Happy Harbor’s outreach programs will live on with new owner—even after the LRT forces it to move locations
By Doug Johnson
When the much beloved watering hole for downtown Edmonton’s nerd herd, Happy Harbor, went up for sale, it seemed that could spell the end for its outreach programs. However, the location’s new owner, Vincent Joyall, the Grande Prairie-based owner of Wonderland Games, says this won’t be the case—though there will be some hiccups in the not too distant future, caused by LRT construction.
According to Joyall, the location will continue the artist-in-residence program—Loren Albrecht was appointed on May 4—and its school programs.
“I’ve started going out to libraries and schools and teaching them about comic books, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering,” he says.
Late last year, Jay Bardyla—former owner of the Harbor and Daze Magazine columnist—announced he would be selling the popular den of geek-ery. Through a mutual friend in the comic book scene, Joyall caught wind of the move before Bardyla made the official announcement.
“Then I read all the articles and the outpouring of support and, to be honest with you, my first thought was ‘Ok,what happens to the artist-in-residence program, to the school outreach? What happens to all the amazing stuff [Bardyla] was doing?’” he says.
Joyall renamed the location Wonderland Happy Harbor. The Alberta-based purveyor of nerdy books, games, and collectables has two other locations, one in Grande Prairie (the flagship operation) and the other in Prince George, B.C. According to Joyall, the location has already started emulating many of the Harbor’s programs at the other two Wonderland locations.
“I really feel like Happy Harbor is going to change Wonderland more than Wonderland is going to change Happy Harbor,” he says.
As Bardyla was mulling over selling the Harbor, Joyall’s Wonderland locations were catching their strides, and the business reached a stage where taking over some of these outreach programs seemed plausible. He called Bardyla the day he made the announcement. The two officially came to an agreement last Christmas Eve, and Joyall officially took possession on January first.
During Joyall and Bardyla’s early talks, the former Happy Harbor owner said that one of the reasons he was selling the location was because the area was one of three in the region that could see shops shut down due to LRT construction.
“When we bought the business, [Bardyla] was very upfront about it,” he says. “I’ve still got a lot of energy left in me. The thought of moving my business doesn’t really hamper me anyway because, if I was going to move into Edmonton, I ‘d have to do that anyway.”
In late April, the City of Edmonton officially announced that the LRT line would cut diagonally through the property that contains the comic book shop.
“They’ve got the right to give us a six-month eviction notice. We haven’t gotten that notice yet,” he says, adding he expects it to come in a year or so.
After that point, Joyall will pick up the shop and ship it elsewhere in town, along with the special programming fans of the Harbor have come to appreciate. He doesn’t have a spot in mind just yet, but is hoping to find something in the city’s core.
“The way Edmonton is laid out is such that we [comic book shop owners] all have our own region. We pull from Grant Mac; Red Claw pulls from the Northeast; Mission Games pulls from St. Albert; Wizards pulls from the U of A; and Warp pulls from their Whyte Avenue crowd,” he says.
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