Championing children at school
Contributed - Jan 14, 2021 - Think Local

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Karine Veldhoen isn’t your typical school principal, but that’s not unexpected, because Willowstone Academy, the school she leads, isn’t your typical school. Most mornings you will find Mrs. V greeting students by name with a warm welcome at one of the school’s entrance doors as they arrive. As Willowstone’s chief learning officer, and a mom of three, she and her team of high-performance, multi-disciplinary educators champion the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.

She firmly believed a new educational model was needed—a community for being, becoming and believing. The Learn Forward philosophy was born, and Willowstone Academy is Learn Forward’s model school.

Learn Forward’s philosophy focuses on the five important journeys of a child: faith, worthiness, selfhood, belonging and change-making. “Because we hold those journeys as what matters most for children, it helps us educate the whole child,” Veldhoen says. “We ensure not only their academic and cognitive needs are met, but also their social and emotional needs, so they feel safe and excited to be at school.”

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At Willowstone, parents, teachers and students are invited to the Table of Learning. The learning remains central, in the middle of the table. Every voice is welcome and on equal ground. A communal growth mindset represents progress and forward motion. The school’s high-performance, multi-disciplinary team encourages open-hearted collaboration, innovative pedagogy, sustainability and high hopes for every child.

Willowstone’s Manifesto defines its roots, offering keywords and memorable phrases that permeate the school. The manifesto is displayed in every classroom, with a six-foot version adorning the main school staircase. 

A private, faith-based school, Willowstone offers programs from kindergarten to Grade 9 as well as early childhood education, including infant/toddler programs, pre-school and pre-K classes. With a focus on personalized learning, students receive affordable, world-class education in a boutique-sized learning community. Every educator is ultimately championing the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.

The youngest learner’s little hands reach up to meet their teacher’s with curiosity and trust as they take their first steps on their learning journey.

Learning comes alive for Willowstone’s elementary grade students as they take ownership of their learning, develop confidence and find their unique voice in a safe and nurturing environment.

Willowstone’s middle years program is formative as students develop their individuality, community and global citizenship by nurturing their interests. Built on the three pillars of identity formation, powerful learning and authentic connections, the middle years program has its own building, Middle Years Lane, where powerful learning is fostered through academic rigour focused on the process of learning and personal accountability. 

“Those three pillars really define what’s happening developmentally for students in that middle years age and stage, which is very tender and somewhat tumultuous,” Veldhoen says. “We’re excited about how our project-based and personalized program prepares students to be all they’re meant to be, beginning in their graduation program (Grades 10-12) and ultimately in the 21st century work environment.”

The excellent teacher-to-student ratio allows for closer connections between educators and children, which is augmented through the school’s unique extra-curricular programs. Whether it is new athletic programming, First Lego League, a leadership development program or the school’s entrepreneurial marketplace, Willowstone students always have opportunities to Learn Forward and become change-makers. In fact, last year’s Lego League squad placed first provincially for its robotics presentation and quadrupled its score from the previous competition.

Public registration for the 2021-22 Willowstone Academy school year opens on Tuesday, Feb. 9. To book a tour, visit the school’s admissions page.

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Fighting for a healthier earth
Contributed - Jan 12, 2021 - Think Local

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Graduate student Antreas Pogiatzis (left) and John Klironomos, a biologist in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

Soil is essential for life, playing a vital role in the Earth’s ecosystem.

Yet, today one-third of the Earth’s soils are degraded from agriculture, pollution and climate change.

“Our Earth is not a renewable resource,” says Miranda Hart, a professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan, who studies microbes that co-exist with plants. Similar to human gut microbiome, plants have a root microbiome.

A researcher who aims to protect the integrity and health of the dirt beneath us, Hart recognizes that soil biodiversity is a critical indicator of soil health. “Functional ecosystems require biodiversity in our soil. If we reduce soil biodiversity, we can lose entire ecosystems,” she explains.

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Miranda Hart examines a soil sample.

Hart can list many historical examples where crop failures have resulted from lack of proper soil maintenance. The deforestation and consequential soil erosion on Easter Island is but one. The famous statues of heads are actually full figures, buried by erosion when forests were lost.

