Ductless is the solution
Contributed - May 23, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

Is your master bedroom on the top floor and always too hot in the summer—even though your home has air conditioning?

Ever had a thermostat war with a member of your family? You’re in one part of the house and want a certain temperature, while someone else is another part of the home and wants it five degrees warmer?

Or do you live in a home that doesn’t have cooling at all?

Terri Wilkinson from Comfort Tech Heating & Cooling says they have the solution. 

Ductless split systems have been around for quite some time, but most people don’t even know they exist. Furthermore, the assumption is the technology is too expensive for the average homeowner. That is not so, according to Wilkinson, who compares the cost of a ductless system to adding traditional ducts to a home.

“The short-term costs are not more than ducting a home, and the added benefits of high efficiency far outweigh any short term installation costs,” the co-owner of Comfort Tech Heating & Cooling says. “As a matter of fact, ductless systems can have SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings in the mid-to high 20s, which is far higher efficiency than a traditional central air system.”

Instead of using ductwork to distribute air through the house like a central air conditioner would, a ductless split system utilizes individual units throughout the home. This allows for individual control in each room, which in turn provides more flexible temperature settings.

A ductless heat pump or air conditioner typically consists of one or more wall-mounted indoor units combined with an outside compressor. Unlike window units, ductless units only require a small hole in the wall for installation. The indoor units are incredibly quiet and much more visually appealing than your average window air conditioner.

Ductless technology is also good for homes where the ducts aren’t big enough for cooling.

“Older homes in our area did not have to be sized for cooling back in the day, so just adding an air conditioner to an existing system could be a big mistake,” Wilkinson says.

Wilkinson advises consulting a company with qualified technicians capable of measuring the existing duct work, evaluating the furnace or air handler and making recommendations on what is in place.

“There is nothing worse than going out to help a homeowner who thought they were getting central air conditioning only to tell them that the system was never going to function as it should,” Wilkinson says. “Air conditioning is an investment in both your family’s comfort and the long-term value of your home. Make sure if you are spending the money that you will get a return on that investment.

“We have solutions for all kind of spaces. Renovated carports that are now rec rooms, bonus rooms above the garage, that addition that is always too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter, or even modular homes can get the latest and greatest technology for a reasonable price.”

In other words, if you’re suffering through another sweaty summer in your top-floor master bedroom, there is an answer that doesn’t include installing a loud, window-mounted unit. Think you can’t have comfort year round? Think again.

What a Voyage it’s been
Contributed - May 22, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed
Rod Friesen (right) poses in front of a new Winnebago Elante in the early 1990s.

RVs, or recreational vehicles as they’re technically known, have been a part of Jason Friesen’s life for as long as he can remember.

He was six years old in 1984 when his dad, Rod, started an RV consignment service in Winfield. Prior to that Rod had dabbled in painting signs, running a gas station and selling cars, but he was convinced by a friend that the RV business was a happy one. Jason would know, because he remembers fondly the RV trips his family would make back to his dad’s old hometown of Meadow Lake, Sask., every summer to visit his grandparents.

Photo: Contributed
Rod Friesen working on the lot in the 1980s.

 “It’s a lot more fun, and people want RVs. They don’t need RVs,” Friesen recalls his father’s friend saying. “It’s a fun business, and you should give it a try.”

Fast forward three and a half decades, and Voyager RV is celebrating its 35th anniversary by giving away $100,000 to charity throughout the course of 2019 through an initiative called Voyager Cares.

“When I realized it was our 35th, I just sort of sat back and thought how special that is for us as a dealership and definitely for my family,” Jason Friesen says. “The community’s treated us so well over the years.”

Voyager RV has already presented cheques of nearly $20,000 to the Heart and Stroke Foundation and more than $11,000 to the Central Okanagan Food Bank. Money raised from sales made in May will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Society and to the Canadian Cancer Society in June.

The company has always donated to charity, but Jason Friesen decided it was time to really make a splash.

“I approached my dad, who is still the owner and president of Voyager,” Friesen says. “… I barely even got it out of my mouth, and he just said, ‘That is awesome. I love it. Do it.’ He thought it was phenomenal, and everything else we’ve heard since then is a lot of great impact and feedback from the community and from our staff themselves.

