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Collective efforts make Calgary’s Bonnybrook Junction weird, and wonderful

Dance space, photo studio, night market, hair salon, vintage record store, and furniture gallery.

The collective behind Bonnybrook Junction would be the first to tell you that weird and eclectic mix is exactly the way they like it.

Part of that wonder and charm emerges because members of the Bonnybrook Junction collective are so open to different uses of their Bonnybrook-Manchester Industrial space.

“So we’re really open to anyone who has ideas,” said Kara Bullock, a dancer and artist who is part of the collective.

Currently making up the group are The Beat Nook, Birdie and Jules Vintage, Left and Found, Sweetgrass Vintage, and Kendra Hudson Hair.

The space has been operated by the members in an atypical manner. Owners of the various businesses gather once a week to have meetings. They collectively work out how to take on the responsibilities of running the shop.

The vintage and eclectic at Bonnybrook Junction on Friday, March 25, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Misfits, weirdos, but mostly retro

Bullock laughed when she was describing what sort of people make up the current mix.

“Sometimes we describe ourselves as weirdos, like kind-of misfits,” she said.

“I think a lot of people feel that way, right? Just like they don’t quite fit, and we just wanted to have a place where those people would feel welcome.”

What they’ve created from that desire is a space that is undeniably hip, but also warm, cozy, and welcoming. And also very retro—from the vintage LPs to furniture straight from the 1960s.

But it would be a mistake to call the collective members outsiders. Bullock and her husband have been featured by Calgary Arts Development and the 17th Avenue BIA.

Other members are also accomplished entrepreneurs within Calgary. But what makes this B2B relationship different, said Bullock, was that the decisions being made on how to run the shop are non-hierarchical.

“We value the minority voice, if you will, it’s not just a bunch of people bulldozing over another,” she said.

Engaging with advocates for change

Bonnybrook Junction has built that core value of listening to minority voices into its operating model.

“Even though we’re all businesses, and we want to—we need to—value our time and our services, we also want to give back to the community,” said Bullock.

They’re doing this, said Bullock, not to be cool or to attract cool people, but to actually be accountable to the marginalized people in Calgary.

That accountability has also played a role in how the collective has found new members.

Members are responsible to each other through cooperatively sharing tasks around the shop, and for attending weekly meetings.

Bullock acknowledged that this model hasn’t been for everyone. And because of that, the store has also allowed individuals to rent space to sell their good or services.

“If you’re working in a nonhierarchical way, there isn’t just one person who’s gonna just do everything and take all the responsibility—we all have to kind of make those choices together.”

Performance stages and photo studios are among the space offerings at Bonnybrook Junction on Friday, March 25, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Collective open to artists joining

The group regularly puts out calls for new members on their Instagram feed, and their website.

Artists can then tentatively join as a resident maker by renting space for six months or more. The group said that this was the right length of time for artists to get to know the collective, and to see if it’s for them.

But most of all, said Bullock, the person with the right fit is one that likes to work with others.

“A lot of people aren’t, and that’s OK,” she said.

“Really we always say to people, ‘hey, it’s up to you how much you want to be invested in this,’ because we do have other makers who are totally happy to just kind of have their stuff on display.”

And if an artist wants to rent the space for a one-off performance, or even photoshoot, the collective has options for those individuals, too. They’ve even hosted birthday parties.

Night market coming in May

Bonnybrook Junction will be hosting their next night market on May 28.

They said they haven’t finalized their lineup yet. They’re planning on inviting local makers, home-based businesses, and performance artists like singer-songwriters.

“I myself have done performance art, but we’ve had tarot card reading and yoga consults, and stuff like that,” said Bullock.

And if guests are feeling like their hair has gotten a little shaggy in between readings of the future amongst the past, Bullock laughed that they could even get a haircut.

“Our hairstylist is always there to do trims, and she’ll do bang trims and consultations with people just on the spot.”

Bonnybrook Junction is located at 4108 – 17 Street SE off Ogden Road in the community of Bonnybrook-Manchester Industrial. For more details on future events, and the upcoming night market, see their Instagram feed or their website at www.bonnybrookjunction.ca.