Vancouverites want to live here
Special to Okanagan Edge - Mar 20 - Think Local

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Vancouverites are increasingly choosing to make Kelowna a home, rather than an investment play, showing that newly announced taxes aimed at curbing real estate speculators aren’t having a significant impact on sales.

Along with a healthy crop of locals, Lower Mainlanders continue to flock to the city’s residential developments in surprising numbers, snapping up a significant number of homes in Kelowna’s most trendy developments.

Leonard Kerkhoff is the vice-president of Kerkhoff Construction, one of the companies behind the massive, two-tower development a block from the lake in downtown Kelowna.

Pile driving has just begun on One Water Street’s East Tower, and Kerkhoff says almost all of the 200 homes it will eventually contain are already sold—and a significant number of them have gone to buyers from the Lower Mainland.

While the new government tax has created concern in the local market, consumer demand in the West Tower has accelerated.

“Since the introduction of the tax, we have received over 1,100 registrants from interested buyers for the upcoming West Tower. Our interest remains strong.” Kerkhoff says.

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“We saw this happen with our previous development, 1151 Sunset Drive, where about 40 per cent of our buyers were from Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. But One Water Street is even more significant, I’d say about half.” Kerkhoff says.

“We see a significant amount of people coming up from the Lower Mainland. They come to Kelowna for a better life, and are escaping the expensive prices of Vancouver, or they’re downsizing, or relocating, or retiring.”

Kerkhoff says Vancouverites are drawn to Kelowna because, believe it or not, real estate here is still fairly inexpensive when compared to the Lower Mainland. Pair that with an ever-more-vibrant downtown—buoyed by a burgeoning tech sector and significant in-migration—and the city is a very attractive place to live.

Kerkhoff adds that Vancouverites are going to keep coming to Kelowna, so developers are doing all they can to make sure their projects are the ones where they’re buying homes.

One of One Water Street’s big selling features, for example, is “The Bench,” a massive, 1.3-acre space packed with amenities like barbecue stations, fire pits, hot tub, two pools, a health club, yoga studio, dog park, and pickleball courts.

“Who does that, right? Which development has a pickleball court in it? I think it’s great,” Kerkhoff says. “And that’s all because we know buyers want more from their communities.”

With only a limited number of units still available in the East Tower, Kerkhoff says One Water Street developers are now accelerating their sales timelines for the West Tower.

There, he says, they have already had to make adjustments, filling it with fewer larger homes and more smaller and mid-sized homes to meet the “intense” demand for the development’s sub-$500,000 units.

A selection of homes in the tower start in the low-$300,000 range.

“That’s exactly it, you can still get a quality home in one of the most exciting developments in the city for less than half a million dollars in Kelowna. That’s unheard of in the Lower Mainland, and that’s why they’re going to keep flocking here,” Kerkhoff says.

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Kicking off the season
Contributed - Mar 18 - Think Local

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Cyclists rejoice!

The sun is finally starting to creep through the clouds, asphalt is drying under melted snow, and the almighty street sweeper is making appearances across town.

The Okanagan is dangerously close to full-on cycling season, and as bike nuts begin oiling their chains in anticipation, the team at Fresh Air is making preparations of its own.

Later this month the bike and ski shop will once again officially kick off the cycling season with a major bash at its Concept store in the Mission.

Ryan Olar, the shop’s general manager, says the party is a chance for the cycling community to get together and celebrate the start of another Okanagan cycling season.

Groups like the Bike Okanagan Association, Chicks in the Sticks, and others will be on-hand giving the skinny on their summer seasons and taking registrations.

“This is a pretty big kickoff to the summer for us,” Ryan says, adding that the event usually brings out well over 100 people.

The bash will also be a chance to brush up on the many rides Fresh Air offers, and even learn about its new, female-focused riding club.

As Fresh Air’s merchandising manager Amie Olar explains, the shop created Athena to inspire women to come out and ride in a less intimidating environment.

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There are tons of women who love to hop in the saddle, she says, but riding with a group of hyper-competitive dudes can sometimes be a bummer.

Athena rides will follow the same routes as others, but will be women-lead and paced a little more moderately.

Outside of Athena, Ryan says Fresh Air hosts rides for cyclists of all fitness (and intensity) levels.