Hart’s research team is working to better understand how to improve soil biodiversity in managed systems, either by manipulating plants or by adding microbial fertilizers.

Andrew Richards, a master’s student with Hart, is looking at the effects of incorporating other plants or cover crops, alongside grape vines to manage soil erosion, soil quality and disease progression.

“There’s been increasing public demand for sustainable wine production methods to fight fungal diseases that target grapevine roots,” Richards says. “With the ease of planting between vine rows and on footpaths, a cover crop could be the right solution.”

In his examination of the soil, Richards found it was richer in microbes when grapes were grown together with the diverse cover crops than without. More microbes in the soil means healthier plants.

Identifying the soil components required to sustain crops and forests has become a global priority. Soil scientists, such as Hart and her team, have rallied to generate and communicate soil knowledge, contributing to a United Nations report on the current status of biodiversity.

“The fight against climate change and biodiversity loss can seem overwhelming,” she says. “I believe we can do this one field at a time.”

Read the full story online at UBC Okanagan.

KAP Cleaners offers its secrets
Contributed - Jan 08, 2021 - Think Local

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Kerri Kedziora is the Okanagan’s Queen of Clean, and now she wants to share her expansive knowledge with others in the industry.

Kedziora owns and operates KAP Cleaners and Assistant Services, a successful and respected cleaning company that offers old-fashioned, deep-down, thorough cleaning of residences, businesses and vacation rental properties.

Unable to keep up with the high demand from property owners and managers alike, coupled with property managers’ inability to pay the fees Kedziora must charge to keep her well trained staff employed, she had to do some soul searching to find a way to help others reach their goals for five-star cleanliness scores.

There are beautiful vacation properties in the Okanagan with less than perfect cleanliness, thereby impeding on their popularity and preventing repeat guests. Kedziora was shocked when she visited a high-end resort recently and the room wasn’t spotless. Realizing that no matter how expensive a place is there are still issues with improper processes and systems to ensure complete overall cleanliness, Kedziora was perplexed. If money couldn’t guarantee a spotlessly clean holiday experience, what would? That’s when she got the idea. It was in that moment that a new service was created—a training program for companies that clean smaller resorts, vacation rentals, hotels and motels.

“If I can train people’s top employees the systems and processes to keep their guest suites clean always, then they’ve got it made,” Kedziora says. “You can teach anybody to clean as long as they want to learn. Employee motivation is another area we can help with.”

Kedziora has been cleaning since she was five years old, when her father became the single family leader of four kids and she was required to keep the house clean. Her knowledge expanded significantly when she worked in her 20s for her husband’s mom in the Lower Mainland.

“She knew what she was doing,” Kedziora says. “She’s amazing. Many of the procedures that I use in my business now, I learned from her. She was old fashioned and old school.”

During Kedziora’s 15 years working in health care—primarily caring for the elderly with dementia—she continued to clean in her spare time. Four years ago she embraced her undeniable skills as an entrepreneur and quit her health-care job to grow her cleaning business and employ others in her community.

KAP Cleaners will offer personal training that resorts, hotels, motels and vacation rentals simply cannot get today. There will be many options available to the managers and owners of vacation rental suites, such as an online training program that employees can access anytime and support systems through a Facebook group that all customers will have access to. Customers will not only be able to compare cleaning strategies but explore ideas for valued employee and guest attraction as well as troubleshoot ideas to provide the best guest satisfaction in all areas.

“You could even find out what others are using for bedding, tableware or lightbulbs,” Kedziora says.

Weekly live Q&A sessions with Kedziora herself will be included in a monthly membership option. Onsite consultations, evaluations of cleanliness and one-on-one training with team leads is another service that will be offered.

“We are working on programs that might suit every need for training as well as any budget,” she says.

Kedziora is even going to provide free information for employee motivation and retention. Rest assured Kedziora will help put together a cleaning plan that will ensure an unparalleled level of cleanliness.

“We’ll put together a routine and a system for every single client so that their place is always spotless,” she says.