“It’s been great. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s neat to be able to do.”

Voyager RV technically turned 35 years old on April 24, but the big party is happening at the end of the month. The 35th anniversary bash will be held May 30 to June 2, and Friesen is encouraging anyone and everyone to come in and simply tell their RV stories.

“Beyond everything being on sale, all of our parts are going to be on sale,” Friesen says. “We’re going to have suppliers and reps, and we’re going to have a barbecue set up here. It’s always a fun time.

“We get lots of people coming out and buying RVs, but lots of people just come out and tell us stories, and look at what’s new and what’s changed in the industry.”

Jason joined the family business in 2003 after initially going to school to become a teacher. He is so glad he did, too, because he loves going to work.

“We wear shorts here. We don’t tuck our shirts in,” Jason says. “That’s always how my dad’s been, and that’s how the culture has carried on over the years. We’re meant to do things a little differently, and it’s been fun.”

Photo: Contributed
The Heart and Stroke Foundation cheque presentation earlier this month.

Bekins sets the moving bar
Contributed - May 21, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

As one of the few moving companies in Kelowna that has a century-old tradition of providing all-inclusive, professional moving and storage services, Bekins Kelowna has always strived to be the best when it comes to quality and customer service.

The Kelowna movers have recently taken further steps to ensure that its customers continue to receive the best service possible by redefining its core purposes to make moving as easy and as stress-free as possible.

To do this, Bekins has implemented the three Rs—reliability, responsiveness, and relationships—to deliver moving services in a prompt, dependable manner while keeping customers informed and at ease with personalized attention not found anywhere else.

“Our core values include accountability, respect, innovation, dependability, honesty, hard work and teamwork, and we are looking at how we are going to achieve these core strategies with a fundamental, structured framework,” Bekins Kelowna’s Nathan Miller says. “We have also defined our ideal customer as being people/companies that fall in line with our core values, which means we want to be working with people that have the same values that we have.”

As Bekins Kelowna’s general manager, Miller has more than 20 years of experience as a mover and has worked in almost every aspect of the moving business. In 2015, he shifted his company, Nathan’s Moving, to Bekins Kelowna Moving and Storage, and has continued to look at ways to improve customer-employee relations.

To help him achieve these goals, Miller has joined the Okanagan chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), which is made up of entrepreneurs from across the valley.

“We put on learning events, have peer-to-peer experience sharing and help each other with the challenges that we as entrepreneurs deal with daily,” Miller says.

Bekins Kelowna is also continuing to focus on local charity work with a more hands-on approach.

“We will continue to support local charities such as the Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA) through different events and fundraisers, including COHA’s Home for the Holidays tree auction, where we supplied, contributed, and helped with manpower, equipment, and logistics,” Miller says.

In operation since 1891, Bekins is one of the oldest moving companies in North America. Founded by the Bekins brothers, John and Martin, in Sioux City, Iowa, the company has grown from having 12 household movers and a small fleet of horse-drawn moving vans to the largest full-service moving and storage company in the U.S. and Canada.

One of six Bekins locations in B.C., Bekins Kelowna offers local, long-distance and commercial moving, along with specialty and last-minute moving services.

As a member of United Van Lines since 2015, Bekins also provides long-distance moving services across Canada with the help of more than 150 agents across the country, including a newly expanded, do-it-yourself moving container service for both long-distance and local moving.

Visit Bekins Kelowna for more information.

Photo: Contributed

BC Tree Fruits wants you
Contributed - May 14, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

There aren’t many places in the world where there’s a mall on your left and an apple orchard on your right as you’re driving down the road.

And no matter how much tech, manufacturing or condominium progress is made in thriving Kelowna, that scene is unlikely to change. Agriculture has—and always will be—what causes the Okanagan’s heart to beat.

And now you can be a part of that fabric that makes the Okanagan unique. BC Tree Fruits, which has been harvesting those orchards since 1936, is conducting two hiring fairs in early June. They are looking for cherry production line workers for the summer.

