Ragnarokr Leather Shop (1969)
The commune at 224 McCaul Street actively encouraged members of the hippie-exile community to create new institutions and businesses. All of the original residents of the house (Jim and Patty Wilson, Philip Mullins, Dave Woodward and Colleen Anderson) were skilled organizers and knew how motivate people to work for the common good. The Yellow Ford Truck store was their first successful enterprise. After Dave moved to 418 Dundas he helped launch the short-lived Slum Goddess community gallery. The Ragnarokr Leather Shop spun-off from the Yellow Ford Truck in April 1969. In between were many efforts that failed to bear fruit and a few that had limited success. Everyone was encouraged to make something for sale in the store. Silk-screened flags and bags, sand-cast candles, capes, clothing, woven goods were all made and offered for sale. Individuals were encouraged to search for and purchase items that could be sold for a profit in the store. The McCaul Street commune was broadly supportive of communal enterprises of any kind and provided a positive energy that attracted hippie businessmen to Baldwin Street. Jimmy Wilson didn’t try to expand his own store as much as to expand the community of hippie businessmen. He also offered his store as an outlet for crafts made by First Nation’s craftsmen.
The Ragnarokr leather shop started in the basement of 224 McCaul where Steve Blossom installed a tiny workshop. He taught Randy how make uncomplicated but practical leather goods using flexible bark-tanned leather called latigo. The belts, purses and bags were dyed in antique-looking earth tones using aniline dyes. Buckles and closures were usually solid brass fittings used in harness. The leather goods were consigned to the Yellow Ford Truck where they sold briskly. Steve Blossom’s leather goods quickly became the store’s best selling items. Everyone at 224 McCaul Street had been searching for a product that sold well and could employ a number of people. By the 1968 Christmas season the group knew that they had found their next big thing: leather goods.
- This is discussed in a letter from Philip Mullins to George Mullins, April 16, 1969