CRESTON, B.C. – A B.C. couple that wants to convert their Mom and Pop country store into a badly needed 24-hour truck stop west of Creston says their dream has been tied up with red tape.
But they vow to keep fighting provincial bureaucrats until they get the green light to proceed with their plan.
Dan and Bonnie Ward are the owners of Mugwumps Country Store, located on Hwy. 3 about six kilometres west of Creston by the Kootenay River.
The small business consists of a gas station, convenience store and delicatessen that serves up fresh sandwiches, soups, stews and chili. The Wards would like to take advantage of adjacent unused land and provide parking for up to eight tractor-trailers, while expanding the menu and providing a 24-hour restaurant and service centre for truckers.
However, the provincial government is providing plenty of hoops for the Wards to jump through, some of which they claim are unreasonable.
“I presented the idea to the Regional District and they were quite optimistic about it,” Dan said.
But the province hasn’t been quite so encouraging, he added. The Highways Department requires them to comply with three different Acts that include expenses, such as having an engineer on-site throughout the entire construction phase.
“It’s a very small Mom and Pop business and I don’t have $100,000 to hire engineers,” Dan said.
According to him, the service is much-needed, as there’s nowhere else to stop for 84 kilometres if headed west and that drive involves cresting one of the highest summits in Canada – the Salmo Creston Pass.
To the east, truckers are unable to park along the streets in Creston, B.C. without being ticketed by the RCMP, Dan says.
“The truckers that come in here – some of the stories they tell,” Dan reminisced. “One poor fellow was hauling liquid oxygen and he went to get out of his truck in Creston and the RCMP told him if his foot hit the ground he was going to get a ticket. The poor fellow had to go to the bathroom so he left town and had to find our place. I went out and watched the road for him as he backed out of the parking lot.”
Truckers are beginning to learn about the trucker-friendly country store west of Creston and many have begun taking their chances by parking illegally and running in for a quick sandwich or bowl of soup.
“The trucks are stopping here now but they’re having to park illegally on the highway. But we make good sandwiches and they know that so they’re taking the chances, parking illegally and coming in,” Dan admitted. “It’s a safety item all around and a service that’s sadly lacking.”
One loyal trucker has grown to love the freshly prepared food so much she now calls ahead on her cell phone when she’s going to be in the area, he said.
“When she’s coming by with a load she phones on the cell phone and I walk by the deli and tell her what we have, she tells us what she wants and I stand out on the highway and hand it to her right there,” chuckled Dan.
Bonnie said she can’t wait to add some hearty home-cooked meals to the menu, if and when the business expands. The Wards plan to ask truckers for feedback and base the menu on their comments and requests.
“Whatever the truckers would like to see on the menu will be in here,” Dan promised. “I want to provide the best service I can.”
The Wards are empathetic towards truckers’ needs – largely because Dan is no stranger to life on the road himself. He put in several years as a travelling salesman before settling down and running the country store.
“I’ve spent six years on the road and I know what I didn’t like,” Dan said. “I didn’t like six-day old assembly line sandwiches and I just dreaded the bathrooms, so we made this a friendly place with fresh, wholesome food, good prices and clean bathrooms.”
The Ward’s long-term plan includes adding shower facilities so a driver can “stop, s***, shave, shower, have a soup, a sandwich and a stretch and then carry on. It gives him an hour break in his trip to refresh.”
With the massive Salmo Creston pass looming in the distance, it’s a huge safety benefit to offer drivers a place to freshen up before they tackle the summit, he added.
There’s also a children’s playground on the lot so even children can stretch their legs for a while and burn off some pent-up energy. Still, the Ward’s vision hangs in the balance as they continue to face what they consider to be unreasonable barriers from the province.
They don’t plan on giving up on their dream easily, however. Dan plans to appeal to the Regional District for more support. If that fails, he will ask truckers to help bring the project to fruition by signing a petition.
“Every truck that passes here has to stop at top of the Salmo Creston for a brake check so I’ll go to top of it and sit there for a couple days and I’m sure I’ll get 1,000 signatures,” Dan said. “I haven’t had one trucker yet who thought it was a bad idea.”
To show your support for the truck stop or to have your name added to a petition, contact Dan at (250) 428-0120, or pop by Mugwumps Country Store at 1696 Nicks Island Rd.