“We really need people and want people who want to be part of that story and part of that history,” BC Tree Fruits human resources generalist Jessee Regnier says. “The success of what we do, especially at cherry season, a huge part of that is the production staff that we have in our facility. They’re an integral part of the cycle of cherries.

“There’s no way we could sell 500,000 cartons of cherries without our production staff.”

The company will be hosting its first hiring fair on June 1 at its Oliver location (327 Co-op Ave.), where it will be looking for 100 employees to work during the six to eight weeks of cherry harvest season. The second fair will be on June 8 at its Vaughan Street location in Kelowna, where 200 workers are required.

Both hiring fairs begin at 9 a.m. and run until noon. Prospective employees are encouraged to bring a resume, and the interviews will be five to 10 minutes long. There will be a barbecue, prize giveaways and more on the agenda.

“This year we’re making it a really big experience,” Regnier says.

BC Tree Fruits is also offering an incentive program for those who bring a friend or friends to the fair and end up getting hired. The schedule is flexible, as is the actual shift time. It’s a perfect job for a student or anyone looking for supplemental income. Employment doesn’t have to conclude at the end of the summer, either.

“We’re primarily looking for help with cherry season, but if it’s for you then there could be further opportunity,” human resources administrator Gillian Lane says, adding 15-year-olds can be hired if they bring a parent with them to the hiring fair.

“If they want to stay on come September, we always have apples coming in September and pears and peaches and plums and prunes down south.”

Production line workers sort cherries on the line, grade them and make sure they fit market quality. The Kelowna hiring fair will also be looking for stackers, who will have a higher level of responsibility because they will be dealing with shipping and inventory.

There will be daily employee draws for gift cards and BC Tree Fruits merchandise, and there will be a very fancy carrot dangling in front of employees at the end of the summer.

“At the end of the season we look over everybody’s attendance, and the person who has the best attendance gets entered to win an iPad,” Lane says.

Consider it the best of both worlds. Working for BC Tree Fruits could get you plenty of goodies, but it will also allow you to play a role in keeping the heart of the Okanagan beating.

Make Modo your second car
Contributed - May 06, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

When Andrew Greer moved in with his girlfriend, who is now his wife, they suddenly possessed two cars but had the need for only one.

Sure, there were going to be days when they needed two vehicles, but the second car was probably going to sit idly in the driveway of their Kelowna home 95 per cent of the time.

So they sold one of the cars and then found the simple, easy and affordable solution for those times when they both needed to hit the road: Modo.

Image: Contributed
Kelowna’s Modo locations.

The car-share co-operative, which started in the Lower Mainland in 1997, is now in the Okanagan after it amalgamated with OGO, and Greer said he and his wife are saving thousands—yes, thousands—of dollars every year on their transportation budget thanks to Modo.

“Unquestionably we’re saving a hundred dollars a month on insurance because we don’t have to insure a second car,” Greer says. “Then you add maintenance and soaring gas prices on top of that.”

Saving money is one reason car sharing is becoming more popular, but it’s not the only one. Environment friendliness is another key factor. Using Modo’s round-trip car-share service reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 50 per cent. And for each Modo vehicle added to the community, 13 privately owned ones are removed, reducing traffic and congestion.

Another often overlooked advantage of Modo is its ability to serve as a work vehicle. Greer can still walk or bike to work in downtown Kelowna and then quickly scoop up a Modo to drive to a meeting. The City of Kelowna put some of its vehicles into the Modo fleet, making it the biggest business user of the service in Kelowna, and other smaller businesses, like One Big Table, provide it for their employees.

“We both use Modo both for work and for home purposes,” Greer says. “We’ll often, on purpose, pick the electric car. They have a Nissan Leaf. If it’s a longer trip we’ll choose a hybrid, and we’ve also used the truck to take yard waste to the landfill.

“You just log in on the app or on the web and book a car. You can also phone if you want. You’ve got a key fob on your key chain. You just go up to the car, unlock it and drive away. And when you’re done you lock it up with the fob and your credit card gets billed afterwards.”

