‹ Back  






October 2007
October 2007

Table of Contents

Publisher's Message
Living Green: Greening Your Business
For Art’s Sake
Faces of Education
Country Woodworkers: A Powell River Success Story
An unexplained presence: Who was the grandma children see?
The ghost on Poplar Street: Memories from childhood
Martella and Thompson jazz it up
Business owners looking to retire tackle succession
Blast from the Past: Italian Club celebrates 70th anniversary
Explore Powell River



Publisher’s Message
By Isabelle Southcott

October 14 to 20 is small business week. You may wonder what that has to do with people who don’t own a business or who work for government but small business is truly the lifeblood of our economy.

Gone are the days of Powell River being a one-horse town. Entrepreneurs and their exciting, innovative businesses are the key to Powell River’s and to Canada’s economic growth. We salute all small business owners, their employees and the contribution they make to the economy during small business week.

In the first quarter of 2007, the number of self-employed people with employees of their own grew 9.4 per cent in BC over the same period of 2006 representing an increase of 12,000 people.

All you have to do is look around one of our malls or drive down Marine Avenue and you’ll see a new business. Restaurants, service businesses and home based, they all contribute to the fabric of life in Powell River.

The issue of succession will be a challenge for many small business owners in the coming years. As our population ages, business owners will be faced with selling their business to someone else. Succession planning is important because without it being carried out properly, businesses will close and we all know that’s not good for the economy.

Small businesses are having labour pains as BC’s unemployment figures continue to fall. In August, provincial unemployment fell to 4.0, among the lowest in the country just 0.5 percentage points higher than Alberta’s. When I went to Alberta for vacation last year I noticed how messy some fast food restaurants looked and how slow their service was. Everywhere I went there were Help Wanted signs posted.

The labour shortage has hit Powell River. More and more Help Wanted signs are popping up and business owners are having troubles finding the people they need. Experts say it’s only just begun.

Business is changing and along with it, the way we do business. By supporting locally owned businesses and the Powell River Chamber of Commerce, the voice of business in Powell River, we support our community and the people who call Powell River home. 

You’ll have noticed that Emma Levez Larocque and Jessica Colasanto are now regular columnists in Powell River Living. Emma, a well-known writer, author and photographer, will be writing about environmental issues in her column Living Green and Jessica will focus on the arts scene in For Art’s Sake. Family Matters will be moved inside the magazine and we’ll run a publisher’s message in its place. Speaking of which, this is the perfect place to talk about the calls I received regarding last month’s Explore Powell River and the photo with the gun and the American flag.

Our monthly photo essay is a compilation of Powell River photos. Last month’s were taken during the summer through the eyes of a teenage girl with an interest in photography. She happened to be at Willingdon Beach with her family when she came across this display and she snapped the photo that appeared in the magazine. The magazine was not making a political statement by publishing it any more than I suspect that the community of Powell River was making a political statement by letting the American flag and an armoured vehicle be on display at Willingdon Beach. Any conclusions drawn were made by people who made their own connections and came up with their own answers.

And October wouldn’t be October without Halloween and a ghost story. This year, we discovered a lovely old home on Poplar Street with an eerie connection to the unexplained. Be sure to read the Ghost of Poplar Street.

Until next time, happy haunting.



Living Green
By Emma Levez Larocque

Greening Your Business

There has been an increasing focus in recent months on ways we can become more environmentally friendly and aware in our homes. It is only natural then that those principles follow us to work, and make us more aware of some of the ways we can green up our workplaces.

Panopoly of Parts: Cassandra Jamieson helps sort through a pile of keyboards as part of the electronic recycling service in place at Sunset Coast Bottle Depot since AugustMany offices and workplaces employ recycling strategies, and that is a great start, but there are lots of other easy ways businesses can save energy—and the reality is that greening your business is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the bottom line as well!

Start by making sure that lights, computers and all other electronics are turned off at night. Many of us are in the habit of leaving our computers running, and there is an old rumour still in circulation that it is better to leave your computer on all the time. But even in power-saving mode computers use precious energy resources—and the heat and mechanical stress that are generated while the computer is running can contribute to computer failure.