Understanding the industry as well as she does, Kedziora and KAP Cleaners can also help individuals and companies attract the right employees, the right guests and the very best ratings. While the program outline is in its final stages and finishing touches are still being implemented, KAP Cleaners is offering early-interest customers 30% off regular rates if they sign up for the program prior to the official launch date.

KAP Cleaners can be reached at (778) 808-5942.

We are all Stronger Together
Contributed - Jan 07, 2021 - Think Local

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It’s tough dealing with physical health issues like diabetes or chronic pain. Managing mental health can also be a struggle during the winter, especially for those trying to parent or care for others while keeping themselves grounded and healthy.

It’s easy to feel alone.

Throw a global pandemic into the mix, with people in isolation, and the struggle is magnified.

That’s why Kelowna-based digital health company Curatio has created the Stronger Together program in partnership with UBC, Cloud DX and Penticton MD Dr. Michelle Scheepers. The Curatio platform matches patients to health programs, coaching, daily content, virtual tele-health visits, remote monitoring devices and most importantly, a private way to connect with other people going through the same thing. Curatio is an award-winning free app used by patients and families in more than 100 countries, and trusted for its privacy and regulatory compliance.

“With COVID-19, we have all experienced social isolation and know how it feels to be isolated and without support. We created the Stronger Together program to give people a way to stay healthy and connected. These are programs and supports especially for people during COVID-19,” Curatio founder Lynda Brown-Ganzert says. “So whether you’re parenting at home, living with diabetes or awaiting surgery, there is a whole suite of programs, coaching and supports that help you manage during this time, all in a private, secure environment.”

There are limited spaces available in the free program, which will feature coaching, counselling, virtual visits, private peer-to-peer social networking and remote patient monitoring kits. Curatio is inviting patients, parents and caregivers to take advantage of this free support by signing up for one of the limited spots during the month of January.

Once you sign up, you will receive an email with instructions to access your Stronger Together app, where you will have access to support right in the palm of your hand for the rest of winter.

“It’s a pretty special offer,” Brown-Ganzert says, “so we’re excited about it and would love to spread the word. We’re thrilled to bring it to the Okanagan region and to enable people to participate.”

The programs in the Stronger Together app are all evidence-based and are developed in partnership with clinicians and medical experts. Stronger Together will cover a wide variety of issues, including mental health, cancer, parenting, diabetes and heart health—just to name a few.

“There’s something there for everybody,” Brown-Ganzert says.

Behind it all will be Curatio’s belief that social support can go a long way in helping a patient’s physical health. That was the thinking when Brown-Ganzert incorporated Curatio more than seven years ago.

“Imagine going into surgery, and you’re trying to do all that research yourself,” Brown-Ganzert says. “You’re trying to ask your friends if anyone else has had this surgery. You’re trying to remember what it is you need to do. Or you might want to make some lifestyle changes before surgery like quitting smoking or losing weight.

“This rollout is really nicely timed with the new year, when we think about those goals. This is a tool that can help support you in those goals that you want to achieve in a super safe, private, supportive environment.”

Visit to select your free program. Limited spots are available.

Start 2021 on positive note
Contributed - Dec 16, 2020 - Think Local

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After a year of serious ups and downs, 2021 could be the fresh start you are looking for.

“During uncertain times, education is the best investment for the future,” says Yvonne Moritz, Okanagan College’s associate vice-president of education services.

“Our communities are incredible places to live, work, play and learn, and Okanagan College has been at the heart of education in the region for over 55 years. This coming year offers students a chance to advance their career and passions, while staying safe.”

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OC is gearing up for a full complement of arts, science, business, technologies, health and social development, trades and continuing studies programs in January, as the college continues to refine its educational delivery methods in the middle of a pandemic.

“Hands-on learning is still happening at Okanagan College,” Moritz explains. “Practical, real-world training doesn’t have to wait. We’ve reconfigured our labs and shops so students can engage in applied learning safely.”

Science labs and trades shops have been set up to allow students more room between each other, following physical distancing guidelines. Personal protective equipment, including gloves and face shields, are also provided to keep students safe.

