The Paint Spot Story
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David F. Bradley   (1939-2008)



Established in 1985 by David and Sidsel Bradley, The Paint Spot fine art materials store is an Edmonton-based company with a history of innovation. The main ingredients in the Bradley's success formula were dedication to the customer, and insistence on handling top quality products.

In 1984, Sidsel Bradley, at the time enrolled in the BFA program at the University of Alberta, noted that while many fellow students were using D L Stevenson’s artist paints, these products were not easy to obtain as they had to combine their orders, then wait a week or two for their arrival from Toronto. She felt someone should stock these materials here in Edmonton in order that artists could peruse the full line and select from an accessible inventory.

Thus began the concept of The Paint Spot. I, David Bradley, was ‘vocationally available’ at this time so she brought the idea to me for discussion, to determine the next steps. A trip to Toronto to meet with D L Stevenson was arranged to see if a basis could be seen for such an outlet. Sidsel and I knew that building such a new business would depend on some level of market security, and decided to ask for Alberta as our protected market. The meeting in Toronto (Scarborough) involved David L Stevenson and his son and daughter, as well as Jim Peters, the general manager. While this first meeting was cordial, I felt a general reluctance and scepticism from the Stevensons - they seemed little interested in any such arrangement. However, at the lowest point, Mr Peters asked if I might excuse all four while they had a private discussion. On their return, a change of heart became evident and we were offered instead a larger protected market than we had asked for. This enabled us to more freely stock and promote this unknown line.

On return to Edmonton, I began the task of seeking a location and purchasing fixtures for the as yet un-named dealership. This proved to be a difficult task as nothing I looked at seemed suitable, or if it was, then available. Of the 15 or so spaces I looked at, only one seemed suitable and desirable - a small studio just off Whyte Avenue on 107 Street, owned by Budget Rent-a-Car - but when I spoke to the Budget manager, he gruffly told me it had just been leased. In the following two or three weeks of searching, I kept longing for that two-room studio and was haunted, knowing it was also the only space that seemed suitable.


One day something prompted me to try once again, even though I expected to be turned down rudely once more. To my astonishment Brian said, “Lucky thing you came along because the lease fell through. It is yours.”

From this point we seemed to have great luck with many subsequent challenges. Another example is the call I received from a friend who had heard what we were up to, suggesting I get right down to Liquidation World where they were holding a clearance sale on store fixtures collected from some craft stores. This was a time when craft sales was plunging in popularity and many of these stores were closing. I was able to obtain all the fixtures we would need. for future years.


8209 107 Street

Our rented space was a charming little shop of about 700 sq feet, which had been a gift shop, then more recently, a weaving studio. The neighbours were Whyte Avenue Foods and Al’s Meats, both of which had been there since at least the early sixties. I think the old, two storey wood structure had existed since the thirties or forties. (It is interesting that the small meat cutting plant I managed on arrival from Toronto in 1970 was directly across Whyte Avenue, and I frequently had coffee at the diner with the butcher from Al’s.)

On pulling up some of the old Ozite carpet, we discovered hardwood floors. These became an obsession for us, and we laboured for weeks to bring them back to life. First we soaked the glue that had held the old carpets in place for decades, with odourless mineral spirits (from our new stock), then spent many days to sand and varnish the newly-revealed hardwood floors.


 I think we also brought new life to the entire building as we were successful in getting Budget to re-paint the structure just after we opened. Eventually, as we grew, we had to have storage everywhere - even on shelves constructed in the bathroom. There was hardly room left for normal bathroom activities.

We started in business on May 1,1985, and incorporated in June. I was 45 years old and Sidsel, 42, the perfect ages for starting a new venture. At first the store had no name so we just hung a sheet of shipping paper in the window for a sign, with Stevenson Paints written on it with a black marker. In a few days we had chosen a name, and this was printed onto brown paper with coloured markers - so now we had our name in colour.

 After choosing the name, we organised a contest for the design of a logo among all the recent U of A design grads we could locate. Thirteen of them entered for a chance to win the $250 prize, and of five finalists, Gwen Deegan was the clear winner. I was told later that she used the money toward an airline ticket to Toronto where she landed a good job in design. She is still there, and her great Paint Spot logo is still admired and remembered today.

Our first shipment, which arrived before we were ready, was ordered by Sidsel as I was totally unfamiliar with artist materials. It consisted of a pup trailer load of Stevenson oils, acrylics, watercolours and brushes, papers, canvas, and stretched canvases. It was the first time Edmonton artists had seen clear plastic jars of paints in gallons, quarts and pints. The acrylic wall has remained a colourful feature of the store, in all locations.


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