Looking to punish your lungs and chew the handlebars up some steep climbs? Stop by Tuesday nights to take on Knox, Dilworth, and Clifton with Club 81.

“It’s a pretty gruelling ride. In the summertime and the dead of heat it’s a challenge,” Ryan says.

The mountain bikers leave on Wednesday evenings, and Thursday the shop hosts a moderately paced, 50-km ride.

Saturday mornings there’s also a more casual, 30-kilometre spin that includes a stop for snacks.

Ryan says anyone is welcome at any of the rides—all they need to do is show up and bring a bike.

He said Fresh Air will be handing out fridge postcards with times and dates for all its rides at the March 27 kickoff party.

Along with celebrating all things cycling, the event will also be a chance for Fresh Air to celebrate its relationship with its biggest charity partners, YMCA Strong Kids.

He said this year’s event will feature an inspiring speech from someone who benefited substantially from Strong Kids’ help, who will talk about the program and what it has meant for her and her family.

For more information on Fresh Air check out the shop online. Information on its group rides will also be posted weekly on the company’s Facebook page.

Save the wedding, get a coach
Special to Okanagan Edge - Mar 12 - Think Local

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Is it possible that a bus could save your wedding?

Most weddings are a spectacular affair, but anyone who’s planned one knows there are a million moving parts making the magic happen behind the scenes.

While you can plan for most anything on your big day, one thing you can’t control is your guests.

Most of the time your friends and family will be happily eating, drinking and dancing, but the time there is the most danger of things going off the rails is the transition from ceremony to reception—especially if the two are in a different place.

The last thing most newlyweds want is for tipsy guests scattering into dozens of cars on their way to the after-ceremony reception.

To keep people safe and contained, couples often contract cabs or limos to shuttle their guests from place to place.

However, few guests are thrilled with the prospect of cramming into a grimy cab while in their wedding best. Likewise, limos might seem like a luxury alternative, but stretches are often little better than cabs once you get past the flashy facade.

To get around these obstacles, more newlyweds are now looking to a different option for moving their guests safely, and in luxury—and avoiding several potential headaches in the process.

Corinne Underwood is the director of business development at BlueStar Coachlines. She points out that motor coaches provide a level of luxury most don’t expect.

Extra-comfortable seating and professional drivers aside, modern coaches come chalked full of options like complimentary wifi, reclining seats, fully equipped entertainment systems, and onboard washrooms.

“What do you really want at a wedding? You want simplicity, luxury, and class,” Underwood says. “Motor coaches epitomize all of those things, and that makes them the ideal transportation option for newlyweds and their guests.”

Even beyond the material perks, Underwood says coaches offer a level of safety and community you can’t find anywhere else.

She says there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of getting an entire group of people to the same place, at the same time. It’s a huge logistical relief on a day where dozens of moving parts have to all line up.

Underwood points out that BlueStar has a fleet of coaches—ranging from an-11 seat sprinter, through to a 27-seat executive class motorcoach, a 48-seat motorcoach, and more than 20 56-seat coaches—so it can handle groups of virtually any size.

On top of that, having everyone in the same place for the trip will keep the party going, helping guests bond and have a good time.

“BlueStar understands what newlyweds are looking for when they’re planning their wedding. The professionalism of our uniformed drivers and the convenience of our coaches is leading many to turn to our service,” Underwood says.

For more information on how a motor coach can make your big day simpler, check out Bluestar Coachlines.

Women leaders make their mark
Special to Okanagan Edge - Mar 07 - Think Local

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On March 8, women and men from across the globe come together annually to commemorate International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to closing the gender gap and celebrating the cultural, economic and social achievements of women everywhere.

Values such as respect, collaboration, and equality guide the movement behind International Women’s Day and work to initiate action to support gender parity and women’s rights.

Prospera Credit Union, headquartered in Abbotsford B.C., is committed to helping women in business and believes it is uniquely positioned to make a meaningful difference in their personal and professional lives.

Women represent more than 74 per cent of all employees at the credit union, 66 per cent of the board of directors, and 50 per cent of the senior leadership team. Prospera also has a growing women’s leadership group that inspires women leaders of tomorrow.

