Pete Leschuk at the Kootenay Crate Co. retail store on Baker Street has created a perfect blend of nostalgia, practical and cool in the selection of home décor items available. It’s proving popular with both locals and visitors. Photo: Bob Hall

BUSINESS BUZZ: Cool crates, milestone for Bowolin and cash for innovation

Bob Hall’s monthly business column features Kootenay Crate Company and more

By Bob Hall

Opening a permanent storefront in a prime downtown location to sell crates might have seemed like a bit of business risk to some, but Pete Leschuk’s enthusiasm for nostalgia and a rustic look has carried Kootenay Crate Co. to new heights. As the shop gets set to mark one year in its 464 Baker St. location, the newest home décor destination is doing brisk business.

Leschuk moved from Calgary two years ago to raise his young daughter in a small town setting and stumbled upon the crates shortly after arriving. After spending more three decades in the sign business, Leschuk knows plenty about design and figured the crates might be popular in his new hometown.

“There is something very comforting about them,” says Leschuk, 49, who grew up on a farm in northern Saskatchewan. “A crate is something that you can put stuff in and it feels safe. It’s practical and so much better than a cardboard box.”

Chad Wobshall owns Kootenay Crate Co., making crates and an impressive line of rustic home décor in a farm just outside of Creston. Last spring, Leschuk packed a trailer full of crates over the Kootenay Pass and opened a pop-up shop in the Nelson Trading Company where they sold quickly. The success prompted him to take a chance with a permanent shingle on Baker Street and he opened a retail store with the crates as an anchor.

“What makes them great is that people in this area live in every shape of home,” says Leschuk. “I get customers who come in that live in school buses and people that live in million dollar mansions on the water … they all love the crates. There is a beauty in the imperfection, and at the end of the day, they are practical. They make everything you put in them look better. It’s storage that you can live with.”

Over the last 12 months, the Kootenay Crate Co. retail store has become much more than its namesake. Leschuk currently deals with 14 regional artists and designers who create a myriad of home décor items from signs to furniture and soap to lighting fixtures.

“I think the store itself is an art piece and it’s always evolving,” he says. “The artists come in personally, none of this gets chosen out of a catalogue. It’s not imported to the region, it’s made in the region.”

Leschuk has even brushed off his sign-making background and is producing his own unique retro-feeling groovy signs to hang on the walls of customers. One of his most popular states: “Screw this. I’m going skiing.” Those with a similar passion for riding, fishing and camping can find a sign expressing their love for those recreational outlets.

“They sell … and when people love them, how you can stop making them,” he says of the signs that are all one-of-a-kind with different paint patterns. “It was a powder day in Nelson this past winter and I was so mad when I came into the shop that morning. I made up one of these signs and put it in the window. It sold the next day, probably because the person felt the same way I did that morning.”

The success of Kootenay Crate Co. is part of a mini-boom in the 400 block of Baker Street that includes neighbours Backroads Brewing Company, the new location for Tea Garden Salon & Spa, Kootenai Moon Bed & Bath, and Maison Décor, all found steps from each other.

“We have created a destination design row by accident … and you can have a pint when you are done shopping,” laughs Leschuk.

•••

Family Financial Services is celebrating 25 years of investment and insurance planning in Nelson. A fourth-generation Nelsonite, owner and advisor Paul Bowolin is well known in the community. Bowolin has always had a passion to help people in any situation. He likes getting to know their stories, learning about their past and about their plans for the future.

“Close relationships are formed with us, because there’s a special level of trust that is built when you talk about money,” he says. “My mission is to give my clients the peace-of-mind they deserve and to help them achieve their financial goals. We have the trust and confidence of our clients because we are knowledgeable, we spend the time and listen to them, and we create long-term relationships.”

•••

There are so many cool new companies in our region helping lead the way with innovation. Advanced Biocarbon 3D is one of them. In partnership with Selkirk College, the company is developing a new sustainable 3D-printing filament that is carbon negative, non-toxic and biodegradable with engineer-grade quality.

With plenty of focus being put on the negative impacts of plastics on our environment, this Kootenay-based company is developing plastics made out of sustainable and unused wood that would otherwise be a waste in forestry. Rural-made solutions for global problems.

Last year the company received a boost from Innovate BC’s Ignite Program that awarded the partnership with Selkirk College $300,000. That money has gone a long way towards the success of the operation. The next round of Ignite funding is now open to applications with a deadline of Aug. 12. Innovative Kootenay companies should head to the Ignite BC website for more information: innovatebc.ca.

•••

Great work by Community Futures Central Kootenay and their partners to secure participation in the federal government’s Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot that will benefit West Kootenay communities starting next year. The pilot project will allow businesses in the region to welcome immigrants from across the world who have job offers from local employers.

Workers approved to immigrate to the region through the pilot will gain permanent resident status that allows them to move with their families. That in turn will help them strengthen their long-term commitment to our region. The program aims to attract up to 250 immigrants of various skill levels to fill full-time, year-round positions.

Working with local employers, the program will be looking to attract immigrants to positions that have gone unfilled locally. You can find out more about the project at the Community Futures Central Kootenay website: futures.bc.ca.

•••

That’s all for this edition of the Business Buzz. If you have a noteworthy business bite to include in an upcoming column please fire off an email to me at bobbyhallten@gmail.com with all the pertinent information. Please note that this column is not a platform for advertising sales or products, just a conduit for keeping readers up to speed on all the cool moves, awesome events, helpful workshops and notable promotions that take place in our wonderful little mountain community!

Bob Hall is the communications co-ordinator at Selkirk College and volunteer director on the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. His column appears in the Nelson Star once a month.

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