According to “Greening Your Small Business,” an informative brochure that has recently been produced by the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture and the Green Economy Secretariat, turning the photocopier off at night decreases the amount of energy used 65 to 70 per cent! Other great ways to save energy in the workplace include using energy-saving features on office equipment when it is on, replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescents, and turning off heat and air conditioning when they are not needed.

We live in a consumer’s society—when something breaks down, we often throw it out and get a new one. To exacerbate the problem, technology changes so quickly, we are forced to update computers and equipment more frequently than most of us would like. But what happens to all those old monitors, desktop computers, laptops and other electronics? Landfills are full of them. In August 2007 the provincial government started a program to help consumers and businesses recycle more of their old electronics. Sunset Coast Bottle Depot is the outlet in Powell River through which we can recycle old desktop and laptop computers, monitors, keyboards, fax machines, televisions and mice. For more information about this great new service, pick up a pamphlet at the bottle depot, or visit www.encorp.ca.

Another great way to save dollars, and help the environment, is being open to buying refurbished items. Virtually every piece of equipment or furniture used in modern businesses can be purchased in refurbished condition, including computers, desks, and photocopiers. You can save money, and you don’t have to compromise on quality—many refurbished goods come with manufacturers’ warranties.

Recycle and reuse what you can, but don’t forget the third “R”, reduce. When it comes to paper and other disposables, real change comes when we reduce what we use. Make sure everyone in your office knows how to set printers and photocopiers to print on both sides of the paper. Go paperless whenever possible—don’t print out documents when there is any other alternative. Use washable mugs, cutlery and plates instead of disposable Styrofoam, paper or plastic for meetings and office gatherings.

Going green in the workplace is also a great way to make your life healthier and happier. Everything in Powell River is relatively close—consider biking or walking to work when it is practical. Think about re-arranging your office to make better use of the natural light that comes in through windows. Encourage the use of natural cleaning products that contain fewer chemicals and make the air healthier to breathe. Start, or become part of, a green office committee. The changes you make at work can be even more important than the ones you make at home—because you’ll start those around you thinking about the environment too!





For Art's Sake

Days of September Not So Mellow
By Jessica Colasanto

Septembers always seem to be packed with activity, and this year was no exception.

Palette for the Palate: Beautiful food is another form of art like this gorgeous dish prepared by Bemused BistroAfter Labour Day weekend and the back-to-school rush, Powell River was treated to the opening of an exhibition of photographs by Robert Colasanto at Bemused Bistro. The food was fabulous, the spirits sparkling, and the art was inspirational. Back to the Image was a thirty-year retrospective of photos taken both here and abroad, revisited with current printing techniques. A large and diverse crowd turned out; teachers, artists, mill employees, writers, dentists, photographers, realtors, local merchants and more (not to mention lots of kids!) gathered for a true community event. Everyone was welcome, and from the comments Robert has received since, everyone felt it. It was a wonderful opportunity for the community to come together in a celebratory spirit.

You may have noticed two inflatable columns towering over Marine Avenue, adding to the festive atmosphere. Invoking the points of a jester’s hat, they’re a creation of Hans Kaptein, local proprietor of Foo Inflatables. As night fell they were illuminated with colours, works of art in their own right.

Another special feature of the opening was a children’s room, an area set up for kids to draw and colour. Some of Robert’s family portraits filled the walls of the room, and almost-six year old Saverio Colasanto presented a display of his own drawings, making the evening a real family affair.

Many artists draw inspiration from children. Put a crayon in a child’s hand and you’re sure to get a glimpse at a new interpretation of the world around us; inhibition and cynicism haven’t yet had time to set in. Adults can learn about all sorts of secret worlds that they may otherwise miss if they’re invited into a child’s drawing.

Approaching art as a family is an extremely rewarding experience. Kids never seem to be at a loss when it comes to creativity, and their inquisitive nature prompts them to ask great questions about art. If you’re looking to nurture the artistic side of a youngster in your life, ArtReach is offering weekly art classes at the Music Academy. Their mission is to empower children and foster their sense of self and community through the artistic process.