And when students do learn at home, professors and instructors have come up with creative ways to bring the classroom to students’ homes.

Lab kits allow students to apply at home what they’re learning online. Students in the Sustainable Construction Management Technology Diploma program received a home lab kit to build a scale model of a single-storey house, including a building plan, wood, a scaled mitre saw and an architectural ruler.

Esthetics and Nail Technology Program students received kits to practise hair and nail-styling techniques at home.

Simulation technology also helps some programs, like practical nursing, apply theoretical knowledge in areas such as communication, critical thinking, medication knowledge and gathering patients’ medical history. Simulation software takes students through interactive case studies that test their knowledge and ability to make the right decisions when facing scenarios such as a patient showing up with possible COVID-19 symptoms.

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And true to OC’s reputation, the commitment of faculty and instructors is making all the difference.

“OC is a truly supportive community of learners and teachers, and students experience that sense of community, support and engagement in the classroom, no matter if they meet in the lab, shop and even online,” Moritz adds.

Students are taking notice and recognizing that in these challenging times there is opportunity to start fresh.

“Studying at home gives me the flexibility to be available for my son when he needs me,” says Mare McHale, who returned to class in September. “It fits my life, and I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school if there hadn’t been online options. My instructors are giving us creative assignments to showcase our learning, too. Going back to school has been a great experience. I wish I could complete all of my studies at OC.”

And future students don’t have to wait until fall. In fact, it’s not too late to apply for January 2021.

Choose your program and get started here.

Paul’s Moving does it right
Contributed - Dec 15, 2020 - Think Local

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If there is one industry where overkill is a good thing, it’s the moving business.

Unfortunately, the bare minimum is done on too many occasions and belongings end up either broken, damaged or lost.

That is not the case with Paul’s Moving and Labour Service, a family owned and operated business that now has a base in Armstrong, bringing its renowned and respected moving skills to the Okanagan. Paul’s Moving has been the top-rated moving company in the Fraser Valley for the past 10 years.

“A lot of people would say it’s overkill, what we do,” says Dustin Beattie, who owns the Chilliwack-based business with his dad and brother. “We pretty much treat every job like it’s long distance the way we wrap stuff to protect it from damage. That’s why we get such great reviews.”

Paul’s Moving will treat every one of your items like fine china, regardless of how far the move is. It teamed up with one of the North Okanagan’s most respected labourers to complete its expansion to Armstrong, so the trend of unparalleled customer service will continue in the Interior.

“Accidents happen from time to time, but if you’re not rectifying that as a company your name gets dragged through the mud pretty quick,” Beattie says.

The Beattie family incorporated Paul’s Moving in 2006, it also has a location in Prince George, and it services all of B.C. and parts of Alberta. It has weekly runs between Alberta and the Okanagan as well as the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan. It services the Okanagan from north to south since its base is in Armstrong.

Beattie and his team will provide free quotes and in-house estimates while taking all the necessary COVID-19 precautions. And since the company is family owned, you will always be able to talk to the owners if there are questions or issues.

“Moving is always stressful,” Beattie says. “We enjoy the work and what we do. Going the extra mile to make the day a little less chaotic for the customer brings us a sense of fulfillment. We are never satisfied until our clients are happy.”

Paul’s Moving trains all of its employees to handle all items with extreme care, and its business hours—from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.—make it convenient for customers to always have the opportunity to reach the office.

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Eldorado ready for holidays
Contributed - Dec 11, 2020 - Think Local

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If there were ever a time that Hotel Eldorado at Eldorado Resort belonged to Kelowna and Kelowna alone, it would be now.

Eldorado Resort is one of the premier tourist attractions in one of the country’s top tourism destinations, which welcomes guests from near and afar year-round. Now more than ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is all Kelowna’s.

That means this holiday season is the perfect time for locals to take advantage of the beautiful resort location or its culinary experience—or both. The pandemic is requiring people to gather with their immediate families only, so being a tourist in your hometown has never been timelier.

