Barbara Bond and Ian Simpson are right in the middle of the construction zone on Chemainus Road at Silvermine on Chemainus, providing a bird’s eye view since it began.
After months of dodging around all the extra activity to keep their business operating, they’re happy the end is almost in sight. But it hasn’t been anywhere near the tumultuous experience they might have expected.
In fact, Bond and Simpson are full of praise for Copcan Civil workers who did the underground utility work and now Milestone Equipment Contracting Inc. on the finishing phase as well as the Municipality of North Cowichan for making all facets of the daily grind tolerable – the recent rainstorm notwithstanding that made a mess of the road and was out of everyone’s control. They especially give high marks to John Dehoop, the Municipality’s manager of infrastructure.
“Right from Day 1, he’s been available, he’s been accommodating and he gets it,” said Bond.
She was previously in business in Victoria for many years and added, “by far he’s been outstanding compared to anybody I’ve ever dealt with. He’s been here to talk to us physically maybe 20 times.”
“I find John very sincere,” Simpson said. “I’m not too displeased with it (the project) at all. It’s coming along nicely. They can move along rapidly when they want to.”
Bond and Simpson initially weren’t happy during a meeting last August when they heard the work beginning a month later was quite different than the 2011 upgrade plan. They still love the original design but are embracing the aspects that resulted in changes.
As one of the businesses directly affected by the changes, Bond and Simpson were upset at not being consulted. But all’s well that is ending well.
There’s been some shaking, rattling and rolling and all sorts of Good Vibrations in the process, but nothing they couldn’t overcome.
“Things have been knocked off the showcases and turned right around,” noted Bond. “I’m not going to phone and complain. That’s progress. We have to live with it.”
One renter along the Chemainus Road strip was working on her PhD and finding it a bit challenging to study among the constant vibrations at one point. “John reached out to me and asked if I had any suggestions,” said Bond.
Arrangements were made through Warren Goulding at the Chemainus Public Market and Christina Kemp at Studio 77 for the person to utilize space at no charge. It’s an example of everyone going above the call of duty in a different situation.
COVID-19 added another element, creating delays for Telus to complete its work.
“I think people have been really hard on the Municipality about this,” Bond remarked.
“We’ve been fortunate, too, from a business level and with COVID-19, we’ve been OK. We’ve been certainly holding our own. The locals have been extremely supportive.”
Bond and Simpson cut their operation down to three days a week, more to do with COVID than the construction. But they’re both semi-retired anyway and will continue to be open only Fridays through Sundays even after the construction concludes.
The project’s had some unexpected benefits for Bond and Simpson.
“When they pulled down the hedges, all of a sudden we had a water view,” noted Bond. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
With the roundabout going in across from them, they wanted to ensure the business would maintain visibility.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it all does develop at the end,” said Bond. “The vantage point for people driving north, that’s always been a huge part of our business.”
Simpson didn’t feel that was going to be a concern.
“We have to be creative with our marketing,” reasoned Bond.
One thing they did was the addition of a distinctive silver roof. So now they’ll be the “silvermine with the silver roof at the second roundabout.”
“I do believe when we do things like that it makes Chemainus better,” Bond indicated. “We are very invested in the community.”
“It’s very continuous,” said Simpson of the necessary improvements.
Bond and Simpson have appreciated the treatment they’ve received. In turn, they even treated the main guys on the road crew from Copcan to a hot dog barbecue on their last day.
It’s all about making the best of a situation, with an upgrade on the entry into Chemainus certainly long overdue.
“Time’s moving on and this is the future,” reasoned Simpson. “It’s been many years on the books and got to get it done.”
“It hasn’t been the inconvenience that we thought it would be but then we’re not travelling back and forth,” concluded Bond.