ArtReach will be hosting several workshops, too. This month’s is Art Masks, held on October 20th and 27th. It’s open to children and adults alike and is bound to be lots of fun—a perfect way to get started on your own unique Halloween costume! ArtReach is also offering a course for adults, From Concept to Completion. (Call 604-414-7020 for current ArtReach information.)

Ursula Medley will lead two courses beginning this month at Malaspina University-College: Paint the Undraped Figure in Oil and Paint with the Old Masters, and then in the beginning of November, she offers Mindful Creativity: A Weekend of Personal Image Making at her studio in Lang Bay. (Visit www.UrsulaMedley.com for details.) And Vi Isaac is offering a watercolour course, running every Tuesday evening in October. Contact Vi at 604-483-3786 if you’re interested in a class for Beginner, Just-Past-Beginner, or Fun With Watercolors.

Of course, you don’t have to create art to appreciate it. Bemused Bistro will be featuring brand new works by Meghan Hildebrand this month; her last show there was extremely well received, and this one promises to be even better. And be sure to check the Malaspina University-College lobby for this month’s Malaspina Art Society exhibit.

Our local arts scene can provide enrichment for all residents of our community; it’s up to us to take advantage of what it offers.



Faces of Education

Teacher Shares Healthy Choices

Graham Cocksedge smiles when he tells the story of how life has a way of working out.

Three years ago Oceanview Middle School’s science and physical education teacher, also a champion runner with Canada’s national team, was breathing in the polluted air of the crowded Fraser Valley. Cocksedge had a good teaching job in Mission but knew that wasn’t really where he wanted to be. He’d just finished listening to a news report that said the Fraser Valley had the worst air in Canada and he knew it was time to make a change.

Learning about our choices: Graham Cocksedge helps students learn how the environment, sustainability and making healthy choices matter“My parents had moved to Powell River and I was commiserating with them one day,” he says. Cocksedge had visited his parents in Westview a couple of times but hadn’t really explored the area. They convinced him that Powell River was the place to be and so he bought a house sight unseen.
Now that he was the proud owner of a house, Cocksedge needed to find a job in Powell River. He thought he’d be able to pick up part time work at first as a teacher on call but learned the list was closed at that time.

“My mortgage broker (Rachelle Ford of RBC) is best friends with Roseann Dupuis, a teacher at Oceanview,” Cocksedge explained. “She said the Science teacher had just retired and suggested that I speak to Kathy Rothwell (then Oceanview principal). “I did, applied for the job, and was hired.”
Powell River has been the perfect fit for Cocksedge, who is passionate about the outdoors and the environment. Running has been Cocksedge’s sport of choice for many years but he recently gave it up because of constant injuries. “I ran for Canada for many years and ended up going to the world championships seven times.”

For years, he’d train three or more hours a day. Although it was difficult to maintain such an intense training schedule while teaching, he kept it up. “Every year it got more and more difficult to train and to teach full time and with the injuries it was very frustrating.”

He gave up competitive running but soon after moving to Powell River met Lorne Morrow and Patrick Nesbitt. The three chatted and Lorne suggested that instead of just running that Cocksedge train for a duathalon, an event that is comprised of running and cycling. Cocksedge trained with Morrow and won at the BCs and also at the Nationals.

“But then the injuries started coming back and I went to the Worlds and ended up crashing the bike and this year in Hungary I could not run, my leg was shot.”

Cocksedge says his career as a competitive runner is over. These days he’s focusing his energy on teaching, redoing his house and on Oceanview’s Healthy Schools Program and the School District’s Healthy Schools initiative.

“The Healthy Schools Program gets everyone thinking in the same direction. Even though you think you’re doing a good job, once you start assessing your school and looking at it more closely you begin to realize that you could do better.”

For instance, Cocksedge said that although there are many healthy choices for snacks in Oceanview’s vending machines, they recently discovered that the candy Skittles was the number 1 seller!

