Wish Puusepp and Chris Pouget, owners of Riverbend Café in Port Aberni, celebrate their award of excellence at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) Commercial Building awards, April 28, 2022 at the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort in Parksville. (PHOTO COURTESY RIVERBEND CAFE)

Wish Puusepp and Chris Pouget, owners of Riverbend Café in Port Aberni, celebrate their award of excellence at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) Commercial Building awards, April 28, 2022 at the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort in Parksville. (PHOTO COURTESY RIVERBEND CAFE)

Port Alberni businesses well represented at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

Alberni Valley winners range from affordable housing unit to renovated heritage store

Alberni Valley businesses were well represented in the winners’ circle April 28 at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s Commercial Building Awards.

Earning awards of excellence were Maitland Street Village for Affordable Housing and Riverbend Cafe and General Store for Renovation. Earning awards of merit were Chims Guest House Phase II for Hospitality and Nucii Building C for Renovation.

The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s new building on Harbour Road was also nominated in the Industrial category.

“We’re so excited,” said Wish Puusepp, who along with her partner, Chris Pouget, renovated Riverbend Café and General Store. “We worked on this project every day for a year and a half. It was so wonderful to be recognized by the Business Examiner and by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, and by all these people that had immense projects compared to our corner store.”

READ: Piece of Port Alberni history preserved with the Riverbend Store

The couple focused on the heritage of their building when they renovated; even though they were only able to keep six of the original studs in the building, they re-purposed whatever the could salvage, Pouget said. “The countertops are made out of ceiling joists from the building we tore down,” shelves have been created from wall and ceiling pieces, tables were crafted from salvaged material, and even the window trim is from plywood. The wood flooring was restored and all decorative pieces in the store are authentic, he added.

The community’s positive reception of their renovation “warms our hearts and lights our spirits,” said Puusepp.

The VIREB award for Chims Guest House is the second year in a row that Chims has been nominated. “This is a big deal,” said Naomi Nicholson, who owns and operates Chims Guest House with her husband Ed. “The fact we made it here a second year in a row is amazing.

READ: Indigenous tourism blossoming on Vancouver Island

“This was made possible from the COVID-19 business loans, tourism grants and financing by the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation (NEDC),” she said.

She thanked all the contractors that worked on the Chims property, helping them achieve their vision of operating an Indigenous-led tourism business. Chims has a number of options for accommodation: space for recreational vehicles as well as the guest house and other spots.

Mike Ruttan of the Alberni Low Energy Housing Society joined board members James Andersen and Michelle Dick in accepting the award for Maitland Street Village, a new housing complex in Port Alberni. “All of us were completely surprised,” Ruttan said. “We knew we had been nominated. The other building was much, much larger.

READ: New ‘low energy’ apartments open in Port Alberni

“The fact (Maitland Street Village) is a highly energy-efficient building fits in with affordable housing,” he added. “Because it’s so efficient it reduces costs to tenants.”

The Nucii Building C is the Uchucklesaht Tribe Government’s final phase of its rehabilitation of the former Redford Elementary School on Redford Street and Fifth Avenue in Port Alberni. Chief Charlie Cootes said he is happy and proud once again that the Uchucklesaht Tribe Government is being recognized for its good work in the community.

This is the first time in three years that the VIREB awards have been held in person. The past two were virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. “We are thrilled with the turnout that filled the room at the Tigh-Na-Mara Resort, and it was great to have people together to celebrate these great buildings,” said Mark MacDonald of the Business Examiner, which coordinates the event.

There were 36 finalists in this year’s awards. Malahat Skywalk was the judges’ choice, best overall winner in the 15th annual event.

Alberni ValleyBusinessIndigenousPort Alberni

 

Naomi and Ed Nicholson of Chims Guest House celebrate their award of merit for Phase 2 of their building project, April 28, 2022 at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) Commercial Building Awards. (PHOTO COURTESY NAOMI NICHOLSON)

Naomi and Ed Nicholson of Chims Guest House celebrate their award of merit for Phase 2 of their building project, April 28, 2022 at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) Commercial Building Awards. (PHOTO COURTESY NAOMI NICHOLSON)

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