Publisher's Message

Laurie O’Halloran
Home Style Magazine

It's time for me to turn the page

As the owner of this magazine, I can assure you that every editorial I have ever written has come from the heart, but none more than this one. That’s because it will be my last as editor of Home Style.

After three decades at the helm of this publication, and 40 years as an editor, I’ve decided to retire. It was a very emotional, very difficult decision because, quite frankly, I have been blessed with the absolute best job possible.

It all began in 1985 at the annual KRW awards dinner at the Donalda Club in Toronto. I was working at Southam as the editor of a dental magazine. That evening, I was seated next to Don Flynn, the owner of  Centre Publications. He had just sold his company to Southam, and it included a brand new magazine called Housewares Canada.

I soon learned he was looking for a new housewares editor. The next day, we had lunch and he offered me the job. I was intrigued by the potential for this new magazine and, as much as I loved the shiny world of orthodontics and those graphic photos of periodontal disease, writing about kitchen products seemed like a refreshing change. Besides, I would get to work in a great new location near my home – a huge corner office with two windows that opened! (As a smoker at the time, this was very important.)

I took the job, and I took to this industry immediately. Those were the early days of The Shopping Channel and Consumers Distributing was king, The Food Network was just getting off the ground, and I was determined to make a go of Housewares Canada. But it was a struggle, revenues were low, so I took on the additional role as editor of Centre, the hardware magazine.

Even after we moved to Southam’s head office in 1988, housewares sales were still below expectations. At the time I was dating Michael O’Halloran, publisher of Canadian Architect and one of the top ad sales reps at Southam. I noticed he worked fewer hours than I did, yet made more money. It was infuriating but enlightening, so I decided I had to try my hand at ad sales.

I asked my group publisher if I could give up Centre and take over advertising sales on Housewares Canada as well as editorial duties. In those days it was unheard of for an editor to venture into the ‘dark side’ of advertising sales. But I was young and naive and had the confidence only youth can provide. Fortunately, my boss Herschel Fenik believed in me and gave me a chance.

Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought, but I’m a quick learner and a hard worker and it helped that I really believed in my product. Within two years, Housewares Canada was making a small profit and I was working virtually alone, with no employees and very little contact with my peers. That’s when it hit me: “If I am already doing this all by myself, why don’t I do it all for myself?”

I went home, discussed it with Mike and he, as always, supported my decision – even though we had just bought a new home. Where would we get the money? I decided to turn to my family.

On a warm July evening in 1989, with great trepidation, I approached my parents, Diana and Rick Gaiger, and asked if I could please take out a loan on their home in order to fund my new magazine. Without any hesitation, they agreed on the spot. I love them so much for their faith and trust in me.

By September, I was off and running and I’ve never looked back. I like to think I didn’t find the housewares industry, it found me. This is where I was meant to be. My destiny. How else could I have made so many mistakes in those early years and still survived?

In January of 1990, Home Style hit the streets with 50 pages of advertising and far too many typos! My goal was to focus on the people behind the products, to tell the back stories and celebrate the buyers and retailers who were making a difference. My mom was my biggest cheerleader, working at our show booth in Toronto and travelling with me to trade fairs around the world from Las Vegas to Paris and Hong Kong.

Southam was not happy, naturally, and they came after me hard with their best editor on Housewares Canada, Elena Opasini. She and I were friendly but it’s difficult to compete with a company owner. I was tenacious and took everything personally. (I’m embarrassed to admit I often cried when an advertiser turned me down.) Poor Elena didn’t know what hit her. After two years, she gave up, Housewares Canada folded and I had the whole market to myself again.

Luckily, Home Style was quickly adopted by the housewares community. I learned a lot interviewing key buyers, and I adored profiling independent retailers. By telling their stories, I felt I could unite buyers and sellers domestically and also be the voice of our industry on a global stage. I was honest and straightforward with advertisers and worked hard to earn their trust. (They were also my best source of industry gossip!)  I’m proud to say that several of the companies who advertised with me in 1990 are still with me today.

It sure wasn’t easy in those days before desktop publishing. Laying out waxed galley columns on a drafting table in my living room, using a fax machine for proofs. But it was worth it. I will never forget those advertisers who agreed to jump on board in the beginning, who took me under their wing and then allowed me to fly. Most have become lifelong friends.

In 1991 Mike and I were married and he joined the company full-time as partner, taking over most of the advertising and all of the financial side. This left me more time to get involved in the trade shows and chair industry events such as Canada Night. Slowly, in addition to reporting on the industry, I also became a part of it and, as a compulsive organizer, I took my role seriously.

The next year our son, Jesse arrived, and Mike generously stayed back to care for him as I travelled the world. He also supported my ill-fated decision to launch a national trade show in 1997 which, although financially successful, turned me into an emotional wreck. I decided to stick with publishing.

In 1998, our daughter Haley was born. We’ve always worked from home so both kids have always known how important Home Style was in our household. Those were the glory years for the magazine and we thrived. Sadly, Mike and I split in 2016 but we remain friends and I know that without his invaluable support and input as a partner, I never would have had this perfect career.

Publishing this magazine is as good as it gets and I never imagined I would want to give it up. But then, late  last year, my little brother died suddenly. It broke my heart. As my only sibling, we were extremely close  and his death was so painful, it just took the wind out of my sails. It changed me, and then the pandemic changed everything.

After turning 60 in May, I started to consider retirement for the first time ever. After three decades of believing I would publish Home Style forever, I felt like I needed to step back and take some time to reflect. My brother was a funny, fascinating character who enriched my life in so many ways. I want to honour him by writing a book about his life.

The truth is, I’m just an old-fashioned print magazine editor who built her career on solid relationships and a passion for housewares. I love communicating with my readers but I’m not comfortable in this digital  world. I hate Twitter, I don’t have an Instagram account and I avoid Zoom calls at all costs. I would prefer to exit in print form while I’m still relevant.

It will be nice to see what life is like without a constant, 8-week deadline. But I sure will miss the personal  interaction. One of the great rewards of my position has been the ability to connect people who may never have met otherwise. Many lifelong friendships have been created at events like Canada Night, after-hour trade show dinners and parties at my home.

This magazine has never been “a job”. It was something I lived every day. It was a part of me and, whether they liked or not, a part of my family’s life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Home Style Magazine has been a joyous, exhilarating journey. I am indebted to every person who made it possible for me to prosper as a publisher and give back to an industry that has given so very much to me.

Laurie O’Halloran,