told I would have rustic pot lights, but they put in fluorescents without talking to me.”

Now, she said the landlord wants her to finance the flooring and other details, so she started to consider the costs adding up.

“It would turn out that I wouldn’t end up moving in until October and instead I can put the money into my storefront for my customers,” she said. “I tried talking to the landlord but was ignored. It all took a toxic turn.”

Instead Desja took her gut instinct, launched a survey on Facebook and found out her customers unanimously agreed that they would follow her wherever she was located. The decision was made to remain on Adelaide Street but also set up a three-month summer pop-up shop at the former Curious Coho Bookstore. She will be offering free workshops and a free drop-in paint demonstration to coordinate with the Sunset Market on Wednesday evenings. The workshops will be a chance to learn and take away skills to make unique items that are not done in other art seminars.

Keep an eye on the Haven Living facebook page to learn more about the launch on June 21. After the summer, Desja said she will decide if she wants to take the space permanently to see if accessing the tourist market works for her business.