And since you may have spent the last nine months cooking the same meals over and over at home, Hotel Eldorado’s Lakeside Dining restaurant is here to help you out with a Christmas Dinner To Go special this year. The hotel’s first-rate chefs will prepare a three-course dining experience with roasted butternut squash soup, slow roasted turkey or orange glazed ham and caramel macchiato cheesecake for dessert. Orders of four or more will receive a complimentary gift that will pair nicely with dinner.

All you must do is order by Dec. 18 and pick it up by 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

“We know there’s going to be less extended family time this year, but we want people to spend quality time with their family and not have to worry about the cooking,” Eldorado director of sales and marketing Jacqueline Birk says.

You can, however, enjoy Lakeside Dining’s finest food, beverages and Okanagan Lake views under COVID-19 protocols and procedures that have been in place since the pandemic started. Lakeside Dining is offering Christmas dinner on Dec. 24 and 25, Santa’s Brunch every Sunday, its à la carte Christmas menu and a three-course New Year’s Eve dinner. Reservations are required.

You can unwind and destress with happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m., Heritage Tea on Saturday afternoons also includes a vegetarian option, and Wine Wednesday is always popular.

And if you would like to get away for a luxurious, overnight trip without leaving the city, Birk says Hotel Eldorado’s top three priorities for both guests and employees are safety, safety, and safety. In other words, you can safely isolate with a beautiful view of Okanagan Lake and with a delicious meal from Lakeside Dining.

“People have been going through this since March,” Birk says. “And while everyone has been doing a really great job, they do need to see something different besides the inside of their home.”

Snowbirds can take advantage of special long-term rates, while those who need to isolate can get two free nights on a week-long stay. It is the perfect place in Kelowna for a staycation.

The bottom line is Eldorado Resort is there for locals to enjoy it in every way possible this holiday season.

“We just want everybody to be safe and enjoy the holidays.” Birk says. “We’re here to help you with Christmas or your needs into the new year, and we just want everyone to be safe and get excited for what the New Year brings.”

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Your home away from home
Contributed - Dec 09, 2020 - Think Local

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The Okanagan is home for many people.

It is also the home away from home for many more.

The reasons why people live and play in the valley are plentiful, from the lakes to the mountains to the wine to the weather, and it’s why The Vaults has decided to create even more space in Kelowna and in Vernon. The Okanagan is a vast playground, and people need a place to store their toys—and perhaps even play.

The Vaults is a secure, premium storage facility that is made of concrete and contains condominiums that can be used for storage, for a personal office and for entertaining guests. Each unit has a ground-level area that is perfect for storing your Okanagan passions—RVs, boats, sports cars or personal water craft—and a mezzanine up above that is ideal for getting together with friends (after the pandemic, of course), for relaxing or for working in peace and quiet.

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The Vaults Kelowna was such a success that the company is building a second facility right next to the first one in the Airport Business Park. It is also building The Vaults Vernon as well as a commercial development designed for businesses in that city that will feature many of the same construction qualities that are found in its lifestyle storage condominiums. More information on the commercial development will be coming in January.

Pre-sales have just started in Kelowna and in Vernon, and they are going strong. Kelowna will feature 19 units, while the Vernon facility will have 20. They will range in size from 1,677 to more than 3,400 square feet and also contain a three-piece bathroom. All units can be personalized to truly make it your home away from home.

The Vaults are perfect for anyone downsizing who doesn’t want to just toss their passions in a storage locker. What better place to put your valuable collection of items than in a premium storage facility that feels like home?

“It’s not about just storing stuff, because we believe you love what you store,” The Vaults vice-president James Murray says. “It goes beyond just the utility of storage. While you cannot live here, we believe your passion does.”

Concrete construction, a fully enclosed perimeter, built-in fire suppression and air detection systems add another layer of security to The Vaults.

The units have 27-foot ceilings, while the mezzanines are 13 1/2 feet off the floor and are the size of 40% of the floor space below. If you’re wondering what to put in your mezzanine, some of the current ones include wine rooms, humidors, poker rooms, steam showers, personal offices, golf simulators and racing simulators.

In other words, right at home in the Okanagan.

