By The Bay Lavender became more than just a place to stay when Kristie Anne and Sterling Aurel, the owners of the Chemainus bed and breakfast, branched into all things lavender.
And it’s a good thing they had the foresight to do that in February of last year.
“We were starting the lavender business as a separate business before COVID shut down the B&B,” pointed out Sterling.
Kristie Anne, 46, and Sterling, 50, both come from the busy corporate world and have enjoyed the transition to an entirely different way of life since coming to Chemainus, but it’s still been a lot of work to initially get the bed and breakfast off the ground and later the lavender into the ground.
They established the B&B in 2016 and it’s been three years since adding the lavender component.
“We’re Year 4 into the garden and it’s turned out amazing,” said Kristie Anne. “The lavender was something the deer didn’t eat and everybody loves. We started making products for our guests.”
“The demand became more and more,” added Sterling. “All of our products are certified by Health Canada.”
The couple has lavender fields at four locations, including their own property.
“We started in our garage,” Kristie Anne noted. “We’ve expanded into six acres, 18 different types of lavender flowers and six different oils of our own.”
The Aurels also recently opened a retail space in downtown Chemainus on Willow Street and have developed a wide range of products from the distinct smells of lavender depending on their origin in the world. “We keep learning, we keep educating ourselves,” said Kristie Anne. “We’re only going to do what we love.”
Kristie Anne originally hails from Squamish and Sterling from Bowden, Alberta.
Kristie Anne’s background is in project management for development companies. She opened 15 luxury high rises in Vancouver over nine years, managing projects with the hiring of staff teams for five different developers.
Kristie Anne decided she needed to take her skill set and experience in a different direction and “that’s what inspired us to open the B&B,” she explained.
Sterling’s background is in sales and marketing in a variety of positions such as conference planning at UBC and charitable organizations such as Cystic Fibrosis Canada. He also has a chemistry background that has come in handy to create some of their unique lavender products.
Sterling not only loves creating new lavender products but also writing children’s books as a means to educate on such topics as the importance of bees. Two books are published based on a bee named Bernie, who tends to the lavender garden – Bernie the Bee and Banjo Bob, and Bernie the Bee and the Wiener Dog – with more on the way.
Once the Aurels decided to put their long commuting days behind them, they conducted a thorough search of places for their relocation. “We looked at 40 locations,” said Kristie Anne. “We chose here. The people are amazing.”
Their goal in developing the business was to have fun, give back and create their desired lifestyle.
The Aurels have a love for everything outdoors and lavender has proven to be a natural choice for landscaping their garden. They actually had a hand sanitizer developed prior to COVID.
“The first month we just gave it away to the town,” said Sterling. “I think we gave over 1,000 bottles away.”
“We called it handi-spray before COVID,” noted Kristie Anne.
Stores carrying their products have helped put By The Bay Lavender on the map, including 49th Parallel Grocery, Salish Sea Market and Russell Farm Market in the Chemainus area.
“We’ve been lucky, we’ve been able to expand during a time like this,” said Sterling. “We’re doing something we love and we can do it together. It takes both of our skillsets to do what we do.”
“We’re not afraid of hard work,” added Kristie Anne. “We have a proven track record and we’re ready to go.”
The retail location was just another step in the process.
“We want to open a tourist attraction eventually,” said Kristie Anne. “The store is the start of it, getting the feedback, getting the best location.
“We can’t thank our local people enough,” added Sterling. “Such a warm community. Everybody’s been so awesome.
“We’re kind of a store that’s geared to tourists a bit but we also have products that are good for everyday use.”
Setting up at markets around the area in Honeymoon Bay and also the Wednesday Chemainus Public Market last year inspired them to open the store. “We learned from markets the demand so we were ready to launch,” said Kristie Anne.
With more than 70 products developed from lavender, “we’re loving the opportunity to be creative again,” Sterling pointed out.