Women play a critical role at Prospera and are vital to the continued success of the credit union and their business communities.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential and International Women’s Day helps make that happen,” says Diane Dou, the chief operating officer at Prospera Credit Union. “Whether they are business owners or a part of the team, women are a vital part of our business communities and our goal at Prospera is to support them in their business endeavours and help them to succeed.”

According to Statistics Canada, women-owned businesses account for 17 per cent of the economy, and this number is on the rise faster than any other subset of the population.

Women in business have historically faced unique challenges achieving work-life balance and Prospera wants to be a part of the conversation focused on removing these barriers and ultimately building greater success for women in business.

Prospera has partnered with the Wonder Women Society, a not-for-profit located in Abbotsford and operates throughout British Columbia, to help empower women in business. The Wonder Women Society offers free workshops for women on health, wellness, education, business, and employment.

Prospera has partnered with the organization to offer a scholarship for women who want to begin, return to, or continue their education. Learn more about the Wonder Women Society here.

Join Prospera Credit Union and others on International Women’s Day to recognize the women we have in our lives and celebrate the positive impact they have every day–in the workplace, in the home, and in the community.

Fight the mattress hump!
Special to Okanagan Edge - Mar 05 - Think Local

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Oh, the dreaded body impression!

It’s happened to many of us: you invest in a new mattress and after just a few months there’s already a hump in the middle and two deep sinkholes on either side.

You call the salesperson and she tells you the mattress is just conforming to your body. Rotate your mattress more often and this should minimize the issue, she says.

Then, you find out the sags have to be more than “1.5-2 inches” deep before they’ll do anything about it.

You explain that you have to roll uphill to meet your partner, and they tell you this is normal.

“I assure you that this issue is very common, but it is not normal,” says Geoff McLeary, the owner of Sleepy’s Bedroom Furniture and Sleep Shop.

They just don’t make them like they used to. Or do they?

McLeary points out that, in decades past, mattresses didn’t get body impressions, and most good mattresses would hold up for ten to twelve years.

But today you’re lucky if they make it five or six, and most will get body impressions in no time flat.

That’s because larger mattress stores have put pressure on manufacturers to reduce costs so the stores can amp up their profit margins.

The only way to make this work was to do away with flippable mattresses, use inferior components, and source low-priced fillers from China.

Some of the largest mattress makers are using 1.2-pound density foam in their high-end sleep sets. That’s only one step above camping foam, folks!

This kind of thing horrified McLeary, so Sleepy’s teamed up with the Restonic and Spring Air Mattress factories in Vancouver to resurrect the nearly-forgotten two-sided mattress.

These factories build their beds with integrity, using all North American components, and they don’t sell their products in bigger mattress stores.

Restonic has won the Women’s Choice Award for the most recommended mattress brand for four years in a row, and the Consumer’s Digest Best Buy Award eight years in a row.

Quality materials and thoughtful craftsmanship are key to a quality mattress.

“For about 15-25 per cent increase in the cost you will receive more than double the lifespan on one of these double-sided, flippable mattress,” McLeary says. “The mattress will perform better, will feel better over a much longer period of time, and will retain its shape.”

“We have had clients come into our store that were dealing with a big mattress store in town and gone through as many as five mattresses in two years, due to premature body impressions and warranty issues,” McLeary added.

“Sleepy’s offered them a solution, a better-built and refreshing alternative to the defective designs being offered from other stores, and they are now sleeping soundly.”

McLeary added that Sleepy’s is striving to be the Okanagan’s one-stop sleep shop, offering a range of green, natural, and organic mattresses and bedding.

“Sleepy’s promise is to offer you only the best materials in our mattresses. No smoke and

mirrors; no toxic memory foam; no gimmicks. Just the straight goods,” he says.

Sleepy’s Bedroom Furniture and Sleep Shop is located just behind Costco, on Baron Road in Kelowna. For more information, you can also visit the company’s virtual showroom.

Westgate lives on as Traveland
Special to Okanagan Edge - Mar 01 - Think Local

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Art Pike and his wife Faye joke that it’s great to see their baby grow, even if it’s technically in someone else’s hands.

The couple’s baby, of course, is the dealership they ran for more than three decades, a place many still think of as Westgate RV Centre.