Since moving to Powell River, Cocksedge has been running and riding on the back roads. “There is junk and garbage everywhere. I’m into biology and environmental studies so this is my passion,” he says explaining his plans for an Outdoor Ecological Club that will combine hiking, cross-country, biking, and orienteering with doing something to help the environment. It kind of operates on the theory “if you use it, you give back as much as you can.”

The Healthy Schools Program and the Outdoors Club complement each other. “We’ll take the kids once a month mountain biking or rock climbing and introduce them to new experiences.

He focuses on providing a positive experience for students. “It’s one thing to have them do it, it’s another thing to have them do it and enjoy it and come back to it.”

Cocksedge is also in charge of Oceanview’s cross-country team. “Cross-country is a BC recognized competitive sport. We have 16 kids on our team and they are just awesome kids.” For the first time, Oceanview is part of the North Island cross-country series and the school recently hosted its first cross country race.

The Oceanview team has partnered with the Brooks Secondary School cross-country team and they train together. Cocksedge is passionate about teaching the importance of healthy, active lifestyles at a young age as this is something that will stay with students for the rest of their lives.

In the future the district’s healthy school initiative would like to focus on sustainable schools. They’ll begin by looking at light efficiency, recycling and planting a garden. “If students learn this mindset in kindergarten they can carry on with it throughout their lives.”

And when all is said and done, Cocksedge says a good school system is one that produces students who can contribute to the community in positive ways during and after graduation.

“If doesn’t matter if they can remember the life cycle of a moss forever, but if they can learn to look up information and put together a presentation and know what steps to follow to solve the problem then we’ve succeeded.”



Country Woodworkers: A Powell River success story
By Isabelle Southcott

Rick Hopper, owner of Country Woodworks Ltd., says his company is well on the way to becoming a multi-million dollar businessRick Hopper is smiling these days.

Not only does he have a wonderful family but his business, Country Woodworkers Ltd., was recently recognized as the top Canadian Wood 100 company in Las Vegas and ranked number 13 out of 100. This prestigious award, now in its 17th year, was given to the top 100 of the industry’s fastest growing, innovative and most successful woodworking companies.

It’s been a long road for Hopper. One that started back in 1993 in the living room of his condominium in Victoria where did a project for his first client. “Then I rented shop space and started pecking away at custom woodworking. I took anything and everything that came my way.”

But Hopper wanted to move back to Powell River where he’d spent a couple of years coaching hockey and his wife Kim had grown up. So when Kim, a pharmacist, was transferred to Powell River the couple bought a house and set up shop on Michigan Avenue.

In those days Hopper was focusing on the local market and for three years he chugged away gaining more market share and making a name for himself. “I wanted to become a player in the local woodwork scene. I used to dream of seeing real estate ads that said this house has a Rick Hopper kitchen, I remember what a thrill it was for me when it happened.”

Although Hopper’s kitchen business was doing well, he kept thinking about furniture making. “My love and passion has always been furniture,” he said. Since graduating from the Georgian College of Applied Arts furniture design and building program, in Barrie, Ontario, Hopper wanted to own a furniture shop. “Country Woodworkers was started as a sideline, as a furniture company.”

Dave Irwin, Operations Manager, for the entire company, and Hopper began designing and building furniture pieces that they took to the Powell River Home Show. That product, now know as “Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards”, features custom-made country kitchens and furniture built to last generations. From there they went to the Filberg Festival, and while the response was encouraging they still weren’t selling much. Next was a show in Calgary where a buyer purchased Hopper’s entire booth.

Rick Hopper / Country WoodworkersMeanwhile, R. Hopper Cabinet Making was doing well and because it was doing well, Country Woodworkers was able to keep going. “We still didn’t understand where to find our customers,” said Hopper. Back he went to Calgary the following year and although he was getting some orders it wasn’t what he needed to make it viable. “It was becoming a drain on the business, the local economy had taken a down turn and shows were expensive to go to.”

Then Hopper was invited to the Northwest Home Furnishings Show in Seattle in February 2003. “It was a good opportunity. Money was tight but I put six thousand dollars on my credit card and off I went.”

