By Darren Lum
Owners of EvergreenCSD Fine Art Photography Gallery and Design Studio, Dana McMullen and Rose Janssen, are Haliburton Village’s newest business owners and bring with them a spirit of optimism to their space at 158 Highland Street.
The public is invited to visit the gallery to see breathtaking photography and to seek communications services such as brand strategy, advertising campaigns, online learning modules and graphic design.
McMullen and Janssen have a dozen years of combined experience, winning awards for their photography and business work.
The gallery features the compelling images of McMullen, who was contributing photographer to the National Geographic from 2016 to 2019, with much of his exhibited work being limited edition HD metal prints featuring such areas as Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.
“Right now, I wanted to showcase some of the iconic stuff. What has been interesting is people have come in here [asking about the images],” he said. “There’s been a good story to it. I don’t know if it will sell. It may not sell, but it’s been a good storytelling because people are seeing stuff they’ve never seen before, which is cool,” he said.
The images of salt flats, waterfalls and bison were taken while working for client Xanterra Travel Collection, which is a privately owned U.S. park and resort management company based in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Over the last few months McMullen has been out taking photographs in the area and he said they are likely to be exhibited in the future.
He said he is ready to share the stories behind his photos.
“I want people to know that there is more out there in the world. Stuff that needs to be protected and all stuff that is endangered under some of the current administration in the United States. It’s all under pressure right now for oil, drill. That stuff needs to be saved for sure,” he said.
The married couple have renovated their space over three weeks and are ready to work for and with businesses.
Though they’ve worked with large clients such as Bloomingdale’s and United Rentals, Janssen said smaller clients allow for more personal relationships.
“I think people connections are more important than anything. You know to make people feel like you listen to them, hear them, and know what they need. You’ll do whatever you can to get what they need. That’s what I want. I want personal connections to people,” she said.
At the end of 2014, they quit their stable corporate jobs taking some of their clients with them to start their own business, EvergreenCSD in 2015. Having been a startup is something they remember when working with other new businesses.
McMullen said as a startup they came up with a tagline: speak naturally.
“We were always conditioned in the corporate world to speak that corporate language. You just couldn’t speak naturally with your clients. You were scripted. You were totally scripted and you had to stay by your script because at the end of the day you had to walk out with a big contract,” he said. “That wasn’t us. That’s not how we were brought up. So when we started our own company, it was no. We just speak naturally. We’re more about making the relationship and the partnership. Business comes out of it and grows from that then that’s great The relationship is more important to us. Where the corporate world, the contract is more important than the relationship.”
Despite the decades of corporate experience these two share, they are at heart small town people.
Janssen travelled around, but grew up in a small town in Iowa while McMullen grew up in Tillsonburg, cottaging in Barry’s Bay. Janssen has two children: one daughter is going for her master’s degree in the U.S. while their younger son is attending his first year at Trent University in Peterborough.
Initially they wanted to open a storefront while they operated EvergreenCSD out of their home in Flagstaff, Arizona. It just never worked out until they came to the Highlands.
“But when we moved here what a great way to become part of the community and meet people. It’s an idea we’ve been kind of playing with for a few years and so we kept looking at spaces when they became available,” she said. “And Dana was like what about this spot? It just felt right. So we decided to go with it.”
The couple’s workspace will be at the back of the gallery, where graphic design projects can be done. They are also open to photography work such as weddings and graduations.
Janssen said they are a great team because of their complementary character and skill set.
When they worked at the same global firm McMullen was a creative director and Janssen was in national sales and was an account manager, providing a strategy for clients and budgeting. At EvergreenCSD, she is the communication strategist and he is the creative director.
“It’s always been super natural, our communication. We always kind of had this natural connection, I guess and we still do. I know what I’m good at and he knows what he’s good at. We need each other. We need the skills. We need the different personalities. It’s just natural. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s always been that way,” she said.
While the couple will work out of Haliburton, there is a team located throughout North America including technical writers, videographers, an animator, voice talent and graphic designer. A junior designer may one day be needed in Haliburton.
Their journey to the Highlands began two years ago when McMullen and Jannsen were mentally ready to leave the U.S. For McMullen, it was a return home and for Janssen it was a new start. Part of it was related to the instability in the U.S. and another part of it was to have a start fresh and be able to fulfill a dream of being able to live, play and work where they can give back. After flying up here three times, they found a solar passive home with two acres on Eagle Lake, which represented their core values and appealed to their aesthetic sense.
At that time the couple thought they would operate the business out of their home. Then isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic set in and they realized it felt wrong. They decided establishing a business in town would not only fulfill a goal, but would also give back to their new community.
“In these COVID times … in tough business times businesses have suffered,” McMullen said. “A lot of our clients have shut down for months and we had no work. How can we get new work? We’re not going to get new work without getting our name out for one. We’re not going to get any local work for sure so doing this was ‘OK, let’s invest.’ We’re taking a big chance investing in these COVID times with a storefront, adding all these expenses we really didn’t need in our life, but at the same time by pulling back and being isolated and kind of hoarding our money we’re not doing anything for the community. We’re not helping the community. A community that needs help. A community that has suffered through COVID. There’s lots of empty stores. What could we do to help? So by bringing our graphic design business, our advertising know-how, bringing all that stuff here hopefully we can help small businesses as well.”
Eventually, McMullen wants to be part of an effort of help promote the area.
He wants EvergreenCSD to be given a chance and said if the public supports them in their dreams they can help others achieve theirs. “I hope they support us and we’re here to support them. I think when it comes to promoting small businesses we’re here for them. We have, I would say, we have big city skills. We come from massive agencies and have all that experience. Now we want to offer it [to this community],” he said.