By Jamie Mountain
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
TEMAGAMI – Too often people can find themselves not doing enough of what lights a spark inside their soul.
That was the case for Dwayne Hull and her husband John Shymko of Temagami who are trying to “stay true” to who they are with their new business endeavour called Local Authenticity.
The store, located at 2 Sunset Crescent (across the road from Temagami Public School) officially opened November 7. It aims to promote local artists and craftsmen. Everything it sells is either produced entirely locally, or initially created within Northeastern Ontario.
“The name says it all. Our new venture is about listening to that voice inside that says ‘this is what makes me happy and ‘this is what I want to spend my time doing,’” Hull explained in an email interview.
“It is about being your authentic self. There is so much creative talent in our area and we want to help people support themselves doing what they love to do. What better way to make a living than doing what makes you happy?”
Hull said that she and Shymko are originally from Southern Ontario and left behind “stable, good-paying, successful jobs” four years ago to move to Temagami.
They “took a risk and left it all behind to live a different life,” she said.
“I had been teaching my whole adult life and John was a graphic designer but we were feeling tired, stressed out and overwhelmed,” explained Hull.
They then made the decision together to move to the “paradise of Temagami.
“While I took some time to settle in and recoup from burnout, John immediately jumped into the community head-first and took on a full time position with Temagami First Nation and ran for local government,” she. Shymko works as the economic development officer for Temagami First Nation while also serving as a councillor for Temagami.
“I ended up going back to teaching and the next thing we knew, we were kind of back in the same situation as before, but now surrounded by a beautiful landscape that we were too busy to enjoy.”
Hull noted that the couple had dreams of starting their own business when they moved up north.
She said they had a full-sized, professional Giclee printer that they bought from a print shop down south.
“We hauled it up here and set it up in our basement, covered it with a sheet and kind of forgot about it while we fell back into old, safe habits,” she explained.
But with the magic and beauty of the area, and with the friendship and connection of the many talented and creative people around, she said it got them thinking about starting a business.
“So here we are during a pandemic, after the tourists have left for the year, trying to start up our little business. It is risky and scary...and a lot of work,” Hull admitted, adding that they are “doing it together and feeling excited about what each day brings.
“We have met some amazing, inspiring local artisans and we are excited to promote them and help them succeed at doing what makes them happy.”
Shymko said in a later email that every single item Local Authenticity sells is made by local artisans, or by themselves.
He emphasized that it’s not just all about themselves making their money, but they want the other artists to make money.
“We also create and/or donate items for local social causes and have used our resources and position to help people,” he said.
Shymko stressed that without a community to draw from, their business model would not work.
Hull added that she feels their “journey has just begun.”
Shymko still has his full-time job, is a town councillor and involves himself deeply in the community, she said, “but he is also the creative element behind our business.
“It is heartwarming to see him so excited at 10 p.m. to be designing and printing greetings cards from the artwork of our friends and community members,” she remarked.
The store held a grand opening on Saturday, but otherwise is open by appointment by calling 905-220-3700.
Hull said that moving forward the couple still has some more risk-taking to do and some old habits to break.
“I still find myself saying ‘yes’ to supply teaching jobs and John doesn’t spend nearly enough time on his real passion - music,” she conceded, adding that they “hope to learn to listen more, every day, to that little voice inside us that encourages us to be true to ourselves.”
Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker