After a fire destroyed the Blue Heights Business Complex in Kelowna, a Vernon business owner says he won’t be able to re-establish his venture anytime soon.
Innerspace Watersports has been in Vernon for 40 years, and its Kelowna location stood for 13 years before being reduced to rubble by the Tuesday (Feb. 15) morning blaze.
Owner Chad Edwards said he initially had hope that some of the store’s merchandise would be salvageable, but once the scene cooled down he realized the only thing left was the building’s exterior wall.
“It took us 13 years to build that location from scratch,” said Edwards, who’s been an Innerspace employee for 25 years and an owner for 17 years.
Innerspace now has to go through a mediation process with its insurance company, and the current outlook does not inspire confidence in a quick turnaround.
Edwards explained with COVID-19, high inflation and shipping rates, increased product costs and skyrocketing rental rates make it impossible to pivot quickly to another Kelowna location.
“For this season unfortunately it does not look like we’ll be having a new location because the rebuild costs are higher than what the insurance most likely will cover to get going in that Kelowna market,” he said.
The store’s products — canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, scuba gear, snow sports equipment and the like — have to be ordered a year in advance, so it will take at least that long to replace the destroyed merchandise.
Making sure all his staff members can still hold a job, Edwards is moving his Kelowna staff to the Vernon location for the time being.
“Our Kelowna store was designed to expand our market share and business and make it a lot easier for customers to come see us without driving, but in the meantime, it’s a beautiful 40-minute drive door to door from our old store to our new store,” said Edwards. “We’re encouraging people to grab a coffee and take a beautiful drive to Vernon and let us serve you the best that we can.”
In addition to equipment for a wide range of outdoor sports, Innerspace also offers lessons and instruction.