Kurt and Brenda Van Ember bought the Historic Chilcotin Lodge in April, 2017, just before the devastating wildfires that hit the region. The Historic Chilcotin Lodge is a truly family-run operation that embodies the spirit of innovation, collaboration and kindness. The Lodge, built in 1940 as a hunting lodge, is one of the last remaining authentic lodging facilities in BC, and is located at Riske Creek on the Chilcotin plateau, not far from the confluence of the Fraser and Chilcotin rivers, the Junction Sheep Range Park and Farwell Canyon.
Photo Credit: Historic Chilcotin Lodge
“We thought we were in for a ride after buying the lodge in 2017, but let me tell you, this [Covid-19] has been far more emotional, economic and stressful than anything previous that we have endured”. -Brenda Van Ember.
On March 16th, 2020, cancellations for the upcoming season starting rolling in and the family decided to temporarily close their Lodge doors. Their European, American and BC bookings were abruptly cancelled well into September. They were unable to open their beautiful Tea House, which is known for some of
the best cinnamon buns in the region, as planned on May 1st either. Brenda tried to reach out to get help from banking institutions and other government programs, but seemed to hit a brick wall every time. At the time, they didn’t qualify for many of the government programs, but with the support of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Resiliency Program they were guided through programs that best suited their business and received a customized support plan.
“The only advice I would give anyone in the Tourism Industry, is to join the Resiliency Program to help you weed through all the programs out there. You can be online all day looking for help and sifting through all the information to see if it fits your business, or even if you qualify, but the CCCTA team are there to do this for you and with a personalized touch that understands our local tourism industry. This is far from over, but there are programs to help you get through it.”- Brenda Van Ember
After a few sleepless nights Brenda tried to wrap her head around what they could do to adapt their business and tackle some of their building debt, yet still align with the provincial and federal regulations and maintain social distancing. Suddenly, an idea came to Brenda: a car hop, Drive-In Burger Bar themed just like the 1950’s. It was a success, but only made possible due to the support of the local people extending all the way to Williams Lake and the surrounding area.
“We are definitely a team and together we will persevere and do what it takes to keep this Lodge and the lifestyle that we have grown to love going. I am very proud of my family for jumping on board whenever I have a crazy or wild idea. Without them, I couldn’t bring my dreams to reality.” -Brenda Van Ember