Welcome to Kentville, a town where much of what we have to offer is made locally. From bean-to-bar chocolate to seasonal shortbread cookies, craft cider to handcrafted candles, small-print books to miniature homes – there is more than meets the eye in Kentville!

Below are the stories of some of our Makers and Changemakers that shape our town.

Gabrielle Breault

After 25 years in the Canadian military, I decided to retire and start a new life. At the time I was based in Petawawa, Ontario and I asked my 15 year old son where he would like to move. He chose the Annapolis Valley – a not unexpected reply given our Acadian background. 

I wanted to pursue my passion of making chocolate from scratch. I had to go to school in London, UK to learn the craft in detail. I am now the only “bean to bar” chocolate maker in Nova Scotia. Our production facility and shop, called Petite Patrie Chocolate, are on the corner of Main and Webster in Kentville.

When the space next door was up for lease, I decided to rent it and fix it up as a classy English type tearoom where I serve high tea on Saturdays. It is a popular event and you need to make a reservation.

Ginger MacPhee

Creative ways of doing things, of looking outside the box, and not conforming to the status quo has caused many challenges in my life. It often made me feel out of place. In this static portrait, you cannot see my scars, my journey, my accomplishments, or the incredible souls who brought me to where I am now. You can see I am still standing strong.  

I now work with amazing women, the experiences, and circumstances we share, none of which you can see in this portrait because we are so much more than an image or a single action, or event. 

I have learned that we must expand our views and look beyond circumstances and judgements to begin our search for our authentic selves. Embracing diversity of thoughts, ideas and approaches to change, exposes questions. When we can see them and acknowledge them, we can find answers. It is messy and complicated but if we commit to showing up anyway, from a place of compassion and respect, we create possibilities for change. 

As we listen with respect and grace to others’ stories, we recognize that we are all deserving of being seen, valued, respected, loved, and to live in peace. 

Each time we empower someone we all benefit. The circumstances in our lives only partly determine who we are. If we look within and remain true to our authentic self we WILL, with the help of others, change our circumstances.  Imagine the amazing possibilities of a community full of empowered individuals. 

Jenna Holtz

After growing up in the Ottawa Valley, I attended the University of Waterloo for my Bachelor of Science.  I graduated with the minimum number of science credits required for my degree, because I was bent on taking as many fine art and literature classes as possible.  By then it was evident that I had to find a career that combines both art and science.  Orthotics & Prosthetics was perfect, because it is the ultimate mash-up of science, art, collaborative healthcare, craft, engineering, and swinging hammers.  

As someone who grew up in a rural setting, I appreciate the geographic barriers that everyone, but especially complex patients with disability experience when trying to access the care they need.  Kentville is a rare Canadian town that has character, amenities, and walkability.  We hardly ever need to use the car to run errands for the clinic, and our patients have convenient opportunities for eating and other leisure when they come here.  Kentville is also a major rural medical hub for mainland Nova Scotia, which often allows patients to attend multiple appointments for specialized healthcare on the same day.  I am proud that Brackish Biomechanical Bracing has been able to contribute to and broaden the breadth and quality of healthcare offered in this region.   

Bob Hainstock

I live on the Brow of North Mountain high above the Annapolis Valley landscape. I have my studio in that location. Following my graduation from NSCAD, this landscape has been the principal inspiration for my printmaking for more than 20 years. In this period my interpretation of this landscape has evolved from realistic to increasingly more abstract. I am pleased that I can share my experience in workshops and teaching courses for budding printmakers.

I took on the challenge of transforming the Hardware Art Gallery into a viable cultural enterprise resulting in the creation of Tides Contemporary Art Gallery with an artist-run business model. It is emerging as a recognized cultural enterprise in the Valley and beyond and has a fine membership of committed artists. Unfortunately, there is too little recognition in local government that investments in culture pay off well in a community. This has been proven and published in many studies all over Canada, mostly in the cities but less so in rural municipalities.

Jaimie and Aaron Peerless

Phantom Effects is owned and operated by husband-and-wife duo Aaron and Jaimie Peerless. Aaron has a background in special effects makeup for film and TV, and Jaimie carries a large art and design portfolio. Together they have been living their dreams out of an old rundown tavern space in the back of the Main Street Station in Kentville. They are currently in their 6th year of business and have transformed the space and many other parts of the iconic building to capture a sense of wonder and preserve its interior character. Phantom Effects is known for their community pride and their support to the local business community. They run the Phantom’s FreakShow Haunted House out of the basement of the historic Inn. This community fundraiser has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the IWK Foundation and Youth Mental Health. Creative gurus Aaron and Jaimie are most proud of their success with their neighbors; cultivating relationships and opportunities to share their vision to the public. They work with a large group of 74 creative and unique volunteers from all walks of life that come together for one common goal… to build and beautify a better community.

Kathleen Novelia

At the age of 15, I arrived in Canada as a lone immigrant and a visible minority with a cross-cultural background. I am aware of the price newcomers must pay to live and integrate in the community. When you have all your basic needs met – a home, a job, along with social security, health care, education – to be able to aim for a peaceful life is a real privilege. Privilege comes with responsibilities. I strive to extend the kindness, the privilege, and the opportunities I have received to achieve the quality of life I now possess to those who are still at the beginning of their journey through dignified and fulfilling economic empowerment, as well as cultural and self-expression.

