By Emily Stonehouse
It’s the end of an era for Haliburton County locals Brigitte Gall and Michael Bainbridge as they head off to pursue a new adventure in Ottawa.
Bainbridge was recently offered the position of assistant collections manager for mineralogy at the Canadian Museum of Nature. The unique job opportunity meant that the couple and their children will be relocating to a new community. “We are so excited that Michael got his dream job,” Gall shared with the Echo, “but there are mixed feelings about leaving our little community for sure. I love the trees, I love the river, so much of our lives happened here.”
In the winter of 2018, the couple embarked on a different dream: puzzles. During a particularly cold night, they found themselves and their friends stranded at a house party, all unable to leave due to the frigid temperatures. They watched as their companions circled around a coffee table with scattered puzzle pieces; absent-mindedly putting bits and pieces together as the conversations carried on late into the frosty night.
It was that evening that the concept of “The Occurrence” was born; a homegrown and Haliburton-proud jigsaw puzzle company. With high resolution photographs, museum-grade pigment inks on satin paper, and glued with archival adhesive onto 100 per cent recycled Eska board, the puzzles have taken off like wildfire, selling at trade shows, local shops, and online.
“We absolutely could not have done this anywhere else in the world,” shared Gall. She believes that this “wacky” idea was something that was supported, encouraged, and embraced by the community of doers and dreamers in the Haliburton Highlands. “We have a community of volunteers, of artists, of friends here, and that was truly what made the difference between surviving and not,” she said.
Gall also referenced the immense amount of support they received from the Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC), and local businesses who carried their puzzles.
When asked about next steps for the business, Gall laughed. “Puzzle world domination? Is that a thing?” she chuckled. The couple has visions of expanding the business upon their relocation to the Ottawa region. “There is limited industrial space here,” Gall said, referring to Haliburton County. They hope to find a space where their business can continue to expand. “It really has already grown in ways we never could have imagined,” she said, “and the goal is to really continue to grow the company.”
While The Occurrence’s physical business location on Industrial Park Road in Haliburton closed it’s doors on April 1, puzzles will continue to be available online at www.theocurrence.ca or at Up River locations in Minden and Haliburton. Gall and Bainbridge will also continue to offer the option of custom puzzles based on submitted images via their website.
While there is excitement about the next steps, both Gall and Bainbridge are feeling reminiscent about the support they received from the community during their chapter in the Haliburton Highlands. “I just want to thank everyone so much,” said Gall, “I want to thank the people who came into our little store, the people who believed in it, the people who cared so much, without all of you, we could never have done any of this.”