Dianne Acheson

Local Hero: Dianne Acheson says, “I’ve always believed retail is theatre, and fundraising is just the same.” The Hillsburgh resident and owner of Acheson’s, must know. She’s a whiz at both.

November 21, 2011 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2011

Dianne Acheson: One of our 2011 Local Heroes


Diane Acheson says, “I’ve always believed retail is theatre, and fundraising is just the same.” The Hillsburgh resident and owner of Acheson’s, a fashion and decor store in Orangeville, must know. She’s a whiz at both.

Her store, packed with dramatic displays – even a gigantic tree that seems to sprout from the ceiling, demonstrates Dianne’s commitment to theatrical retail. And it’s a formula that seems to work. The business has grown over more than 20 years from a 300-square-foot corner in her husband’s pharmacy in Harriston, where an expanded store still thrives, to the second outlet in Orangeville, boasting over 5,000 square feet.

Acheson’s has twice been named Retailer of the Year by the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association, which gushed in 2008 that the business “proves you don’t have to be big to be mighty.”

Dianne brings that same creative flair and practical mightiness to her support for the community. Frequent in-store charity events are held in aid of organizations such as Starthrower Foundation, which educates young people in Haiti (founded by Orangeville resident Sharon Gaskell, who was featured as a “Local Hero” last year in this magazine). Acheson’s raised $7,000 for Starthrower in 2010. Dianne and her staff also sponsor two of the foundation’s Haitian students.

This past spring when Dianne heard the Orangeville Food Bank was experiencing a shortfall in donations, she held an in-store party at five o’clock in the morning to watch Will and Kate’s royal nuptials live on television. Fifty people turned up, all bearing food bank donations. She also hosts in-store promotions for Family Transition Place and others.

Beyond the store walls, Dianne participates in the Headwaters Health Care Centre annual fundraising gala, donating gift bags and proceeds from the sale of $100 teddy bears. She has raised funds for the University of Guelph Equine Hospital, and even sponsors an Orangeville girls’ baseball team called the Wildcats.

Dianne produces her biggest event in support of the Caledon-based Kids and Horses Foundation, which provides opportunities for children from low-income families to ride and learn about horses. Last year’s fundraiser included a fashion show, bountiful food and drink, and guest speaker Margaret Trudeau, who had recently published a memoir about her struggle with depression. The event raised $20,000. At this year’s event, held in October at the Royal Ambassador in Caledon, the star power was comedian Jessica Holmes of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame, and the tally rose to $26,000.

“The secret is to have something people want to see. You have to be over the top,” Dianne says. “Generally, people feel good when they give, but you need to give them something in return for their support.”

Dianne argues she’s just doing her bit like everyone else: “One thing I’ve learned is how generous this community is.” Maybe so, but few of us can claim that we raise “at least $50,000, maybe $60,000” for charity every year. As to the time it all takes, she insists, “Once you do it and have a template, it’s not that bad.”

Always on the lookout for a novel, fun excuse to hold a fundraiser, these days Dianne has her eye on Coco, a six-month-old cockatiel who resides like a mascot in the store. “I’m already planning for when she’s old enough – the engagement party, the wedding, the baby shower. Sure, why not?”

Dianne’s philosophy about mixing business and community is simple: “We need more good.”

Our fourth annual celebration of extraordinary people, meet our other heroes

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.


1 Comment

  1. Editor’s note: Dianne Acheson’s first name was misspelled with only one ’n’ in the print version of the magazine. Our profound apologies to Dianne.

    Signe Ball from Headwaters Region on Nov 22, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply

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