It’s official — a third gas station is coming to Lake Cowichan, along with a convenience store, a new hotel, a new pub and a re-branded cold beer and wine store. And these additions are all coming as a result of two building sales to a businessman from Nanaimo.
Wayne Procter, owner of the Gas n Go chain of 23 gas stations on Vancouver Island, has purchased the IRLY Bird Lake Cowichan Home Centre and the historic Riverside Inn, with plans to transform both locations by the end of the year.
He said for several years he has been actively seeking a location for a new gas bar in the community.
“I’ve always liked Lake Cowichan. I’ve always thought it’s an amazing spot, one of the fine jewels we have on the island,” he said. Last summer he noticed the IRLY Bird building was for sale and, after a bit of research to confirm it was a viable location for a gas station, Procter made the purchase.
“We’re reconfiguring it,” he said, noting half the building will remain open as the home centre. The rest will become a Gas n Go and a General Store Market.
“[It will be] about a 2,300 square-foot convenience store and four gas pumps and the canopy will match the aesthetics of the pitched roof on the IRLY Bird building.”
As part of the sale, Procter also purchased the Peters Centre, which is home to several businesses, including the Gazette. Procter said he does not have any immediate plans for the Peters Centre.
Rod Peters, one of the centre and the IRLY Bird’s co-owners, said he and his brother have been looking for a buyer for “quite a few years” and they are glad Procter decided to purchase it.
Peters’ son and his son’s partner have purchased the Lake Cowichan Home Centre, where Peters will continue working three days a week.
“I decided that I didn’t want to quit working, I’m way too social,” he said. “I’m just going to continue on until my son and his lady decide they don’t want me there anymore and then I’ll walk away.”
Peters and his brother purchased the building in 1978.
Procter said while working out a deal with the Peters brothers, the Riverside Inn caught his eye.
“I looked into it, saw it was available, and made a deal with the people who owned it and bought that with the intent of rejuvenating it, cleaning it up,” he said.
The fact the building already contains a liquor store was another selling point for Procter, who owns Best Buy Liquors in Nanaimo and Campbell River. He plans to change the name of the cold beer and wine shop to match his other liquor stores, but has no plans to change the name of the Riverside Inn, which was established in 1885.
There are currently no plans to put apartments or condos in that building.
“It’s going to be a hotel. And we’re going to do it up nice. Re-do all the rooms; flat screen TVs, new furniture, it’s going to be new everything in there,” said Proctor.
The Riverside Inn has approximately 20 rooms. Procter hopes to have six or so completed by the end of June, but the rest of the work will be completed by the end of 2016. He plans to paint the exterior, replace its windows, do some landscaping and freshen up its look overall. He is going to reopen the pub there (which will sell pub food) but he does not plan to to reopen the restaurant. He is instead considering using that space for a banquet hall.
“I don’t think the volume’s there to warrant a restaurant with the pub. Because there’s already a number of eateries in town,” he said.
Procter said Sunfest and the Laketown Ranch development helped him in making a decision to purchase the buildings, although the popularity of hockey in Lake Cowichan will also aid the new businesses during the winter months.
Having vacationed with his family at the Lake many times over the years, Procter said he is confident in the area’s potential.
“It’s a wonderful location. We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community,” he said.