The past two and a half years have not been easy for any business, and Studio Seventy Four is no exception.
Located at 49 Huron St. in downtown Collingwood, the creative studio and event space was designed for photographers, creative entrepreneurs, event planners and people alike who want to bring their creative vision to life.
Owned and operated by Collingwood-based photographer and entrepreneur, Kirsten Schollig, the studio has undergone a number of changes since its initial opening two and a half years ago, but its premise and purpose remain the same: to connect, create and cultivate within the community .
“A lot has happened,” said Schollig. “A lot has changed, which is a good thing. I think change is good.”
Formerly known as Mayka Studios and previously located on Hurontario St, the studio was founded by Kirsten Schollig and Aysia Garbe in the fall of 2019. They celebrated their official opening on Feb. 29, 2020 — approximately two weeks before the pandemic shut everything down.
For any entrepreneur, navigating the early days of COVID-19 was not easy. But for Schollig, there was no option but to keep going.
“The reason I held onto it and the reason I didn’t walk away was because I knew it could be more. It was already serving the community ... so how could I walk away from it?” Schollig said.
A few months later, her business partner left to pursue other endeavours, but by now Schollig was determined.
“The studio had to survive. It had to survive so other people’s magic could survive,” she said.
So she decided to fight.
Because the current restrictions hindered her ability to host events or have anybody on-premise, she found other ways the studio could serve the community.
In June 2020, Schollig rebranded the business as Studio Seventy Four to play off the studio’s address at the time, and to pay homage to Studio 54, a Broadway theatre and a former disco nightclub located on 54th Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
“Everybody knew Studio 54. It was the place to go,” she said. “And I wanted the studio here to be the same.”
The following year saw months of ongoing lockdowns, unclear regulations and ever-changing restrictions, but Schollig was determined to keep the doors open. Following other studios in Toronto and doing extensive research of her own, she found ways she could serve the community in a safe and sustainable manner. And through it, the community she always dreamed of started to grow.
“I was determined to keep fighting, and keep finding ways that I could continue operating and serving the community,” she said.
She continued to do so to the best of her ability, hosting intimate events and pop-ups to support other businesses when restrictions allowed, and offering curbside product photography when it didn’t.
And then last summer the building underwent renovations.
The studio had become her home and loved the direction the building was taking as a whole and wanted to be a part of it, but the capacity of the construction was still unknown, and there was a chance her studio could be completely transformed in the process. It became clear to her that she needed to take the situation in her own hands if she wanted to ensure the longevity of the studio, so she began to look at other spaces in town that would be suitable.
“The last two years taught me to adapt, so I wanted to get ahead of it,” she said. “I was not going to sit there and wait for someone to tell me to close my doors, after I just fought all year to keep them open.”
She also knew that people would need a place where they could create, cultivate and connect again, especially coming out of the last two or so years. So, after looking at one property three different times to ensure the lighting was excellent for photographers and the space was conducive to the type of events she wanted to host, Schollig signed a lease for her new home on Huron St.
She was hesitant about the industrial nature of the building, worried she would lose the charming nature of her last space, but she learned pretty quickly that it didn’t matter.
“I realized I could create that wherever I went. It wasn’t the space, it was the people we brought into the space,” she said. “The biggest part of the magic in the studio is the magic each person brings into it.”
However, it did take quite a bit of work. Schollig got the keys to the new studio on Aug. 1, 2021, and after a month of renovations with the help of friends and family, and moving furniture from the old studio over one carload at a time, she officially reopened the doors in September 2021.
The new, 2,000-square-foot studio is located on the waterfront, with a large parking lot out front, and features a wall of windows that face south — offering natural light all day long. As much as a location change can alter a business and its purpose, Schollig said the move just enhanced the atmosphere.
“People have been loving it,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest reward for me, seeing people walk into the space and just go, ‘wow, this isn’t what I expected.’”
Since reopening the studio at the new location, Schollig said she has been able to expand her offerings as well. She introduced a studio membership program, has seen photographers from all over Southern Ontario walk through her doors, and has been able to host an array of different events, from kids camp to pop-up shops, a wedding show, and even a late-night DJ dance party.
“It was never going to be just mine,” said Schollig. “I always wanted it to ... create a community where I can create in, but also encourage others to do the same. That inspires me, seeing what other people can do in the same space but have a totally different idea of what art is or what creation is.”