Three hours before the show was over a vice president of buying for Costco Wholesale strolled over to Hopper’s booth and started asking questions. That led to an invite to an exclusive show put on by Costco. Hopper loaded up a five-ton truck and took everything he had for samples plus a few new pieces to the show.

The head buyer for Costco Home loved Hopper’s work so much they paid him $35,000 US for all his samples and set them up in the newly created “Costco Home” store in Kirkland, Washington. Finally, Hopper knew he was on the right track. The Costco deal lent credibility to his Mother Hubbard’s brand name.

But success didn’t come overnight despite the Costco deal. “We had conservative sales as far as Costco is concerned but it drove our little company pretty hard. We were building our export business.”

Hopper knew they weren’t selling as much as they should be but the whole time he was learning. “Costco is a large company and we had several different opportunities arise. We had a meeting with costco.com and the kiosk department and then I got a call from Cindy Wong, head buyer for the western Canada Special Events program.”

After visiting Hopper’s Nootka Street shop, a Costco Canada vice president convinced him to try Costco’s special events. “Vendors sell their own product for limited time periods on the floor of a Costco store,” Hopper explained. “I saw the potential with this concept.”

Their first three shows did “pretty well” but it was the Alberta shows that blew their socks off. “Alberta is a smoking hot economy. Our first kitchen sale through Costco was in Grand Prairie for $65,000 for a custom made log home. It was the largest single item ever rung through Costco’s till in Western Canada!”

This past year Hopper hired Ed Frausel, formerly of “Ed’s Fire & Safety” as sales representative for Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards. “Ed’s one of a kind, a great salesman. We fill our trailer with product samples and he takes Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards from store to store. It’s a unique way to access the marketplace.”

It’s been a long road for Hopper, one fraught with my challenges, experiences and frustrations. One that began with a home based business built from scratch. “ I always tell people that I started with a jig saw and a hundred bucks.”

What began as a one man, custom woodworking business, has now developed into a secondary wood manufacturer employing over twenty people. In 2006, Country Woodworkers saw its sales nearly double. “We’ve exported our products as far south as Phoenix, west to Japan and east to Alberta”.

And the whole time, Hopper kept learning. Looking for opportunities and acting on them. Looking for his market.

And now that he’s found it, he’s not stopping. “We want to become a multi-million dollar business.”




An unexplained presence
Who was the grandma children see?

By Isabelle Southcott

When Klu and Geoff Koch bought a house on Poplar Street four years ago they had no idea they’d be sharing it with someone or something else.

The first sign of any unusual activity was a persistent scratching coming from the wall of the closet in the room they were sleeping in. At first, they thought it might be mice but there wasn’t a mouse or evidence of one to be found.

The Koch’s live on a lovely, old home on Poplar Street. It’s almost 100 years old and they’d dearly love to know more about its former owners and tenants.

After the bothersome experience, the Koch’s settled in another bedroom upstairs and didn’t think anything more about the scratching noises coming from the closet.

But when their grandchildren, who lived with them, began to see and hear things they began to wonder. Four-and-a-half-year-old Nicky began having nightmares. “He kept saying I don’t like that black grandma,” recalls Klu. “I don’t like that lady and he’d wake up crying and thrashing.”
Klu went in and slept with Nicky the first night it happened and remembers feeling a presence behind her. “It was like someone was standing behind me. It scared me so I moved him to another room and then the nightmares stopped.”

But then Klu moved Nicky’s bed so it was facing the top of the staircase in his new room and the nightmares started again. When she moved the bed back so it couldn’t be seen from the top of the stairs, the nightmares stopped. Was it because the bed was no longer in the ghost’s direct line of vision?

Nicky and his brother David also fell down the stairs more times than Klu can count. “I kept telling them to be careful, to hang on to the rail, and they said they were,” said Klu shaking her head. “They kept falling down the stairs but they were never hurt.”

The Koch’s can feel the ghost’s presence in one bedroom only and that room soon became known as HER room. “This is really the only place I feel her. I feel her but I don’t fear her,” says Klu. “I’m not scared of her but I’m scared to turn and face her.”