As Greer mentioned, there is a wide range of vehicle types in the Modo fleet. Everything from electric cars to cargo vans is available at the tap of your index finger, and you won’t come close to spending as much on transportation as you would if you owned a second car.

“It’s very easy,” Greer says, “and very convenient.”

If you want to make Modo your second car, new members can use the promo code CASTANET50 to get $50 in free drive time at www.modo.coop.

Bellevue soothes the soul
Contributed - May 01, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

Bellevue Day Spa has already built up quite the customer base in the Mission, and now it is ready to welcome those from the rest of Kelowna and beyond.

“We have a lot of people around our neighbourhood who have discovered us,” owner Cinthia Michelle says. “Now I’m ready to do the jump and let all of Kelowna know that we are here.”

Bellevue Day Spa, which opened Jan. 6, uses the customer service lessons Michelle learned during her career, most notably with the Fairmont Palliser hotel spa in Calgary. Her goal is to make every client feel pampered and loved, to make them feel so good that they come back without a second thought. They feel so at home that they might even forget to pay, which has happened.

Photo: Contributed

“(Fairmont Palliser) is very well known for their customer service, so my idea to open Bellevue is to match the superior customer service, but I also bring my own values,” she says.

Michelle, who was born in Cancun, moved to the Okanagan because she wasn’t ready to take on another Alberta winter. Her husband is a scientist, which is why Michelle was very careful about purchasing the products she uses to treat her clients. She says she got all “nerdy” while researching aspects like skincare, molecule sizes, organic chemistry, pH levels and layers of the epidermis.

“Everything we use is organic. Our skin care products are certified organic from Europe and come straight from a farm in Hungary,” Michelle says. “Everything we use for the manicure and pedicure is made in Vancouver and is certified organic. Our nail polish is free of the 12 ugly toxins.

“I spent almost a year researching skincare products, and I hand-picked the brand we use, because it gives amazing results and it doesn’t add toxins. It gets far better results than other moisturizers or products, because the skincare is elaborate, with vegetables, fruits, seeds and roots—real organic food that your body recognizes.”

The organic services also make Bellevue Day Spa a viable option for those who are undergoing cancer treatments and are looking for products that won’t make the situation worse.

Michelle tries to use PETA-approved products and says she doesn’t pass on the costs to her clients. The spa, which is located on the Surtees Heritage Property at 103-4639 Lakeshore Dr., boasts plenty of natural light, and it uses LED lights to boost collagen production. Organic coffee and teas are available, and Michelle also purchased pedicure chairs that go above and beyond.

“The pedicure chairs are one of the things that people always ask me: ‘Can you take my photo?’ Because they’re very beautiful, and they give a shiatsu massage,” Michelle says. “The manufacturer says it imitates human touch. So it’s very relaxing.”

In the end, however, Michelle says it all goes back to customer service. She is discerning with each of her hires to ensure her patrons leave feeling just as good about their interactions as they do about the services.

“We offer high-end treatments in a beautiful environment,” Michelle says. “We have very friendly estheticians. All the girls are very well trained. They’re always polished for esthetics. They’re all very amazing with great personalities.”

CONNECT full of Prestige
Contributed - Apr 26, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

CONNECT Okanagan Telephone, a leading provider of IT infrastructure and cloud services, was recently awarded the full IT support contract for Prestige Hotels & Resorts. Along with providing fully managed technical support of all of the hotel chain’s day-to-day operations, CONNECT also manages all the telecom systems across the hotel chain and supports guest Wi-Fi networks for their 13 hotels across B.C.

Prestige now represents one of CONNECT’s largest clients, but the tight relationship between the companies didn’t happen overnight.

“It took time and consistent service for us to earn their trust,” CONNECT general manager Troy Schalm says.

What started out with all the hotel’s business phone systems 10 years ago eventually grew into the addition of the wireless contract for every one of Prestige’s guest rooms. Even with that foundation of rapport and trust, the Kelowna-based hotel chain was reluctant to put all of its IT eggs in one basket. But ultimately, CONNECT was awarded the full contract for everything IT-related for Prestige.

