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Business notes: Merridale Cidery & Distillery to host 4th annual Cider Harvest Festival

The latest from Cowichan’s business community
Janet Docherty, co-owner of Cobble Hill’s Merridale Cidery & Distillery, has announced that the 4th annual Cider Harvest Festival will be held at Merridale on Sept. 25. (Citizen file photo)

Cobble Hill’s Merridale Cidery & Distillery will host the 4th annual Cider Harvest Festival on Sept. 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Bringing together more than 15 of B.C.’s top land-based cideries, the festival is a celebration of true craft cider, inviting attendees to experience the extraordinary products and meet the makers.

Craft is one of these words that gets thrown around a lot in the industry, but at Merridale and the cideries in the festival, craft is about the passion, quality and dedication that goes into creating world-class ciders that celebrate the unique terroir of British Columbia.

After being postponed for the past two years due to COVID, Merridale is excited to host this exceptional festival that highlights industry leaders from across the province.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased on Merridale’s website for $40, which includes shuttle transportation from Victoria, Langford, Duncan, Nanaimo and Shawnigan Lake.

Janet Docherty, co-owner of Merridale, said the festival will be hosting some of the best craft cideries that B.C. has to offer.

“Craft is really about weaving passion into every step of the process, which includes growing your apples,” she said.

“From sustainable farming practices and nurturing the apples with care and dedication, to pressing the cider on the farm, to offering amazing tasting experiences for guests, we want to showcase what craft really means.”


Monika Kawka will be the new executive director at Cowichan Hospice, replacing Gretchen Hartley as she transitions into retirement.

Kawka brings strong senior leadership experience in human resources, leading the growth and development of large and medium-size organizations internationally over the past 24 years.

Born in Poland, Kawka moved at the age of 19 to the United States to study and took her first job as a psychosocial aide in the Chicago area.

She began working in human resources in 1998 with employment throughout the European Union with Pfizer and later in India, with Proctor & Gamble.

In 2014, Kawka immigrated to Canada, where she has been senior manager of human resources first with Arc’teryx, the outdoor clothing company, and then with Visier whose work is “people analytics.”

“Monika’s passion for helping people grow personally and professionally shone through her interviews and she brings excellent perspectives to engaging with diverse community stakeholders,” said Christa Fox, president of Cowichan Hospice’s board of directors.

“With Monika’s leadership, Cowichan Hospice will continue to be a welcoming, supportive and growth-focused environment for the people of hospice and our community – clients, volunteers, supporters and staff – to ensure that quality hospice care is available to all, whenever it is needed.”


New owners have taken over the small motel formerly known as Uptown Lodge in Lake Cowichan and are busy working to get it renovated and reopen as part of Cowichan Lake Cottages.

Matt Blake said the 73 South Shore Rd. motel that sits along the river right next to Ed’s Coffee Shop and two doors down from the bridge to Duck Pond Park should be up and running again soon.

“We just saw an amazing under-appreciated property waiting to be restored,” said Blake, a real estate investor originally from Prince George who spent five years at the University of Victoria.

“My family finally decided it was time for a change; we threw a dart at the map, applied to a few places for rent, and ended up in Lake Cowichan, and immediately fell in love with the Cowichan Valley.”

After spending roughly a year at the Lake, Blake said he came across the Uptown Lodge “by way of a few blurry photos, and a vague description posted online.”

He approached his partner Cory Reddekkop in Edmonton, who has experience in larger commercial constructions, about the opportunity.

“I was hesitant at first,” Reddekkop said about when he first saw the obscured out-of-focus pictures and the brief ad for the property.

“But once I had an opportunity to visit and spend a bit of time there, I realized what a special opportunity this could be.”

Visit to learn more.


The Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce has announced that its September luncheon on Sept. 16 will be “How to do Diversity Equity and Inclusion in Your Workplace, and How to do it Well.”

Guests at the luncheon, which will be held at the Ramada Duncan beginning at noon, will hear from five panelists, to be announced at a later date, who will speak on inclusive hiring and belonging, and creating a workplace to embrace diversity and equity.

The event will include a catered lunch, followed by a panel discussion.

Advance booking and payment, which is $35 plus tax for members and guests, and $45 plus tax for non-members, are required to attend this event.

Tickets are non-refundable after Sept. 13.

For more information, contact the chamber at 250-748-1111.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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