They bought the business in 1979, and Art remembers raising three kids on its back, all while contributing to the community by sponsoring sports teams and building unbreakable relationships with his customers.

But a few years ago he and Faye almost lost it all.

The great recession hit the business hard, but a well-timed deal ended up vaulting the business to heights beyond anything they’d ever dreamed.

Art explains that when the economy “dropped in the tank” in 2008, problems with his manufacturers stuck him with $6 million of excess inventory.

“It cost us a great deal of money, because we had to take such losses, and we weren’t sure we could recover,” he recalls.

But he persisted, and as the economy began to turn around he was approached by an old colleague, Dale Howes of Traveland RV in Langley, who offered to buy him out.

He accepted, agreeing to turn Westgate into Traveland, and stay on as the dealership’s general manager.

Art and Faye Pike

“Opportunity knocked and we decided to shake hands and put it together,” Art says. “That turned out to be a great decision.”

Since that 2013 handshake, Traveland RV Kelowna has grown substantially.

Tyler Steel, the general sales manager at Traveland RV in Kelowna, explains that in a few short years Traveland went from about 12 staff members to almost 50.

In fact, things have been going so well they’re in the middle of a massive expansion. Along with renovating their building, they’ve also bought property next door where they will eventually put up a major new service centre.

Steel says a big part of Traveland’s success has been how it’s combined the best of both Westgate and Traveland.

Westgate was known primarily for selling high-end motorhomes, but as Traveland it now sells everything from small family trailers right up to $800,000 luxury RVs.

Steel explains that being part of a larger business allows them to leverage the brand and bring in way more inventory, but that despite that purchasing power Traveland retains its family-owned charm, thanks in large part to Art.

“Every customer that comes in here knows Art, and if Art’s doing something they’re asking about him,” he says. “Sometimes big businesses can lose their connection with their customers, but Art has always had a good reputation in the industry, and he’s allowed us to stay grounded.”

Art says that also comes through in the fact that Traveland has retained many of the staff who worked there when it was still Westgate. Although some have moved on, he says, “the nucleus is still here.”

“We like to think we’ve taken the best of both companies, where we’ve got the customer service of Westgate but the advantages of being a bigger company,” Art says.

Right now, Traveland is offering early bird prices on hundreds of its products. Purchase a motorhome, fifth wheel, toy hauler, or other product and get a $1,000 Costco gift card. More information is available online.


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Inching beyond ink
Special to Okanagan Edge - Feb 25 - Think Local

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The artists at Kelowna’s Pharaoh Tattoo Studio have been redefining body art for decades, but pushing the boundaries of ink on skin is no longer enough.

After more than two decades in the tattoo business, Warren Kirschner is ready to redefine what a tattoo studio even is.

Kirschner’s recently expanded shop is lavishly spacious and meticulously clean, two reasons it’s already high on the list of the nicest studios in the province.

But it’s what he is doing above and beyond tattoos and piercings that really sets him apart.

Step into Pharoah and your eyes drift to the roaring dragon’s head and alien-looking skull on display in the lobby. A hallway stretches behind the counter, adorned with eerily-lit skulls that peer down from the moulding.

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Kirschner is responsible for most of the art, which are products of skills he honed during a decade working in the film industry, as a sculptor for special effects teams.

His pieces are just the first step in his eventual goal of turning Pharaoh into a kind of dark art studio, with work from across the world on display.

“When I opened the shop part of my goal was to end up having not just a tattoo studio, but a tattoo and dark art kind of gallery,” he explains.

He says he plans on tapping into the network of artists he met in the film industry and putting their work on display, not just for his customers to enjoy, but for the general public as well.

“So rather than just be a place where you come and get some ink, we want to become a place where you can come even just to look at artwork,” he says.

The plan fits nicely into Kirschner’s philosophy of making his art (both sculpted and inked onto skin) as accessible as possible.

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Already, Pharaoh is one of the only shops in the Okanagan that allows kids to come in with their parents (they still have strict rules about giving tattoos to minors), and Kirschner has done everything he can to push back against the dingy tattoo studio image so many shops have.

Joshua Johnson, who’s been working with Kirschner for years, points out that everyone at the shop holds themselves to the highest standard of cleanliness and hygiene.