“We look after the entire thing,” Schalm says. “We had to earn their trust over time. In fact, it’s taken years to establish relationships with all the people there, but our companies are aligned and we do business very well together.”

Because Schalm and the team at CONNECT value the relationships they build with all of their clients, they understand how critical it is to always be up and online—and growing as a company.

In order to accommodate the new business, CONNECT is in the fortunate position of being agile enough to reshuffle its resources without having to add additional staff. Also key to the new contract was a project to standardize the hotel’s computer networks across the board with Cisco Meraki firewalls, and NEC servers and storage to make it easier from a support perspective.

“As a family-owned business, our relationships with suppliers is key,” Prestige Hotels & Resorts executive vice-president Tanya Stroinig says. “Troy and his team at CONNECT not only have grown with us but have become a trusted advisor in the ever-changing realm of IT services.”

“It’s been 10 years in the making, but we’re so happy,” Schalm says. “The fact that we are local, well-grounded and established factors into how we can service them. Hospitality clients are unique as they remain open day and night. Our ability to provide 24/7/365 service is key. Prestige can be up all the time with no downtime. They are an awesome group of people.”

With offices in Kelowna, Penticton, and Kamloops, CONNECT has been serving the B.C. Interior for more than 30 years and stands behind its service with a 100 per cent written satisfaction guarantee and a long list of delighted clients like Prestige Hotels & Resorts.

If you’re looking for a new telecom system or any IT services, CONNECT with them here.

Live life on The Bench
Contributed - Apr 24, 2019 - Think Local

Image: Contributed

There aren’t many developments where you can take the elevator down from your home on the 33rd floor, walk outside and enjoy nearly an acre and a half of green and recreational space.

In fact, there are none in B.C. or Alberta, but that will change once ONE Water Street rises from the ground in downtown Kelowna.

“There’s nothing like it in any development in Kelowna,” North American Development Group vice-president Russ Watson says. “And we don’t know of another project in Vancouver or Calgary that offers that sort of amenity package for the residents.”

Watson is talking about The Bench, a unique piece of land that will be located between ONE Water’s east and west towers once they are completed in early 2021. It will be located four storeys above the street, and it will have anything and everything you could possibly want when it comes to enjoying Okanagan urban living.

There will be three pools: a swimming pool, a lap pool and a hot tub. There will be three barbecue areas for large family gatherings, complete with natural gas hookups and tables on which to enjoy your meal. There will be several fire pit enclaves. And there will be a court for pickleball, which is becoming a popular sport across North America and especially in Kelowna.

“It seems to be the sport du jour that’s extremely popular in the U.S. now and is starting to become popular in Canada,” Watson says. “Kelowna seems to be a centre for pickleball. They had the Canadian pickleball championships last year, and 400 people showed up.”

There was still plenty of room left over on The Bench, so the developers decided to include a dog park since pets will be allowed to live in the towers. There will also be a business centre and guest suites for out-of-town visitors.

Inside the towers but on the same level as The Bench will be two gyms, complete with state-of-the-art cardio machines and weights in one, and a studio for yoga, Pilates and stretch in the other. The studio is also an extension of the poolside entertainment room, which will be the perfect space to host bigger celebrations.

“We were wanting to separate ourselves from the other developments that were being planned,” Watson says. “We had the luxury of an acre and a half of roof on top of the three-storey parking structure, so it was just a natural progression to create the amenity.”

Homes in ONE Water Street, which is Kelowna’s No. 1 selling development, were so popular that both towers will now be constructed at the same time.

“Initially we were going to build one, and then if sales went well we’d build the second one maybe a year later,” Watson says. “Well, we’ve got enough sales that we are building both towers simultaneously. We’ve just put the second crane on the site, so it will be the first project in Kelowna’s history to have two cranes operating at the same time.”

ONE Water Street’s East Tower is still on track to open in early 2021, which means residents will be able to move in, go downstairs and enjoy The Bench that summer and beyond.

Homes range in size from two and three-bedrooms, sub-penthouses, elevated townhomes, live-work homes and more. Visit www.onewaterstreet.ca for more details.

