I keep a mental list of things I want to see happen here in the Creston Valley, so I was excited to learn that Ralph Casemore and Tanya Wall are going to develop the eyesore that once was the Kootenay Hotel.
When we came to Creston for our first Blossom Festival in 1979, this was a happening place, at least on that weekend. My new employer took me out after work to visit the local watering holes. The Creston (Sheen’s), Kootenay, Kokanee and legion were packed to the rafters but we still managed to knock back a few Kokanees as we made the rounds.
I can hardly picture what the Kootenay Hotel looked like then, other than to recall the restaurant at the front and pub to the rear (or did the pub extend all the way to the front on one side?). I didn’t spend enough time in it over the years, I suppose. And I was one of many who was less than enthused by the installation of a cartoon-like sasquatch in front of what became its namesake pub. Tacky, I thought, and certainly not to my taste.
But when the business folded and the years took their toll on the building the days of the Bigfoot started to look pretty good in comparison.
A couple of months ago, I toured the building with another friend who expressed interest in buying it. It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it could become, with the right vision and injection of sufficient cash. But not being a contractor, the work looked overwhelming. Just clearing it out — and there’s plenty to clear, what with all the water damage the interior has sustained — would be a major undertaking, I thought.
I suppose that friend didn’t pursue the purchase, but I will admit to being thrilled when I confirmed that Ralph had purchased the property. I had heard rumours that he and Tanya were interested. Knowing that someone with their business background, and with Ralph’s decades of building experience, wanted to take on the challenge was heartening, indeed.
I have no doubt that these folks are up to the task. Ralph is a straight-shooting realist, but also a fellow with a huge love of the Creston Valley. When he told me he would face the entire building with red brick with black and white granite highlights I was dumbstruck. I had simply made the assumption that patchwork and a paint job would be just fine, with the interior getting the major attention and investment.
That he is willing to spend as much as three months working on the exterior, with all that added cost of materials, says much about the man. For Ralph and Tanya this is as much a labour of love as it is a business investment. Their enthusiasm — of the down to earth, practical sort — is obvious.
Like many, I am curious to see exactly what unfolds on the main floor. But I look forward to sitting inside, with its south- and east-facing windows enlarged downward to floor level. On the upper level, the primarily south and east views will be quite wonderful, as I recall from my tour a couple of months ago.
In my conversation with Ralph and Tanya they were forthright and enthusiastic, but far from naive. Getting a thorough environmental check gave them the peace of mind to pursue the sale. And let’s face it, Ralph’s sterling reputation as a builder and bricklayer should ease the minds of doubters who think the building should be removed entirely. He’s a practical realist and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he can pull this off.
Last week I joined the mayor and his team as they visited downtown businesses, and earlier had lunch with the other teams as they debriefed about their morning visits. Invariably they reported being pleasantly surprised at the positive reception they got. There is a sense of optimism in the business community that Creston is well positioned for the future, and the evidence is in the recent opening of new businesses and activity in some of the vacant storefronts. I think we are in for some exciting times.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.