The ghost likes to open the close door in HER room and sometimes she turns the television on. “This past Christmas, when the boys were here, they hadn’t been in the house for an hour when they both fell down the stairs.”

Klu says the ghost only seems to make an appearance when their grandsons are in the house but some unexplained happenings occurred when the Koch’s went away.

One time they came home to find the television turned on, another time the radio was on and another time their old stereo was turned on.

“I would love to see her (the ghost) settled. I’d like to know her story. I believe that spirits get trapped.”





The ghost on Poplar Street:
Memories from childhood

By Tracey Ellis

With a child’s innocence, I did not think there was anything out of the ordinary, living in a house with a ghost. It was a presence I was aware was there, waiting at the top of the stairs of the Townsite home I grew up in.

I knew what she looked like, although I hadn’t actually seen her, and I can only describe her as a stout, round, version of someone’s Polish grandmother. She always wore a flowered housedress and had a white sash around her waist.

I also knew she was a bit rough on the boys, as they were constantly falling down the steep stairs, which led from the main floor to the bedroom level, but I knew she pushed them. I always held on tightly to the railing, and was never pushed. Still, you could never be too careful with a ghost in the house. I also knew, when I reached the bottom of the stairs and I felt that icy chill as the hair stood up at the back of my neck, not to turn around, or I would be able to see her standing there…looking down at me.

She seemed to be trapped on that level of the house, coming out of a closet in one bedroom, crossing the landing and stopping by my door, but never entering my bedroom.

Years later, I would tell myself it was the wild imaginings of a very lonely child.

Until this past year, when a friend of mine who recently moved to Powell River told me she had met some very nice people who lived in the Townsite. Out of curiosity, as that was my old childhood stomping ground, I asked her which house they lived in. I was surprised to hear her new friends, Klu and Geoff Koch, were living in the house I had grown up in.

“Oh, the house with the ghost,” I casually inserted. Of course, that warranted the whole story, which at some later time, my friend relayed to Klu and Geoff.

I was contacted later on by my friend, who asked me to describe the ghost, which I did in the same detail as above. It turns out, the grandson of the Klu and Geoff, who was living with his grandparents and sleeping in my old room, had seen her too, and could describe her in detail—matching my description down to the white sash around her waist—which he saw as an apron. He didn’t like the “grandma lady” and urged his grandparents to get rid of her.

I was invited to come to the house and tell the owners what I knew about the home’s history, which had apparently had a fire I knew nothing about. I was able to point out where a pantry had been walled up, and discuss my acquaintance with the apparition. Up the stairs we went, where I showed the new homeowners the ghost’s path, and we were standing at the top of the stairs discussing her when both the lady homeowner and I gave a hard cold shiver, as if on cue. She was still there, but my ability to detect her had lessened with adulthood. Still, as we made our way back downstairs, I held on tightly to the railing with a slightly damp hand, and at the bottom, I didn’t turn around to look up at the landing…I just knew she was still there, waiting…for something….





Martella and Thompson jazz it up
By Devon Hanley-Southcott

Internationally renowned jazz giant Don Thompson comes home this month to team up with multi-talented Walter Martella for an evening of jazz on October 13 at the Max Cameron Theatre.

Thompson, accomplished on piano, bass and vibraphone, will perform on piano and vibes, while Martella will perform on piano and trumpet. Brooks’ teacher and jazz band leader, Paul Cummings, will make a guest appearance on bass and vocals; Paul Steenhuis, bass and John Rule, drums will round out the ensemble.

Thompson, Martella and Cummings have something else in common besides their passion for music and that is their close connection to Parkinson’s disease. “We all have family members who are afflicted by Parkinson’s,” explains Martella. “So this concert has a double meaning for me; besides making great music, we can bring awareness to Powell River’s Parkinson’s Society and the great work they do here. It’s going to be a special evening with part of the proceeds going towards Parkinson’s research.”

