OK Builders shutting down
Jon Manchester - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Photo: Google Street View

An Okanagan-wide building supply company is closing its doors.

OK Builders Supplies Ltd. has announced its closing its builder centres and masonry division locations in Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton.

The family-owned business, headquartered in Kelowna, has been in operation for 65 years.

OK Builders will continue to operate the retail outlets as they wind down to final closure on March 1, the company said in a press release.

Meanwhile, the company has sold its OK Ready Mix concrete operations to Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd. That transition is currently being completed. All OK Ready Mix locations from Penticton to Kamloops will continue under the same name.

“A huge thank you to the innumerable customers and suppliers who made this business a success over the past 65 years,” the company said in the statement.

“OK Builders Supplies Ltd. would also like to extend their sincere thanks to all the present and past employees, who along with their families have made working at OK Builders a real pleasure. We wish them all the very best.”

Starbuds still in Ontario mix
Kirk Penton - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A Kelowna-based company didn’t capture one of 25 cannabis retail licences in Ontario’s lottery last week, but it has a chance to get into the market through a partnership with one of the winners.

Starbuds Canada, which last summer secured real estate locations in Whitby, Ont., and Windsor, Ont., in anticipation of the lottery, was one of 17,320 applicants. Most of the 25 winners are individuals who don’t know how to open a retail cannabis store, but Starbuds does.

The licences cannot be transferred through a sale, so the only option for cannabis companies like Starbuds to get into the lucrative Ontario market is through a partnership. There have been reports this week that licence holders are seeking more than $5 million.

“We’ve had 17 of those groups come back to us and say that they are open for offers,” Starbuds president Dave Martyn said this week. “We’ve talked to 12 in the last day. We’re going to submit offers. I don’t know the odds of getting a partnership with these groups, but given how tight the timeline is plus the various other concerns that are there, we think the fact that we understand the process—we’ve built stores—that should play favourably for us.

“Given the amount of people looking to partner, we think we’ve got a shot, but it’s ultra-competitive for those licences. We’re hearing crazy numbers. I don’t know the reality of them, but it’s the most highly chased licences we’ve seen in Canada thus far.”

Those who won licences have to pay a $6,000 non-refundable fee and supply a $50,000 letter of credit along with their application, and they have to do it by the end of the week.

“The timelines are extremely, extremely tight. I would say they’re almost not doable,” Martyn said. “I struggle to see anybody being open on April 1 given the building permits and things like that that always take a lot of time.

“So a lot of people have a very steep learning curve, and literally every single winner we’ve talked to has said, ‘I didn’t have a plan if I won. I entered this like a lottery ticket, and now I gotta figure out what to do because my money is actually on the line.’ It’s very, very interesting times in Ontario.”

— with files from Nich Johansen

Costco relocating to Westside
Wayne Moore - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Photo: Google Maps

It’s official. Costco will be relocating its Kelowna store to the Westside.

Castanet has learned the retail giant has purchased a number of properties on Westside Road, just off Highway 97, for the new store.

The property is on Westbank First Nation lands.

Surveyors have apparently already been on the property.

It’s been no secret Costco has been looking for a new location for some time. The company has been looking for a larger space, more room for parking and space for a gas bar.

Those were not possible at its current Kelowna location.

The first choice was an industrial park across from Kelowna International Airport, however, the city nixed that location, saying it doesn’t fit into plans for the area.

Rumours of a move to the Westside heated up in September when company employees mentioned a move while manning a booth at the IPE in Armstrong.

It also became an election issue when mayoralty candidate Tom Dyas accused the city of not treating the company very well.

Neither Costco nor WFN have officially announced the move.

It’s believed a new store could be open on the Westside in 2020.

Dine Around off and running
Madison Erhardt - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Dine Around Thompson Okanagan is back for another year.

The official launch party was held at Okanagan College in Kelowna Tuesday evening and attracted more than 300 people.

The kickoff featured a stand-up reception, allowing guests to sample food, wine and beer booths.

“This festival is great for restaurants as we help promote their businesses during what has been traditionally a slow time of year,” BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson said.

“Consumers also appreciate it as they have the opportunity to sip, savour and save with these delicious three-course menus for such incredible prices. Many residents take the opportunity to get out and try restaurants that they may not have ever been to or don’t visit often enough. It’s a win-win for the consumer and our member restaurants.”

For the next two and a half weeks 50 restaurants throughout the Thompson Okanagan are featuring a three-course menu for $15, $25, $35 or $45 with suggested BC VQA wine pairings, BC Craft Beer pairings or spirits and cocktail pairings.

