Kitchener-Waterloo

Steve Dawkins, man behind ad campaign 'It's worth the drive to Acton,' has died

Steve Dawkins worked at the Olde Hide House in Acton, Ont., between 1985 and 2002 and is the person behind the 'It's worth the drive to Acton' ad campaign that brought thousands of people to the small town west of Toronto.

Mayor describes Dawkins as 'real visionary and he was a real booster' for Acton

Steve Dawkins is credited with the advertising campaign for the Olde Hide House that had the tagline, 'It's worth the drive to Acton.' Dawkins died on Oct. 9. (Steve Dawkins/Twitter/Olde Hide House/YouTube)

Steve Dawkins, the man who created the ad campaign that featured the tagline, "It's worth the drive to Acton," has died after a short battle with cancer.

The ad campaign was for the Olde Hide House in Acton, Ont., west of Toronto, which was founded in 1980 by his father Don Dawkins, uncle Fred Dawkins and Fred Dawkins' brother-in-law, Ron Heller. 

Steve Dawkins worked at the company from 1985 to 2002 as marketing co-ordinator, chief operating officer and president.

Rick Bonnette is the mayor of Halton Hills and a longtime friend of Dawkins. He says the Dawkins family turned a former underwear factory into the leather coat business that in its heyday brought thousands of people to the small town west of Toronto each weekend.

Bonnette says the Olde Hide House brought an estimated 300,000 people a year to Acton.

On his LinkedIn account, Dawkins credited his friend Stu Holloway for the actual tagline, but he was the one who ran with it in advertising. The tagline became well known throughout southern Ontario and even further, Bonnette says.

"I can remember one time I was on a holiday from the Caribbean and somebody was from Nova Scotia and said to my wife, you know, people ask where you're from, 'Oh, we're from Acton.'"

The person responded, "Oh, is it worth the drive?" Bonnette said with a chuckle.

In 2002, Dawkins was inducted into the Halton Region Business Hall of Fame for the campaign.

Community spirit

Bonnette says Dawkins was a "real visionary and he was a real booster for the Town of Acton." 

In 1988, Bonnette wanted to get ambulance service into Acton, and Dawkins put on a fundraising dinner to buy equipment for a volunteer ambulance.

"He always had the community in his heart," Bonnette said.

Bonnette said after Dawkins died, someone who used to work at the Olde Hide House told him that Dawkins would hand deliver paycheques to people.

On Twitter, Linda Fronteddu wrote that she worked at the Olde Hide House in high school. She said Dawkins was "a great person to work for" and the time spent working there were "some of the best years of my life."

Const. Dennis Dimitroff tweeted that Dawkins was "Acton Proud and will be missed."

'Brilliant and creative mind'

Most recently, Dawkins worked as a real estate agent in Guelph.

Dawkins was 61 at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife Maria, daughter, grandson and other family members. His father Don died in 2019 and he is predeceased by his son and brother.

There will be no public service. A private family gathering will be planned for a later date.

In his obituary, his family wrote that Dawkins "had a brilliant and creative mind. His unbridled passion and singular vision served him well in his many personal and professional accomplishments."

"Steve will be remembered for his love of family, his entrepreneurial spirit, his biting sarcasm and his love of good food, old books and world travel."

This is an example of one of the commercials that featured the tagline, "It's worth the drive to Acton":

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