The list of famous jazz musicians with which Thompson has toured, recorded and performed is a veritable who’s who of the jazz world. But on a call from Toronto, the down-to-earth Thompson is happy to talk about his early musical years and share his enthusiasm for an upcoming CBC concert playing Bach with his jazz quartet in celebration of Glenn Gould’s 75th birthday. Classical music continues to play a central and inspirational role in this jazz musician’s life. “We all listened to music,” says Thompson, describing the large Thompson brood who resided in Stillwater before moving to Harvie Avenue in 1948. “We didn’t have many records, but we had all the great classics, including Horowitz and Rubenstein. That was the music I grew up with until junior high.”

It was Thompson’s older brother, Bill, who gave him his first “unofficial” piano lessons. He then studied with Paul Dougherty, and after Dougherty’s untimely death, with Lyle Henderson. “Playing the piano has never been a hard thing for me to do,” relates Thompson, “I could figure out things on the piano.”

In grade seven Thompson took up the cornet. He remembers the music teacher walking into the classroom and asking ‘who wants to be in the band?’ “He was holding a clarinet in one hand and a cornet in the other,” recalls Thompson. “The clarinet had so many buttons on it, but the cornet only had three and looked a lot easier to play, so I joined the school band and played cornet. The school band, and a dance band which my friends and I put together in grade nine, gave me an opportunity to learn the classic swing tunes of the day,” says Thompson.

Following high school, and a relatively short and somewhat unsuccessful stint at the mill, “They wouldn’t fire me so they kept shuffling me to new jobs….” Thompson moved to Vancouver and began his career as a professional musician. In 1965 he moved to San Francisco to play with the now legendary John Handy Quintet, returning to Canada and taking up residence in Toronto in 1967. Since then Thompson has performed with such jazz luminaries as George Shearing, Joe Henderson, Sarah Vaughan, Moe Koffman, Lenny Breau and the list goes on. His many recordings have garnered numerous international awards and to date, three Junos.

Martella’s musical beginnings were not unlike Thompson’s. He started studying piano and accordion at an early age, and was soon making up songs and transcribing TV cartoon soundtracks. “I would sit down at the piano, figure out the tunes, and then write them down,” says Martella.

In elementary school Martella recalls observing older kids playing trumpet. “I thought it looked really cool,” he says. “I started with cornet in the Grief Point school band and that was the beginning of my introduction to jazz. I started to listen to people like Doc Severinsen and Harry James, playing along with tapes and records.” Before long, Martella was being picked to play in the BC Honour Jazz Band and top provincial bands.

Martella continued his music studies at Malaspina College, the University of Victoria, and the Banff School of Fine Arts, and has worked with many of Canada’s finest choral conductors. A gifted composer, vocalist, arranger, band leader, choral conductor and trumpet and piano soloist, Martella’s talents keep him busy at the Powell River Academy of Music and on local and international stages. He has worked on many recording projects, most recently his own CD, “Goodnight Moon”.

Martella first met Don Thompson at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1992. “It’s wonderful to bring Don back to play in Powell River and realize one of my dreams: to perform with such an incredible musician who has a special connection to Powell River while raising awareness and support for a worthy cause,” says Martella.

Tickets are available at Kelly’s Specialty Shop, or by calling Janice Gunn at 604 414‑7139.




Business owners looking to retire tackle succession
By Isabelle Southcott

Wilf Belanger has run a successful boat topping business called Wilf’s Special-T Shop out of his home for more than 30 years. His wife Ida also works out of their home running an upholstery business.

The Belangers have raised three children and would like to retire. Ida has found someone to take over her upholstery business at the end of this year but so far Wilf has been unsuccessful in finding someone to buy his boat topping business. Daughter, Nicole, who owns Nicole’s Embroidery, currently runs a separate business out of her parent’s home. “Even though they are retiring, I’m not.” Her business will continue to operate.

“This is a big issue,” Wilf said sitting across from me at his kitchen table. “Where do we go? I can’t find help to start with. I’ve been to Career Link, there’s a labour shortage here. They (potential employees) say my friend just went to Alberta and he is making $30 an hour, I can’t pay that.”

