A decade later, Acio and fellow WIGT staffer Hendrik Idzerda are buying the business from Toranto and Shoshany, who founded WIGT (pronounced “widget”) in 1983 and whose artistic and martial arts pursuits have grown to consume more and more of their time and attention over the years.
“Barry and Eva have been the kind of bosses that a lot of people would want and that I hope to be,” says Acio, who lives in San Rafael and will be the majority owner of WIGT with Mill Valley resident Idzerda serving as a minority partner. “They’ve allowed me into their life and they’ve become family. For them to hand over the keys to Hendrik and I – it’s just amazing. We’re very excited.”
The pair assumes ownership of WIGT officially on April 1. In doing so, they take the reins of a business that has played a vital role in the success of the arts and entertainment scene in Mill Valley, Marin and beyond the Bay Area. Over the years, they’ve designed and produced posters for some of the biggest events in the Bay Area, as well for some of the biggest names in music history, including Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, Tracy Chapman, David Grisman, Dan Hicks, Phil Lesh and many more.
Toranto and Shoshany began thinking about selling WIGT about five years ago, with Toranto starting to spend less time at WIGT three years ago and Shoshany running the business since then. The couple met in photography school at Goddard College in Vermont, and WIGT was founded soon after as they began creating postcard art and running a printing press.
Barry’s respective love of and interest in photography has only grown over the more than 30 years they’ve been running WIGT, first in a garden cottage behind 324 Miller Ave. and in the main building there since 1986, Toranto says.
Toranto’s photography has taken off in recent years. His regular inclusion in the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival and exhibits at places like Bank of Marin has made it nearly a full-time pursuit, and Toranto says he’s excited for the next chapter. He’s participating in Marin Open Studios May 10-11 at his Homestead Valley home.
“Keeping my focus on more of a creative endeavor is going to be really healthy for me,” he says.
One of Toranto’s primary focuses over the past decade has been his “Reflections” series, which uses window reflections and the objects on either side of the window to create “this really interesting depth of color – it’s like a treasure hunt,” he says.
“I really love surprises,” Toranto says, noting that he once took a photo of a window reflection on Columbus Street that ended up containing a billboard from the famed street artist Banksy. “I really don’t want to photograph and document what I’m seeing but rather experiment and see changes in how (the photos) come out. I like to feel connected to what I’m shooting.”
Almost since the time they opened WIGT, both Toranto and Shoshany have been dedicated practitioners of Tai Chi at the Inner Research Institute in San Francisco. In addition to attending classes at IRI, they teach a Tai Chi class at the Mill Valley Golf Course Clubhouse on Thursdays at 10 a.m. ($10 and open to the public).
“We’re very much at peace with it,” Toranto says of WIGT’s transition. “But we still have emotional ties to it – it’s like a kid going off to college.”
Toranto says the transition wouldn’t be possible without Acio, who started at WIGT right out of college at UC-Davis, where she studied graphic design.
“We were so taken by her – her energy and her work ethic,” he says. "And within a year, it was like, ‘How did we ever do without her?’ She really earned the reins to WIGT.”
And given her decade-long experience at WIGT, customers won’t notice much change, Acio says. She hopes to grow WIGT’s online ordering business, where customers can simply place an order and upload images and documents but still receive personal service as needed. High-quality printing and great service will remain WIGT’s hallmark, she says.
“I want to continue the tradition of WIGT and the legacy of supporting and providing services to our friends and family in Mill Valley and around the world,” she says.
And if she ever has a question, Acio knows that Toranto and Shoshany won’t be hard to find, knowing they live down the street and own the building in which WIGT resides.
“Now they’re my landlords – they can’t get away from me,” she says with a laugh.
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