He jokes that he’s had nurses in his chair who left amazed at the time and energy he takes to sterilize and avoid cross-contamination.

“Now it’s at the point where I go to the hospital and I’m disgusted with their hygiene practices,” he jokes.

“They do things in the medical world we wouldn’t ever think of doing here,” Kirschner adds with a chuckle.

He adds that he, Johnson, Tara Lessoway (whose portraits are “some of the best” he’s ever seen), and the rest of the staff are a well-rounded group of artists who can make just about any tattoo come to life.

“We’re very well rounded here. We can pretty much accomplish anything, between the group of us,” he says.

That’s certainly been true when it comes to tattoos, and Kirschner wants to make sure it stays true as Pharaoh Tattoo Studio transforms into someone far beyond a simple tattoo studio.

For more information on Pharaoh, or its artists work, check the studio out online.

A ‘legendary’ development
Special to Okanagan Edge - Feb 20 - Think Local

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When you have the opportunity to create new homes in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in Kelowna, you do everything you can to get it right.

That’s exactly the attitude local real estate developer Steve Shoranick brought to his latest project, and the results are apparent.

Shoranick says Osprey Landing, which is nestled beside Munson Pond at Burtch Road, is built to the “legendary quality” many have come to expect from the Munson Park Development Corporation.

The contemporary and stylish complex features 48 energy-efficient homes built with an eye carefully cast to the luxury living experience many expect from the Mission.

With quartz countertops; European-style cabinetry; spacious bathrooms; walk-out patios; and bright, spacious designs, homes at Osprey Landing are perfect for everything from throwing a big bash to curling up in the sunlight on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Shoranick, who has close to 40 years’ experience in the development world, says he wanted to do justice to the location, so he did everything he could to put livability first for Osprey Landing’s future residents.

“Every square foot of Osprey Landing is designed with livability in mind,” he says.

He says the wide variety of units available (ranging from 722 to 1,237 square feet) all feature cleverly designed floor plans, meaning buyers will get the most out of every square inch.

This, Shoranick says, makes Osprey Landing ideal for first-time homeowners or empty nesters.

“Now, young professionals and couples can have a fantastic home, in a great neighbourhood, that still offers the best of the Okanagan lifestyle,” he says.

Osprey Landing sits just minutes away from both Okanagan College and the Mission Creek Golf Club.

Residents need only walk a few short steps to reach the popular Munson Pond Park, or take a quick jaunt down the road to the Mission Park Shopping Centre.

The location is also a great summer hotspot, with beaches and wineries also just minutes away.

All this—the development’s luxury feel, the fantastic neighbourhood, the proximity to the best of the Okanagan amenities—comes at a surprising price.

He says his goal is always to give the best value for every dollar homeowners spend, and challenged anyone looking for a new home to check out Osprey Landing, and compare the value it offers to anyone else.

Now, anxious perspective buyers can finally do that.

Units at Osprey Landing are finally on sale, with complete information available at the presentation centre at 3090 Burtch Rd., or by registering online.

Okanagan’s solar future
Special to Okanagan Edge - Feb 15 - Think Local

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Most Okanagan residents are all too familiar with the sunshine tax—the pesky truth that living in a sun-drenched region means making a little less money, and spending a little more to live.

But a growing number of savvy sun lovers are beginning to look at the Okanagan sunshine not as an income drainer, but an income generator.

A swelling solar energy trend is sweeping the valley, as cutting-edge technologies and fast-dropping prices allow homeowners to capture and capitalize on sunlight like never before.

Daniel Babic, a specialist with one of Kelowna’s premiere solar system providers, says Kelowna and the Okanagan could be poised to become one of the solar capitals of Canada.

“Considering the Okanagan gets an average of 2,000 sunlight hours per year it makes sense to capitalize on this opportunity” the Solar Wholesaler Okanagan representative says.

According to Statistics Canada, Kelowna sees more sunny days than almost any other Canadian city, with more than 300 days of sunshine each year. Add to that some of the highest electricity prices in the province and solar power “is the perfect alternative.”

Thanks to increased production and technological advances, retailers like Solar Wholesaler Okanagan are able to sell solar technology for far less.

