Live & Work

April 27 2018

Donna Denham and Gastown’s Brix Studio

Donna Denham, Brix Studio Manager and Owner.

 

Donna Denham, Brix Studio Manager and Owner, is of a rare breed.

Hailing from Vancouver, she can trace her family line back to at least three generations born in the city. One of her first jobs was on Water Street and like most here, once you fall in love with Gastown, you need not look elsewhere for a place to call home.

Donna has over 20 years’ experience working in the non-profit industry, giving her a knack for understanding people and helping them achieve their goals. She handles Brix Studio’s sales and event planning.

 In 2010 you renovated a space in the building known as the Commercial Block, and the studio became what it is today. Tell me a little about how you developed Brix Studio?

I started in Yaletown and around 2005 and we had to move as the building was being torn down. It was a beautiful space and only 3 years off from having heritage status. I needed a stable location and we found this building in Gastown, named the Commercial Block, erected in 1893.  The southern part of the building, comprised of nine bays, was designed by architect William Blackmore and constructed by Hunter Brothers Construction and J. Rogers in 1893. The later three-storey addition to the north, comprised of four bays, was most likely built between 1905 and 1908.

Before we took over, a film production company occupied the space.  In the basement they had stored a bunch of props. The first time I went down there I encountered a horde of zombies and totally freaked out! It took me a long time to feel comfortable going down there alone again.

Initially we secured the front section of the building for our offices, and then expanded into the back in 2010 with our event and meeting space.  Recently, we opened up the studio to the community for their use and all are welcome to use the space. I particularly like this building as the owner took great care to keep it in its original form. He found pictures from the city archives documenting the building as far back as a hundred years ago and painstakingly ensured the space would retain as much of its originality as possible. From windows, to floors, to support beams, to bricks – we are lucky to inhabit a space that’s so rich in story and brings us back in time to the origins of Gastown.

I love how Gastown has stuck to its roots, always changing yet forever staying the same. I’m originally from Vancouver and my parents, and my grandparents were also all born here. When I was in high school, I worked at my mom’s shop on Water Street called Dresser Drawer Boutique. Every time I walk through the neighbourhood, great memories come back to me, especially the times that I worked with my mom in the shop. My grandfather was a famous soccer player and every time I drive down Powell Street past Oppenheimer Park, I think of how he once was the proud manager of a local soccer team who called that bit of turf, home. In Gastown, you’ll find tourists, people that live here, work here, street people;  it’s an amazing combination and it all works. Vancouver as a whole, has for a long time, been able to do that. We welcome any kind of change and diversity and make it work and Gastown is prime example of this.

 

Can you recall a particularly memorable moment here at Brix?

Ed from the Bare Naked Ladies sang happy birthday to our receptionist on her birthday. He was following our letter carrier around for his TV show, and they stopped by our office to deliver mail. Unfortunately, they couldn’t broadcast that on TV, because happy birthday is copyrighted.

Are online interactions through webinars and internet based meetings eventually going to replace meeting together in person?

I think they could, although face-to-face meetings are still important. Online meetings are the next best thing but there’s nothing like being together in a room where ideas are exchanged and communication happens through body language, eye contact and real human interaction. Technology can’t replace that experience.

Anything new and exciting coming up for Brix?

We have re-tooled our webinar services, and now offer a new product that is very modern and slick. We’re excited about the innovation and are looking forward to providing it to our clients and to the community.