April 13, 2021 -  Kelowna's Orchard Park Mall Apple Entrance. Don Denton photograph

On the right side of history

Orchard Park Shopping Centre celebrates 50 years

  • May. 21, 2021 7:30 a.m.

– Story by David Wylie Photography by Don Denton

Orchard Park Shopping Centre has been growing alongside Kelowna for five decades.

“Your shopping centre is the historic timeline for not only fashion, but the viability of the retail community in the city,” said Donna Markin, general manager for Orchard Park.

The iconic shopping centre opened September 28, 1971. When Orchard Park was developed on a former orchard, nothing else existed between its location and the Capri area—in fact, it was so far out of town, there was some skepticism in the community that people would actually go out of their way to shop there.

The shopping centre has been central to the City of Kelowna and the area’s growth. Economically, it’s the highest taxpayer in the community and a major employer with 1,000 people working at any time. Millions are spent there each year.

There is also a social side to the mall. For many young people, working there was their first job. It’s a popular meeting place and a focus of culture and couture.

Malls also serve as a gauge for the economic health of the community, said Donna.

“This is a 50-plus-acre piece of property and a 700,000-square-foot building—it doesn’t disappear very easily,” she said. “We have endured through the good and the bad years. It speaks to the resiliency of the mall business, its needs and its responsiveness to the community at large and what is happening.”

Steady growth

When it first opened in 1971, Orchard Park had two main anchors: Simpsons-Sears and The Bay (which was completed the following year). Inside, shoppers could visit 35 smaller stores.

“We’ve got a floor plan from the ’70s and some of those stores are still around,” said Donna. They include The Bay, Bootlegger, Tip Top, Purdy’s, Reitman’s, and The Source (which originally opened as Radio Shack).

And it’s not just stores that have weathered the passage of time. Holiday traditions also remain. Santa Claus has stayed consistent. Kids who had their picture taken with the Orchard Park Santa have returned as adults with their own kids in tow to get a picture with the same St. Nick—though perhaps a little bit older and greyer.

In 1980, the shopping centre expanded with the addition of Woolco. It also added a food court, a part of the overarching evolution of malls over time. The mall again grew its footprint when Eaton’s opened in 1992. Twenty years later, in 2011, the mall reached its current size of 707,000 square feet when Best Buy opened.

Run by Primaris Management Inc., there are more than 160 shops and services in the shopping centre, and it’s the largest mall between Greater Vancouver and the Calgary area.

Evolution

Historically, a shopping centre couldn’t be built without first securing a lease from a department store. But that’s changed, said Donna. Top department stores have been going bankrupt, leaving large spaces to suddenly fill.

“If I look at the evolution of shopping centres, I would say that the traditional mix of a shopping centre will change in the future. All of that is a response to the consumer and what they’re buying at what time.”

Shopping centres are no longer simply a collection of clothing and shoe stores (although these are still an important part). Rather, there are numerous services too, including salons, dentists, travel agencies, financial assistance companies and insurance brokers.

Death of the shopping centre exaggerated

Malls have been changing with the times.

“I think a lot of people get their information about the death of shopping centres out of the US,” Donna said.

Across the border, malls are built much closer to each other than in Canada, with some located just blocks away. As the population ages and consumer habits change, some centres have been forced to close due to an overabundance of them.

“You’re going to see more of what we’ve always done. We adapt and we change to what the consumer is needing and looking for; that is the hallmark of shopping centres,” said Donna.

“I’m very excited about what the future looks like.”

She said successful stores of the future will have a combination of brick-and-mortar stores and a digital platform. Some stores are doing showcasing—where they don’t actually sell anything in the store, but rather customers view merchandise in-store and order online. Other stores take the opposite approach, where customers can only buy in-store, but will be able to compare prices and do research online, or order online and pick up in store.

“There will be innumerable variations, and I believe that Orchard Park will be part of that. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that will be ultimately where we end up.”

Generous spirit

Operations manager Ron Stevenson said being charitable has always been a big part of Orchard Park’s culture.

“Because we’re so well supported by the community, we really find it necessary to give back as much as we can,” he said. “One of the initiatives that we are most proud of is raising $500,000 for Canadian Mental Health Kelowna through our Annual Charity Golf Tournament.”

The company also supports many local charities and various school groups’ fundraising initiatives through gift card donations and a dedicated space in the shopping centre for non-profit organizations to promote themselves at no cost.

Orchard Park is also preserving history with two time capsules on the property, as part of a project done in conjunction with the City of Kelowna and the Kelowna Museum. They’re marked by a bronze and stainless steel apple sculpture created by Geert Maas. One is to be opened in 2030 and another in 2105—100 years after it was sealed up in 2005.

Extra fact:

It’s hard to miss the massive 800-square-foot Canada flag that waves at the mall’s northwest corner. The flagpole on the corner of Harvey and Cooper was part of a former Husky Station.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Business

Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters will open the 2021 season on Oct. 8 against the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook, and will have their home opener the next night against the same Bucks. Photo: Jack Murray
BC Hockey League announces 54-game schedule to begin in October

Trail Smoke Eaters open season with home-and-home series versus Cranbrook Bucks

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read