The former owner of Cowichan Auto Repair, Elly Ruge , hands the keys over to new owner Crystal Cabelguen, who took over the business on Jan. 16. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

The former owner of Cowichan Auto Repair, Elly Ruge , hands the keys over to new owner Crystal Cabelguen, who took over the business on Jan. 16. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Business notes: Cowichan Auto Repair has new owners

A look at what’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

Cowichan Auto Repair, located at 5275 Chaster Rd., has new owners.

Crystal Cabelguen and her partner Brett Rehaune bought the business, which specializes in car repairs, restorations and mobile detailing, from long-time owner Elly Ruge earlier this month.

The couple owned and operated two construction companies in Alberta before the lure of nicer weather and better living on Vancouver Island drew them here.

Cabelguen said they are also preparing to open the Duncan Dirt & Speed Shop, which will specialize in all things related to four-by-fours and Jeeps, in an adjacent building to Cowichan Auto Repair on March 1.

She said she also plans to continue with the workshops that educate women on the basics of car repair and maintenance, begun by Elly, when the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.

“We’re now living in one of the nicest places in Canada, and we’re looking forward to operating our businesses here,” Cabelguen said.

Ruge, who has run the business since it opened five years ago, said she sold it because she felt it was time to move on, and plans to get into real estate development.

“Selling the business to another woman was awesome,” she said.

“I’m so pleased that Crystal plans on keeping the workshops with women going when social gathering is allowed again.”

Ruge’s dedication to educating women on the basics of car repair and maintenance earned her and CAR a coveted automotive communications award in 2017 at the “Women in Auto Care” award ceremony in Las Vegas.


Community leaders in the Cowichan Valley are asking local businesses to “seek understanding” if there are any questions or concerns with some of their clientele accessing their businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The request comes after members of Cowichan Tribes recently faced blatant racism in the area following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the First Nations community.

In a letter to local businesses, signed by North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples and Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour, the leaders said Cowichan Tribes issued a Shelter-at-home order for their members after the outbreak.

They said the order is public and accessible by each of the business owners and managers to better educate themselves and their staff if there are questions of who is safe to be in public.

“We would also suggest you read the BC Health Regulations to better understand the regulations all citizens are to follow, no matter their race,” the letter said.

“It is extremely important that our businesses understand that treatment of our citizens based on the colour of their skin is unacceptable; who has COVID-19 based on the assumption of their place of residence and race is wrong and must be corrected.”

The leaders said they have had reports of mistreatment from citizens who are not members of Cowichan Tribes, or do not reside on Cowichan Tribes reserve lands.

They said these reports are confirmation that citizens are being singled out based on race.

“We also want to clarify the access of businesses to deliver on reserve.

“The intention of the check points under the Shelter-at-home order is to stop visitors and limit movement between the seven villages of Cowichan Tribes. The order is not intended to cut off necessities to their members. Deliveries of food, medicines, and maintenance repairs are permitted and have the same risks no matter the address. It is a human rights violation to deny service based on race or residency, unless public order prevents entrance.”


The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary’s Thrift Shop will remain closed until at least early February.

The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary decided to close the shop on Dec. 5 due to COVID-19 concerns and pledged to review the situation by Jan. 14.

The executive recently held a Zoom meeting to discuss a possible re-opening.

“After much discussion, it was decided that we would not re-open at this time,” noted president Diana Lenihan.

Reasons cited for continuing the closure were: the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area; the new variant of the virus that is more contagious; and Dr. Bonnie Henry’s extension of restrictions until Feb. 5 in order to cover two incubation periods from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“By continuing to stay closed at this time, we are committed to keeping our volunteers, staff, customers and community safe,” added Lenihan.

No date in early February was set for the executive to revisit its position regarding re-opening, but likely after Feb. 5 depending on what provincial health orders are at the time.


The Valley’s Rocky Creek Winery will not use shrink wraps on their bottles in 2021 for reasons of sustainability.

Winery president Linda Halford said that since the winery started in 2005, one of the cornerstones of the business was to design and operate it in the most sustainable fashion possible.

She said Rocky Creek has always put a plastic “shrink” over the corks for aesthetic reasons.

But Halford said here is no need for them as they serve no purpose in the aging of wines.

“As they are single-use plastic, we have decided to forego using them and have instead ‘logoed’ our corks,” she said.

“Many wineries are going ‘naked’ on their bottles too. Consumers will also love it because they don’t have to struggle to get the shrink off and just need the corkscrew. And yes, we use natural cork which is renewable as it comes from sustainable cork farms.”

Halford said, in addition to other sustainable practices, the winery uses lighter weight glass whenever available as it reduces the carbon footprint both in manufacturing and transportation.


The Vancouver Island Coast Economic Development Association is embarking on a project to boost opportunities to attract investment in the tech sector through an Island Coastal Economic Trust-supported regional marketing and collaboration initiative.

The VICEDA’s Regional Technology Attraction Marketing project is one of the priority recommendations from the recently developed regional tech attraction strategy, led by a partnership of Vancouver Island communities located north of the Malahat.

The joint initiative created and launched a new website,, at the end of May, 2020.

The Attraction and Marketing Initiative will improve the region’s online presence by sharing the story of Vancouver Island, including investment advantages, profiles of participating communities and available resources, to identified markets.

Targeted web assets will be created to support promotion of Vancouver Island as an area for tech-related investment and remote and mobile workforce opportunities.

“Investment attraction is a cornerstone for economic development and digital marketing is an increasingly important tool to ensure communities are competitive in the global economy,” says ICET Board Chair Aaron Stone, who is also mayor of Ladysmith and chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District board.

“This project builds on the long-term positioning of Vancouver Island as a preferred location for technology and innovation businesses and workers.”

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