Wilden, FortisBC raise bar
Contributed - Apr 23, 2019 - Think Local

Wilden continues to reach new levels and come up with forward-thinking innovations when it comes to energy efficiency.

Blenk Development, the company behind Wilden, has taken everything it has learned during its residential construction over the last two decades and created the Lost Creek Point neighbourhood, which features 38 homes that have an energy efficiency that is above and beyond the requirements for new homes in B.C.

Wilden has been working hand in hand with FortisBC to ensure Lost Creek Point is as friendly to the environment as it is stunning. The neighbourhood will feature 36 semi-detached and two detached townhomes between 2,000 and 3,600 square feet.

“FortisBC’s involvement includes working closely with the developer to find solutions that help achieve their sustainability goals specifically the use of RNG, a carbon-neutral gas produced from organic waste,” FortisBC director of energy solutions Jason Wolfe says. “RNG is a locally made, sustainable energy source that is interchangeable with natural gas. It’s injected into our distribution system, reducing the amount of conventional natural gas needed and the amount of carbon within our gas stream.”

As a result, Lost Creek Point homes will have substantially less greenhouse gas emissions than the average home. Wilden is the first developer that will offer new homeowners 100 per cent renewable natural gas to heat their homes for one year. Homeowners will also receive a credit on the BC carbon tax on their bill.

Once the year is up, Lost Creek Point homeowners can choose to exclusively use this renewable energy source at a low additional cost, reduce the amount of RNG usage or simply opt for regular natural gas. Even if they prefer to use 100 per cent natural gas, they will still reduce their carbon footprint by 50 to 75 per cent compared to the average new home due to the energy-saving initiatives built into the townhomes.

“Wilden’s Lost Creek Point is setting a benchmark for energy-efficient residential building in Kelowna and shows that the master-planned community fully supports the progressive climate action plan of the province and of the City of Kelowna,” Blenk Development chair of board Karin Eger-Blenk says.

Lost Creek Point hosted an open house last weekend and attracted more than 400 people interested in Wilden and the community.

For more information, visit WildenTownhomes.ca and FortisBC.com/RNG.

Photo: Contributed

Lots of treats at Okanagan Eats
Contributed - Apr 18, 2019 - Think Local

Photo: Contributed

Do you like food?

Do you like wine spirits?

Do you like beer?

If you answered yes to any of the above—and even if you didn’t—you will want to mark next weekend on your calendar. That’s because the third annual Okanagan Eats Food Show will be held at Kelowna Curling Club.

The event brings together and showcases like-minded people who have a desire to experience food, wine spirits and beers. This is done while promoting education, shopping for unique retail and grocery items, and much more.

“Being the least expensive food show in the area, Okanagan Eats allows people to casually stroll, shop, taste and learn from some of the area’s best curators, chefs and ‘foodpreneurs,’” Okanagan Eats producer Rhonda Tannahill says.

There are five main elements that will make up the two-day event, which is scheduled for Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27. Those sections are:
• the market section for vendors to promote their products/brands/services while offering retail sales to customers;
• the restaurant section, where attendees can purchase small plates on a token system;
• the tasting section, where customers can enjoy themselves while sampling new wines, spirits, ciders or beer on a token system;
• the live stage, which features back-to-back cooking demos and friendly competitions. It is usually the highlight of the event, and this year the organization is bringing in Vancouver’s Trevor Bird as the celebrity chef;
• the beer garden, which will be situated to the live stage in order to allow you to watch all the action while enjoying a beverage or two.

Okanagan Eats Food Show is an all-ages event for those who have varying levels of food knowledge and skills.

“As we like to say, you don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy the show,” Tannahill says, “but we just might turn you into one.”

Bird, who will be bringing the star power to this year’s event, has two successful restaurants under his belt, along with an impressive list of international guest chef appearances. He was also a two-time finalist on Top Chef Canada and Top Chef Canada All-Stars.

The festivities will get underway at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 26, and continue until 10 p.m. at Kelowna Curling Club. The doors will be open on Saturday from noon until 9 p.m.

Admission is $15 per day for adults, $5 per day for youth (age 7-15) and free for children six and under. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by visiting the event’s website.

Photo: Contributed

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