I am driven by the power of food in our daily life. My work aims to educate, to inspire, and to create emotionally and culturally embedded experiences. I want to constantly introduce other cultural ideologies to the local community, specifically enriching the existing knowledge of the community through food-related practices and the multilayered complexity of food in terms of economic and socio-political matter, heritage, gastronomy, and identity. Through my work I hope to generate respect and admiration for each culture and tradition, and to embrace differences while sustaining mindful practices at the local level.

Jimi Doidge

I went to College for Television Broadcasting and worked in the industry for several years as a video editor. In my free time I would make cider, wine and mead in my basement, kitchen and wherever there was room in my house. The idea that making alcohol could be a career didn’t seem possible to me – it was a hobby that I loved doing. 

When I started to consider it, I realized I couldn’t get a job at a winery because I didn’t have any formal experience or education. And I couldn’t go to school for it because I didn’t have the high school science credits. I came to the conclusion the easiest way to get into the industry would be to start my own business. In 2016 I quit my job and moved to the Annapolis Valley with my wife. I fell in love with Kentville and met my business partner while looking at all the possible locations to set up a cidery. 

We lucked upon the former Cornwallis Inn – a historic hotel – and decided to go for it. We hit the ground running and basically learned everything as we went. The intention was to open a cidery with a small taproom that we could sample and sell our cider. But we quickly learned that the best way to sell cider was to offer food. What followed was a restaurant, event space and wedding venue. There’s been a lot of long, stressful nights and I’m still constantly learning, but seeing people sitting at the bar drinking cider and having a good time makes it all worth it. My goal for the cidery is to create high end products that distinguish the Annapolis Valley as a top cider producing region in the world.

Robert Ffrench

As a resident of Kentville for most of my life, I am an alumnus of Acadia University and currently active as a member of the Board of Governors. I have served in the senior leadership role for the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association (VANSDA) for 23 years, guiding its growth from inception into one of the province’s most recognized African Nova Scotian community non-profit organizations. Prior to my role with VANSDA, I was a member of staff with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board holding the position of Regional Co-op Education Coordinator implementing school to work transition opportunities for students. 

I have always held a strong desire for building equity and growth within our communities from early on. This led me to efforts as an author, when I wrote the first books in Canada designed to educate elementary school aged children on African Canadian History (illustrated by artist Henry Bishop). Adopted as course material in communities and school boards across the country, The “African Canadian Achievement” 2 book series – Out of the Past, Into the Future & In Our Time – have continued to be valued resources in classrooms and homes. 

Currently I am engaged with numerous groups and committees as a consultant on Issues of Diversity, Inclusion and Employment issues. 

Mark & Erin

We both grew up in Ontario and moved to Nova Scotia in 2013.  We started off living in Halifax, and in 2015 we experimented with making soy candles as a way to repurpose some extra mason jars.   We decided to try selling our candles at local markets, and soon found our way to the Wolfville Farmers Market where we quickly fell in love with the Annapolis Valley.  We moved to the area soon thereafter, and our experiment grew into a full-time business selling our candles at farmers markets, craft fairs, and retailers around the Maritimes.  In February of 2020, we opened our first retail location in downtown Kentville.  We found ourselves amongst a very supportive community who continue to help us grow our business, and we try to pay back that support as much as we can.  In November 2022, we moved into our present location on Webster Street where we were able to design an open studio space where visitors can see where we hand pour our candles.  We feel very fortunate to be part of this community, and we look forward to watching Kentville grow and prosper in the years ahead!

Shelley Acker

I grew up in Kentville. Went to school here, was a Girl Guide here, had my first jobs here, and after a life-time of working for other people and businesses, I now have my own business. This is home and the only place I would consider doing what I do.

I am often asked what got me interested in miniatures. And there is no one answer, but I have always loved small things. When I was a 7-year-old Brownie, we had a challenge to see how many things we could each fit into a matchbox. With some help from my parents, I managed to fit 50 different things in one. And I kept that box of tiny things for years. 

I started making miniatures as a hobby in 1999 and since then, the passion that began as a child, has continued to grow and refine. When it was time to make a career change in 2018, it just made sense to finally follow my dream and Freedom Miniatures was born. 

There is nothing more gratifying than being able to share something you are passionate about with others. Helping people discover the wonders of all things small is why I get up in the morning.

Russ Sanche 

I have reached out to young people for over 30 years as coach, mentor, program leader, teacher, and community leader. Whether it is in small town Nova Scotia, the slums of India, the jungles of central America, I have seen a common thread. Children and youth facing the intense challenge of poverty and homelessness are often unseen and their stories are seldom heard. As the most vulnerable, they are often subject to exploitation and marginalized. I believe that we need to know the names and stories of young people. When you really know someone and they know you, it changes you. One cannot remain idle, but act. 

Issues like human trafficking, poverty, and homelessness impacts young people around the world, including here in the Annapolis Valley. We need to care, speak up, and we need to do something. For over 10 years, locally that has been the challenge that myself, my family, my friends, and my co-workers have taken up. Through the Portal Youth Outreach Association, I work with a team to walk alongside young people to navigate the system, get connected, and rise to a better life.  A better life is the end of homelessness, where every young person has a safe, supportive, nurturing, and loving home.