Long-time Christmas tree seller Pete, who is selling trees as a fundraiser at the 7-11 on the corner of Tzouhalem and Lakes Road, said he doesn't expect to have any trees left by the end of the weekend. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Business notes: Christmas tree farms in Cowichan selling out this season

Check in with Cowichan’s business community

Like everything else related to Christmas this year, Christmas tree sellers in the Cowichan Valley are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

Lakes Road Tree Farm has had to close early for the season after selling out of trees that were grown for this holiday period, and other Christmas tree farms are getting to the end of their inventories as well.

Terry Flatt, one of the owners at Cowichan Valley Christmas Trees, located on Webdon Road in Duncan, said business has been extremely brisk this year.

She said the tree farm opened early for business this festive season after people stopped by inquiring about buying Christmas trees just after Remembrance Day.

“We’re normally fairly busy each Christmas season, but it’s been much busier than usual this year and it began much earlier,” Flatt said.

“I think it’s because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that people are looking to do something special this Christmas season after such a bad year. Many people who usually travel elsewhere for Christmas are staying home this year, and that adds to our business as well. We’re already getting close to the end of the trees we have to sell.”

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Duncan’s Red Arrow Brewing Company is undergoing an expansion.

Brewmaster/co-owner Chris Gress said Red Arrow is adding a kitchen and bathrooms to support a lounge in the front section of the building, located on Chaster Road, and the total expansion is 900 sq. ft. over two floors.

The work began in October and is expected to be completed early in the new year.

Gress said it’s the second phase of the company’s expansion plan, which began with a revamping of the patio last year.

He said Red Arrow is looking forward to life and business after the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends.

“We want to provide another location for people to enjoy local craft beer, good food and good friends,” Gress said.

“We’re always looking for ways to better serve the local community and bring people in to enjoy our sports courts and other amenities, and this will add to that. We really appreciate the great community support we have always received.”

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Fields department store and Swordfern Boutique in Lake Cowichan have partnered with the Vancouver Island Regional Library to encourage people to give library cards as gifts and stocking stuffers this holiday season.

Fields and Swordfern Boutique are two of many businesses, from Bella Coola to Sooke, to partner with VIRL in the initiative.

The VIRL is encouraging people to visit any of the participating business and grab some beautifully packaged library cards which make the perfect stocking stuffer for the book lover, film fanatic, gamer, music fan, newshound, language lover, or lifelong learner on their holiday gift lists.

VIRL library branches are stocked with “Give Library” bookmarks which would also make a great stocking stuffer, or addition to a new book.

The bookmarks include a QR code so people can sign up on the spot using VIRL’s online registration system.

“We decided to try something a little different this year to help attract more people into local businesses,” said Natasha Bartlett, VIRL’s divisional manager of marketing and communications.

“Businesses everywhere have been struggling for months as a result of the pandemic, we’re hoping to help bring people in to these businesses and increase awareness and interest in the library with this campaign. We’re thrilled to have so many businesses taking part.”

A library card can be used at any of VIRL’s 39 branches and gives cardholders instant access to millions of books, thousands of ebooks and audiobooks, streaming movies, downloadable and streaming mp3 music, magazines and newspapers from around the world, free access to Lynda.com to learn photography, graphic design, and more, and learning a new language online with Mango Languages.

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Sands Funeral Chapel in Duncan invites people to its Virtual Christmas Candlelight Service which can be viewed through the month of December on its website at sandsduncan.ca.

Funeral director Ginette Sylvianne Aubin said that Christmas is a time of grief for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones.

She said when carefully acknowledged and validated, the grief some people are experiencing during the holidays can be a helpful stage in the reconciliation of loss, and Sands hopes the candlelight service can provide guidance during these unprecedented times when social distancing protocols are keeping people from gathering.

“The inability to mourn the loss of your loved one in traditional ways has become a particularly heartbreaking challenge,” Aubin said.

“Simple gestures, such as the warmth of a friend’s hug, which can bring us comfort, can’t be extended nor can they be received. These acts of kindness that so often help us heal our grief have become a tremendous void in our lives.”

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The Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction has increased accessibility to WorkBC’s wage subsidy program.

Johnna Puusa, a labour market information specialist with WorkBC Cowichan, said WorkBC is no longer limited to offering subsidies only to people who have an EI history, but can offer it to every unemployed citizen eligible to work in B.C.

She said this really widens the scope and will make it easier than ever for employers with full time job opportunities to take advantage of the program.

Puusa said another fantastic change is the ability to use the subsidy to recall laid-off employees.

“An additional new aspect of the wage subsidy program is that the subsidy amounts have changed, with larger subsidies available to priority groups, including youths aged 16-30, and people with disabilities,” she said.

“The application guide outlines employer criteria, provides details on the subsidy ranges, FAQ and application tips. An excellent feature designed to streamline the process is the ability to apply online on our website, using a candidate you’ve selected or requesting us to recommend someone for the position.”

••••

Think “Island Good” when holiday shopping and send a “taste of Vancouver Island” to isolated friends and relatives anywhere in the world.

More than ever this Christmas season, people are shopping locally when purchasing gifts for the holidays.

The Island Good brand and website is a simple, headache-free way to source Island Good products and retailers. Customers can order an Island Good Gift Box and have its shipped anywhere around the globe.

Current boxes include the Breakfast Box with Level Ground Trading Coffee, Stonehouse Teas, Saltspring Kitchen Co. fruit spread Gathering Place Trading dried fruit and Singing Bowl Granola and the Pantry Box with Saltspring Kitchen Co. Spread and more Island goodies.

There are even dog and cat food boxes full of St Jean’s Cannery Healthy Shores pet food.

Customers can also create their own themed gift, exploring the list of Island Good producers at islandgood.ca and let their imaginations take hold.

“Our Island Good producers and retailers are continuing to find innovative ways to ensure you can shop safely,” said a message on the website.

“Most producers are providing online shopping and many offer free shipping when you purchase over a certain amount of dollars.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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