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Carbon monoxide deadly serious
Contributed - Dec 08, 2020 - Think Local

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There are more than 300 deaths and nearly as many hospitalizations due to carbon monoxide poisoning each year in Canada.

The heartbreaking part is most of those deaths and poisonings could be avoided with annual professional maintenance of the fuel-burning appliances that cause such catastrophes.

Carbon monoxide detectors are a must in each home, and professional maintenance should be as well to keep you and your family safe this winter and beyond. Relying on a carbon monoxide detector should not be your one and only line of defence against the silent killer that is colourless, odourless, tasteless and non-irritating.

“When someone almost dies from carbon monoxide poising, the authorities always mention how important it is to have functioning CO detectors in the home,” Comfort Tech Heating & Cooling co-owner Terri Wilkinson says. “We wish they would also mention the absolute necessity of having professional annual maintenance on all gas appliances, in addition to having functioning alarms.”

“It’s kind of like not maintaining your main parachute before you jump out of a plane because your backup chute ‘should’ work.”

If you have any one of furnace, fireplace, gas stove or water heater in your home, then yearly maintenance is a must to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Comfort Tech will come to your home and provide a full furnace inspection that would include the following:
• check the operation of safety limit controls, temperature set points, thermostat, blower, pressure switches, ignition and venting system
• clean the blower
• inspect the heat exchanger and burner
• in older models only: lubricate the blower and motor bearings, and remove and clean the burner.

In addition to annual professional maintenance, also ensure that your carbon monoxide detectors are located near sleeping areas and are inspected routinely as well.

If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds, do the following:
1. Do not try to locate the source of carbon monoxide
2. Leave your home immediately and move to fresh air
3. Once outside, call 9-1-1, your fire department or emergency services
4. Return to your home only after the problem has been fixed by a professional

At home in The Barber Chair
Contributed - Dec 07, 2020 - Think Local

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The only problem with getting your hair cut at The Barber Chair is you won’t want to leave once you’re finished.

Owner Brett Teigland and his barbers cut a great head of hair, but they are even better at making their clients feel at home. Teigland’s goal in his new downtown Kelowna space, which is located at 102-1630 Pandosy St., was to create a warm and comfortable space where everyone can be themselves.

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“It’s very customer oriented,” Teigland says. “We do things a little different. It’s almost like their home. It’s not generic at all. I take a lot of pride in customer service and just getting to know people and providing the best quality service that I can. … The vibe in the shop is very casual and just very nice.”

The Barber Chair got its start in Calgary, where it has grown a large and loyal clientele. Teigland recently moved to Kelowna and is hoping to develop the same situation in the Okanagan.

“It’s attention to detail. I really get to know my clients,” says Teigland, who got his start in the barber business 35 years ago at Victoria Barber College. “I get to know everything about them. It’s just different. When they come in, it’s a different feel. It’s hard to explain.”

Teigland hires only barbers who possess superior skills and who share his personality traits, which ensures the down-home feel clients experience when they patronize The Barber Chair. The shop is modern but warm, with plenty of brick, rich woodwork, 15-foot ceilings and guitars on the walls.

The barbers can perform every kind of cut as well, but they make sure to put their own twist on it.

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“We do good work. We do work that other shops don’t do,” Teigland says. “A lot of people have very hard hair to cut, and they go other places and they get chopped, because it’s just like a number two up the side.

“We’re very good at different types of hair, difficult hair. We’re not just doing the latest trend.”

If you’re thinking that kind of service will cost you an arm and a leg, think again. Cuts start at $28 and don’t go much higher if they include a beard trim as well.

“I like prices to be reasonable, because I want people to be able to afford to get a haircut, because it makes people feel good, and if it’s reasonably priced they’ll feel like they can come back sooner rather than stretch it to get that big cut,” he says. “I want to give the best quality service and product for a good price—not cheap, but not expensive.”

Once the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are eased, Teigland would like to add tattoo services to The Barber Chair and get a liquor licence as well.

The Barber Chair will give you $5 off your first visit, which is unlikely to be your last. Appointments can be booked here.

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