Guests can visit the participating restaurants and ask for their Dine Around menu. Reservations are encouraged as more than 8,000 people are expected to take in the festival Jan. 16 to Feb. 3.

A list of participating restaurants and their menus can be viewed online at www.dinearound.ca.

Kelowna’s prices still rising
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Photo: The Canadian Press

Despite the recent cooling of the real estate market in Kelowna, prices continued to climb in 2018.

The recently released Royal LePage House Price Survey found the aggregate home price in Kelowna rose 3.6 per cent to $650,438 when compared to the fourth quarter in 2017.

The median price of a two-storey home increased 2.5 per cent to $736,442 in the last 12 months, bungalows went up 3.3 per cent to $653,259, and condominiums rose by a whopping 10 per cent to $421,512.

“The housing market is showing signs of stabilizing from the impacts of government regulations aimed at cooling the market,” Royal LePage Kelowna managing broker and owner Francis Braam said in a press release. “In the fourth quarter, the market in Kelowna remained balanced, reflecting increased demand from young families and millennials looking to find a home for good value.”

Royal LePage’s numbers, which out of proprietary property data compiled from 63 of the country’s largest markets, also indicated the national average rose four per cent over the past 12 months.

Taco shop gets new owners
Colin Dacre - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

A downtown Penticton staple has new owners.

Tacos Del Norte has sold to a pair of cousins, including Nick Dosantos, a 25-year-old Osoyoos native fresh out of business school.

In addition to being fed them regularly by his grandparents, he grew up crossing the border multiple times a week for tacos.

“We always had to go to Oroville to try to find authentic street tacos,” he said. “I finished my business degree in Edmonton and didn’t want to sit in an office all day.”

“So me and my cousin Emily Patrocinio were like, let’s start a taco shop,” he added.

The cousins purchased the business off Ian Nelson, who started the food truck and storefront six years ago. He announced the sale via Facebook while on vacation in Mexico.

“All the cool catering events we did, all the concerts, festivals,” Nelson said. “All of you regulars that keep coming in day after day slaying plates of tacos emptying my beer fridge as fast as I can fill it, thank you.”

Dosantos said he recently took his own trip to Mexico, spending a month getting inspired by the local street food. They plan on renovating the space and installing a new kitchen and hope to be reopened within a month.

He says customer favourites will stay on the menu.

“The tacos that Ian had, he called them inauthentic tacos, we will be keeping those still for everyone that enjoyed them,” he said. “But we will also bring the authentic side from my grandma’s recipes.”

From Mexico, Nelson encouraged his customers to support the new owners.

“They put all their chips on the line for this one … show these guys a lot of support,” he said. “We did really good setting the bar making good tacos for Penticton. I started it because Penticton didn’t have that yet. I’m really happy how it went, but these guys are going to be better.”

Interior loses arthritis doc
Colin Dacre - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The only Interior B.C. doctor specializing in the treatment of juvenile arthritis has retired, leaving young families forced to make regular trips to Vancouver while the specialist’s replacement is tied up in red tape.

Dr. Katherine Gross has been practicing general paediatric medicine in Penticton for 28 years, along with a subspecialty of paediatric rheumatology.

“It’s not an uncommon condition,” she explained. “People think that arthritis affects adults and don’t think of it affecting children when actually it’s about as common as type-one diabetes.”

In youth, the disease is caused by an autoimmune condition that leads to painful inflammation in the joints and a variety of other conditions. It’s often treated with chemotherapy, meaning the kids need to see a specialist as often as every 12 weeks.

Dr. Gross is the only doctor specialized in the condition outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and sees children from across the Thompson-Okanagan and Kootenays.

She has managed to secure a replacement for her general paediatric practice, but a strong candidate with the same specialty faces regulatory barriers.

“We started planning about two years ago and thought we had someone that would be able to take over from me,” she said.

The replacement specialist was trained in paediatric rheumatology in Vancouver, but the bulk of her medical education occurred in India, a jurisdiction the BC College doesn’t recognize.

Dr. Gross explained the BC College has programs to get foreign general practitioners working in Canada through a three-month supervised job-shadow system, but those programs don’t exist for specialists.

“We feel she would do a really excellent job,” Dr. Gross said. “That’s a frustration, it may work out in the long run, but not for the moment.”

“The candidate we have has been given landed immigrant status in Canada based on her skills, but then she’s unable to use those skills because she can’t get licensed. That seems to be a catch-22 that Canada needs to deal with.”

Dr. Gross, who comes from Australia, says she will be staying in Penticton in her retirement and will miss her “very satisfying, wonderful” career.

