The official guide, powered by On the Road magazine


Coffee with Bruce Stapley

 Coffee with Bruce Stapley


After running in the same circles and exchanging emails occasionally, I finally met Bruce Stapley in person over a coffee. Normally, you can go online to assemble a reasonable biography of someone before you meet them, but not Bruce – he’s a ghost online – beyond the hundreds of articles he’s written about other people. 

I guess it makes sense: who interviews the interviewer? Not the competition, nor themselves. Bruce is well-mannered and friendly, and obviously cares about the community around him. He strikes me as a nice guy with no agendas or motives – someone you can trust up front.

Born and raised in Toronto, Bruce lived in Vandorf and Goodwood before moving to Stouffville in 1977. He had a knack for making “Canadian-type” rustic furniture. He opened a furniture store where Pastaggio’s is now located in Downtown Stouffville named Bruce County Pine. In 1983, he moved the business out to West Main Street alongside Card’s Hardware and Appliances (current day M&M Meats). Bruce said the novelty of rustic pine furniture was wearing off by 1985, so he moved on to other things, like writing a newspaper column for The Weekender in the Tribune. 

Well-known local journalist Jim Thomas brought him and other journalists, like Kate Gilderdale under his wing and added local sports to Bruce’s reporting repertoire. “You can’t go wrong with human interest and sports,” said Bruce, “there’s no politics, no agenda… It was Jim’s unbridled enthusiasm for a good local story, and his unfailing support and encouragement, that enabled Kate and I to realize our dreams of using whatever creative talents we had on an everyday basis in the local paper.”

Bruce continued as a freelance writer for several years, and enjoyed it, but the industry was changing. Local newspapers were being bought up and merged – or closed to limit competition. An expansion of territory could bring greater efficiencies and better revenues, favouring regional over local content. For the uninitiated, the newspaper story gets confusing locally. It appears that Torstar-Metroland’s York Region Media Group bought the Tribune. The Tribune later merged with The Sun – to form the Sun-Tribune. 

Newspaper folks struggled with the change in different ways. Bruce struggled too. Some like Jim Mason, a local journalistic legend, rode out the changes, contributed greatly to the Town over a 34-year career, and then retired as the editor of the Sun-Tribune in 2016. Bruce took a different path – when an opportunity came for his family to move to New Zealand for a year in 2001, they took it.

Upon his return, Bruce joined Kate Gilderdale in a newspaper start-up named Whitchurch-Stouffville This Month. With Kate looking after the writing side of the paper as editor, Bruce became the ad sales rep while contributing a column and a few stories as well.

It went well for about three years, until this paper too was bought by Metroland in 2004. 

Kate later wrote, “Small town newspapers have long been under siege in Ontario. With the increase of corporate ownership, the emphasis has shifted from local to regional news in order to create larger, more powerful markets for big advertisers…” Kate and Bruce had casual conversations with local business owners and leaders about publishing their own paper. “David Barthau, who owns Barthau Jewellers, wanted an all local paper… he’s a town guy that believes in the community,” said Bruce. Travis Merrick of Merrick Art & Graphics, too was gung ho. 10 local investors pledged $2500 each for the launch. In December 2005, the Stouffville Free Press was born. 

“After all, Kate and I had kids born the exact same day when we shared a good neighbour fence on Main St. back in 1978,” said Bruce. “Why not preside jointly over another ‘baby’ 27 years later? Especially when said publication is to epitomize the all-local philosophy of community newspapers instilled in both of us by Jim Thomas…” 

“We believe our community has room for both regional and local publications, and that competition is not only healthy, but desirable… The Stouffville Free Press is created for and by the residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville,” wrote Kate in the inaugural edition in December 2005.

Bruce wrote, “When Whitchurch-Stouffville This Month was founded by a few like-minded acquaintances in 2001, we jumped on board; Kate as editor, I as ad sale rep and columnist. And when the need for a revival of an independent local newspaper concept became increasingly apparent in recent months, we dove right in, along with an enthusiastic and committed group of backers; business types, professionals and residents whose collective time in Whitchurch-Stouffville adds up to just under a gazillion years! Kate has been given ‘Free’ reign (thus the name ‘Free Press’) to do things as editor of this paper. I have free reign as well – to get out there and spend every waking moment trying to persuade the town’s local businesses to rally around us and take out ads in our paper.” 

Kate retired from the Stouffville Free Press in 2015. Today, the newspaper continues on. “David Barthau handles business. Travis Merrick, the art and graphics. I serve as editor and general manager and still do some ad sales, and many good people contribute,” said Bruce.

The coffee meeting with Bruce Stapley proved to be time well spent.