An Alberni Valley business has been nominated for the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s 14th annual commercial building awards.
“I’m speechless,” Naomi Nicholson said when she found out the business she and her husband Ed created—Chims Guest House—is the only Port Alberni finalist among 45 Island finalists.
“Ed and I have worked so hard and faced many issues,” she said. “Win or lose, I’m so happy about being a finalist and sharing our vision.”
A year ago, the Nicholsons’ business dreams nearly collapsed under the weight of the novel coronavirus pandemic and ensuing COVID-19 closures and restrictions. They had opened Chims Guest House in 2018, Naomi’s Secluded Wellness Centre was thriving and she was building a cannabis coaching business. Ed was working for himself as an electrician. The couple had purposefully diversified their businesses to weather anything. Or so they thought.
In one global emergency, all of their businesses suffered: personal health services were shut down, travel was discouraged and accommodations were either forced to close their doors or operate under strict conditions.
The couple foundered for a few weeks while they came up with a plan for moving forward. They always had plans to expand what they offer on their property, which is on the edge of Tseshaht First Nation land.
When accommodations reopened they looked for long-term rentals for the guest house instead of tourists. They began planning an expansion, and were able to secure financing to build a small studio as well as three RV sites on their property.
“We made smart decisions,” Naomi said. They applied for and received government grants through Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) and the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation (NEDC). In total, they have invested $1 million in their property since they began building.
She said COVID-19 loans have helped businesses keep operating. “We ended up becoming an example.”
They have also helped other Alberni Valley-based businesses like Tilleys Trucking and Excavating, and John Versteeg of VCR Construction Ltd.—something that was important to the Nicholsons.
The couple has started the next phase of development, which is installing a gate, fencing, landscaping and laying down asphalt. They plan to offer “isolation vacations” when provincial COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased. “People (will) book the whole place and have a mini all-inclusive with a side of Indigenous flair,” Naomi said.
The VIREB award ceremony will be virtual for the second year in a row, with winners announced on May 7.
Commercial, industrial, and revenue-producing projects – including renovations – completed within the VIREB area between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, are up for the awards.
“We are pleasantly surprised and thrilled by the number of nominations and finalists this year,” says Mike Mullin, VIREB’s Commercial Chair. “We knew construction continued at a very strong pace last year but didn’t think we’d get more than the previous year’s 43 nominations.”