In the summer of 1953 Aimee Schute along with her friend and business partner June Leys, and two of June’s daughters, left their homes in Saskatchewan and headed west.
They were bound for the village of Lake Cowichan and looking forward to opening a business in the place they called, “Canada’s banana belt.”
In the fall, June’s husband, Bob Leys, arrived from Saskatchewan and soon after went into the building supply business with Gordon Peterson, a friend from Saskatchewan who was already living here.
By 1960, the Leys had built a home on what locals referred to as Sundberg’s Hill — just a short distance past present day Lake Park Estates subdivision. Aimee followed suit and built a home nearby.
The two ambitious women soon opened a ladies clothing store which they named Delle’s Ready to Wear (presumably named after June’s father, Delbert Frederick).
Their new building was constructed on South Shore Road beside the present day restaurant, Jake’s at the Lake. The women operated the popular store for several years until June sold it to Dorothy Ryan in 1964. Ryan operated it under the name Dorothy’s Style Shop for many years before retiring.
The building is still being used and is presently the location of the women’s clothing store, Copper Lane Fashion Boutique.
After the sale of the store, Aimee Schute opened a small gift shop adjacent to the clothing store. She imported wooden items — brightly coloured animals etcetera — along with other interesting items.
In 1970, Aimee passed away at Cowichan District Hospital at age 63.
Over the years Bob Leys’s and Peterson’s, building supply store thrived and built-up a loyal following of customers.
Today, the building supply business is owned and operated by the Peters brothers, under the name IRLY Bird.
The Leys had four children, two of which (Rae and Judy), attended school in Lake Cowichan before graduating and moving out on their own.
In 1982, the Leys left the lake then spent 15 years in Arizona before settling in Abbotsford, B.C.
It was there that June died on October 3, 2011, at the age of 101, 20 years after the death of her husband Bob.
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Just down the street from the former Delle’s Ready to Wear store stands an old building that was once the medical office of Dr. Bert Mewhort.
The building was tucked in between the expansive former Grosskleg house, later to become the office of the Lake News and now a private residence and Lars Furnseth’s Fix-it Shop (later owned by the Ed Hauck family).
Mewhort commuted from Duncan to Lake Cowichan from 1942 until 1945 before he and his wife Alma took up residence in a small apartment at the back of the medical office.
After Mewhort died in 1971, his long-time business partner Dr. Jim Morrow along with then a new doctor, Gerry Egan, continued their medical practise from the little building that had by then undergone an expansion.
After Egan retired many years later, the building was sold and has since been used by various businesses since, including the Cuppa Java Café and more recently Boutique Waterfront Lodge.