Large solar arrays have dotted the region for a few years—primarily the property of developers and business—but Babic says ordinary residents are starting to flock to solar as well.

He explains that cutting-edge solar energy products are finally being produced at a cost that makes them economically viable for the average homeowner.

Solar Wholesaler Okanagan, for example, has its own manufacturers that produce an exclusive line of solar products just for them.

This allows them to offer products like maintenance-free AGM batteries that can operate in temperatures as cold as -60℃, and still back it with a three-year, no-questions-asked warranty.

Similar to what happened with consumer electronics, Babic says “the demand for solar has ultimately driven down costs to a point where it’s economically viable for just about anyone.”

Babic points out that, for a long time, people have assumed installing solar in their home means dropping at least $20,000, but that is nowhere near the case.

In 2010, a good solar array would cost you about $7 a watt to install. These days, it’s more like $3 a watt.

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Solar Wholesaler, for example, can now sell solar arrays at very affordable prices, with RV kits going for as little as $399, or eight-panel grid-tie kits selling for $4,799.

Babic says many people’s switch to solar has happened since those myths about ultra-high prices have faded.

He pointed out that many Okanagan residents are also turning to solar not necessarily just to go “off the grid.”

Some people, for example, will buy a relatively inexpensive grid-tie kit that pumps out just enough power to keep them out of Fortis’ pricey Tier 2 pricing. Many also attach a solar kit to their RVs, eliminating the need for noisy generators.

“Solar is the future,” Babic says, “and as the technology becomes better and more efficient places like the Okanagan are adopting it quicker than almost anywhere else in Canada.”

To learn more about the Okanagan’s solar future, visit Solar Wholesalers Okanagan online, or stop by in person, at 3190 Sexsmith Rd.

‘We make anything’
Special to Okanagan Edge - Feb 13 - Think Local

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You may have never heard of FormShape, but the fiberglass manufacturer just might be one of the most successful companies in the Okanagan.

Now, a company that’s been flying under the radar for more than three decades has shaken things up and is starting to make a name for itself far beyond its usual circle of clients.

Adrian Witt is the director of sales and marketing at FormaShape. He says the company’s recent shift in focus has vaulted it into surprising new markets, setting the stage for even more international success in the years to come.

Working out of its Lake Country plant, FormaShape has been the manufacturing arm of Whitewater West Industries Ltd, one of the largest water park attraction companies in the world, since 1981.

The 120-person company produces the fiberglass components for Whitewater’s parks, which are located in hotels, resorts, attractions, and amusement parks around the world. Some of its most iconic pieces are Disney Cruise Line’s Mickey Mouse hand, and the Audubon Zoo alligator in New Orleans.

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Over the years FormaShape has also pioneered its “architectural line,” positioning itself as a go-to manufacturer of the fiberglass cladding favoured by most gas stations.

These dual focuses helped FormaShape quietly solidify itself as one of Canada’s leaders in fiberglass manufacturing.

Now, propelled by a management shakeup, FormaShape has set its sights on even more ambitious projects.

Last year, the company decided to dramatically expand its architectural line to include everything from movie sets to solar cars to communication towers.

Drawing on the production power of the largest fiberglass-making machine in Western Canada, Witt says FormaShape can produce “almost anything you can imagine.”

“We can do any shape, any colour. We can round things, we can curve them; essentially we can do anything,” he says.

As it has pushed its product line, Witt says the team at FormaShape has adopted a “challenge us” mantra, asking clients to throw any and every type of project at them.

“We’ve taken on a bit of a mentality of pushing our boundaries and limits, really opening things up to see what we can accomplish with this amazing material,” he says. “We tell our clients to bring us anything and see if we can do it. Ninety-nine per cent of the time we can.”

Since that shift, Witt says FormaShape has manufactured everything from fiberglass manhole covers to microwave towers to underwater sea vehicles used to map the topography of the ocean floor.

“We’re introducing fiberglass into different industries now, as a better alternative to the old materials they’ve been using for years,” he says.

The move towards more work on movie sets, cutting-edge vehicles, and big architectural projects is exciting and promises to keep things interesting at one of the Okanagan’s largely unknown success stories for years to come.

For more information, check out FormaShape’s newly designed website, at

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