Looking Forward: Ida and Wilf Belanger planning their retirement after 30 years of running their business.Wilf and Ida have been talking about selling their business for three years. “I put a blanket ad in the Peak for BC, Alberta and the Northwest Territories and I didn’t get one reply.”

Wilf isn’t sure what to do next. Besides making boat tops, he makes tops for cars, motorcycle, skidoo, ATV and airplane seats, awnings, and pretty much everything in between.

“Here in Powell River who could I sell my supplies to? I’d have to take a big loss on my stock to sell it.”

The Belangers aren’t alone in wondering what to do with their business when they retire. In some cases, transferring a business to a family member is an option. In others, the purchase of a company by its management team is another. Selling a business to outside interests is probably the most popular exit strategy but whatever you choose to do you will need a business valuation that establishes a realistic and fair dollar number on your business.

The Belangers have a strong work ethic and are proud of their businesses. They’ve spent years perfecting their craft. “Ida and I have a great knowledge base of all the products we work with. We need to retire but that knowledge will die with us. It saddens me,” says Wilf.

He says there’s still a lot of work for someone in the boat topping business. “I must have 20 boats to do on my list. They patiently wait and wait because they know we put out a good product.”

And the business doesn’t end with redoing a boat top because new tops are needed every ten years or so.

Wilf laughs. “Many of them say that before I retire I have to do their boat top first.”

Their businesses have been good to Wilf and Ida. It hasn’t made them rich but it has provided a comfortable life for them and their family. It gave Ida the flexibility of being able to work out of home when her children were small. There are pros and cons but “if I had to do it all over again I’d follow the same path,” says Ida.

Wilf shakes his head. “So Isabelle, I don’t know what we are going to do. Maybe Community Futures should do a workshop to bring people together who are just about to step over the line.”




Blast from the Past
Italian Club celebrates 70th anniversary
By Roger Whittaker

Next time you’re shopping at Mitchell Brothers or The Italian Grocery Store you will want to add tickets for a 70th Anniversary Celebration to your shopping list because October 27, 2007, will mark 70 years of continued presence of the Powell River Italian Community Club as a society.

These days, organizers are getting into full celebration mode. The order of the evening will be traditional Italian food, served with rich helpings of Italian good will, enjoyed amidst the music of the old country. As well, Al Mantoani and Vito Massullo will be recognized as the longest living members of the club that evening.

The Italian Benevolent Society, which officially became the Powell River Italian Community Club on October 24, 1937, existed as the active conscience of the local Italian community. First gathered together to celebrate the good fortune of the new beginning in a prosperous land, the Italian Benevolent Society soon found requirements extended to coping with tragedy and assisting in the general welfare of the entire Italian community, thus the need to become a bona-fide society.

In 1971 an earthquake in Italy sent local club members hastening to gather support to send to the widows and orphans suffering from the destruction. Powell River Italian Community Club President Elvio Cramaro reports the club is presently active in the community as a gathering place to remember weddings, birthdays and of course just to celebrate.

In the rich archive held by club members, the activities of those days are well documented. The Italian Club offered an entry in Miss Powell River and has held picnic socials and many dances that have become the catalyst and focal point of the community’s desire to celebrate the common events of life, such as the Masquerade Ball the night before Lent commenced.

There are many historical celebrations as well, like Italy becoming the country as we know it today in 1861 and June 2, the date of Italy becoming a republic in 1945 and the anniversary faithfully celebrated each year on the last weekend of October, the founding of the Powell River Italian Community Club in 1937.

The large, flat parking lot and easy grade level access to the hall makes the Italian Community Club building in Wildwood an easy place for old-timers to get together and play Bocce, Briscola and Chinquillio (when the hall is not rented out to a new generation of memory makers). Anyone with a desire to join with the Italian community in celebrations of the joy of life and the supportive community of tragedy shared, will discover the rich history of the Italian Community Club of Powell River. The club’s future, formed on this strong historical foundation, will continue to provide a feeling of satisfaction and service for many years to come. Social memberships to the Powell River Italian Community Club are available to anyone regardless of nationality.



Explore Powell River

October 2007: Click to enlarge
by Isabelle Southcott