“But it’s the time in my life that it’s time to step down. Getting up in the night one-in-four nights is hard to do when you get to my age.”

She is considering some sporadic locum work and is currently working in a temporary role until the end of February but can’t commit to running the whole paediatric rheumatology outreach program.

The doctors in Vancouver who most of her patients will have to travel to have voiced their own concerns about being able to handle the increased caseload, she said.

To bring attention to the issue, B.C. charity Cassie and Friends will tour ten Okanagan elementary schools later this month with a puppet show, educating more than 2,500 students about juvenile arthritis.

Pot shop waits on province
Nicholas Johansen - Jan 16 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

It’s been almost a month since Lake Country councillors changed their minds and approved the municipality’s first cannabis retail store, but the province has yet to give its final stamp of approval.

While Lake Country’s council initially denied Compass Cannabis Clinic’s variance application to open their retail store within a 400-metre buffer of a nearby daycare, they approved the store in a second vote on Dec. 18 after significant public support.

While construction of the store is now pretty well finished up and government inspectors have been through the store, the province has yet to issue a licence.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of waiting in this industry, and we’re stuck back in that waiting game route,” said Dave Martyn, president of Compass Cannabis Clinics.

Compass Cannabis is currently working on opening about 30 Starbuds retail stores across the country, but Martyn, a Lake Country resident, is hoping his company’s first store will be within a short drive of his home.

The company is also waiting on B.C. government approval for stores in Dawson Creek and Fernie, and they’re hoping to open in Revelstoke in the near future.

Martyn says he hopes final approval will come within days, rather than weeks or months.

The Higher Path cannabis store in Trail was granted a licence late last week, shortly after three licences were given to Vancouver retail stores. There are currently seven provincially licensed private cannabis stores in B.C. in addition to the government-run store that opened in Kamloops on Oct. 17.

Summerland city council approved the Green Gaia Cannabis Co. last month, but the store has not been granted a provincial licence at this time. Kelowna city council has not approved any cannabis stores, but a map of the 36 proposed locations can be found at the bottom of this story.

Meanwhile, Indigenous Bloom opened up its second cannabis retail store on Okanagan Indian Band land, just south of Lake Country, last week. The company, which advertises “medicinal hemp and cannabis,” does not have provincial licences for its two stores.

Across the country, Starbuds has 26 potential sites in Alberta, where they’re waiting for new licensing to reopen, and they were granted a licence through a lottery system in Saskatchewan. The company is waiting for the second round of licensing to open in Manitoba and while they weren’t granted a licence in the recent Ontario licensing lottery, they’re looking to partner with some of those who did.

“B.C. may be slow … but the actual application and licensing process has been good, it just has not gone quick. Whereas everywhere else you’ve seen random-chance lotteries, merit-based lotteries, just a completely inconsistent set of rules, not even province-to-province, but city-to-city,” Martyn said. “B.C. as a whole has actually been fairly good to work with in most cases.”

Replant window over soon
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 15 - Biz Releases

Photo: Facebook
Ambrosia apples

Okanagan fruit growers are being reminded that they have until the end of January to apply for replant funding through the provincial government.

Fruit like honeycrisp, ambrosia and pink lady apples, along with late-season cherries, are popular both in B.C. and around the world. B.C. fruit growers produced 137,600 tonnes of apples, cherries, peaches, plums/prunes, nectarines and apricots, which represented one-third of Canadian production.

Application forms and full details about the replant program can be found here. The application deadline is Jan. 31, and they are being accepted by the BC Fruit Growers’ Association.

The B.C. government is trying to do what it can to “encourage new growers” and “increase production” of fruits in the province. That includes the $5 million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund that was introduced last February in Kelowna.

The fund allows growers to get help in three key areas: research, marketing, and infrastructure. The money can be accessed to tackle problems like disease and pest research, market development research, purchasing new equipment and updating infrastructure like packinghouses.

Save your business money
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jan 15 - Biz Releases

Photo: The Canadian Press

If you run a business and would like to save a little money here and there, the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce might have something to help you.

The chamber’s quarterly breakfast next week will focus on energy efficiency. BC Hydro business energy advisor Ben Gardiner will make a presentation that will include tips on the financial incentives his company has available for lighting, HVAC and refrigeration energy efficiency upgrades.

Following Gardiner’s presentation, representatives from Do Some Good will deliver a presentation about connecting businesses with charitable organizations.

The breakfast will take place on Thursday, Jan. 24, at Schubert Centre, which is located at 3505 30th Ave. in Vernon. Registration is at 7:30 a.m.

Visit here to register for the breakfast in advance.

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