Life and business partners Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Life and business partners Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett. (Photo by Don Bodger)

B.C. couple’s love and life connection blossoms from a shared wheelchair

Clover Clothing Co. is a manifestation of Berg and Bennett’s rebuttal of the ‘unlucky’ label

Other people might not consider Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett lucky.

Berg and Bennett would disagree.

They consider themselves lucky to be able to open an inclusive new business in a new town, providing accessible service to people who need it. They are lucky to have found each other.

And they are lucky to have once needed the same wheelchair.

Berg, 50 and Bennett, 48, both had life-changing experiences. Berg sustained a brain injury six years ago that resulted in a seizure, movement and balance disorder. Bennett underwent a kidney transplant six years ago and leg amputations a year later due to infections.

RELATED: B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

RELATED: B.C. school gets Rick Hansen’s first ‘gold’ accessibility rating for school

Berg had been studying creative writing at the UBC campus in Kelowna. Bennett was just out of hospital and living in Kamloops. They had each been wheelchair shopping and fell in love with the same chair. It can take a long time for a custom-fit wheelchair to arrive, so the company allowed them to share the chair as a loaner.

“My publishing career was just taking off, but I was unable to give literary readings without the loaner chair, which a mysterious guy in Kamloops got ‘stealing,’” noted Berg.

When they met for the first time, they recognized each other through the wheelchair he was “stealing.”

Bennett was instantly interested in Berg. She was interested in remaining single. They claim it took Berg four months to give him her phone number, though they talked on Facebook Messenger regularly.

“We were going through the same thing at the time, adjusting to living in a world not designed for us. It was a very bonding experience,” Berg said. “All went from there, we became best friends and then we became a couple.”

“She’s a breath of fresh air, that’s for sure,” said Bennett. “You know when you meet someone there’s more here.”

They lived together for about a year in Kelowna before coming to Chemainus to launch the Clover (as in ‘four-leaf clover,’ get it) Clothing Co. They opened the store — which also includes some new clothing — at the Chemainus Public Market on Aug. 1, securing one of the last two available market spaces.

“Who opens a store during a pandemic?” Berg queried. “We do. I definitely felt like Chemainus needed a consignment store.”

“People love to go treasure hunting so there’s a bit of that as well. We’ve been talking about doing a consignment shop for years. It wasn’t the right timing and I was basically housebound for five years.”

They stumbled upon the opportunity almost by accident, driving around Vancouver Island and being impressed by the accessibility of Chemainus.

“Why are there ramps everywhere?” Berg said with delight. “We felt like we were in Disneyland. Aside from a few stores, everything’s accessible.”

And there’s also the aspect of turning up something special for shoppers.

“A lot of disabled people struggle financially,” Berg indicated. “And yet many consignment stores aren’t wheelchair accessible. We are passionate about accessibility. We wouldn’t do it unless we could have a location that was inclusive to everyone. The Chemainus Public Market was a unique opportunity. They already had a flat entrance, automatic door openers and an accessible bathroom. All that we added was a wheelchair accessible change room.

They’ve been through a lot, but finding each other has helped endure the difficult days and prepare them for this new chapter.

“It was very life-altering,” Berg said of her injury. “There’s lots of grieving that needs to be done, but then you get to a point of acceptance. People see the wheelchair and feel sad. I’m not the least bit sad about the wheelchair. Before I had the wheelchair I was crawling around and gripping walls.

“I’m definitely a survivor,” she added. “Hal and I don’t feel bad about our lives. We definitely have challenges. I can’t work every day and had to give up my academic pursuits and career as a writer.”

“We’re extremely lucky to have found each other. It can be a very isolating life. To go through disability with a partner is amazing. Our disabilities are different. We’re able to care for each other without it ever being a burden. We never treat each other like we’re a burden.”

Bennett was a Type 1 diabetic from the age of three. Complications from the diabetes eventually killed his kidneys. He went on dialysis 11 years ago and eventually had the transplant. The amputations of his legs below both knees were required five years ago.

He still uses a wheelchair as well, but the incredible improvements made over the years can be seen in his prosthetics, with ease of movement and different components used in their construction like carbon fibre.

“My attitude tends to be fairly productive,” he said. “I hate the word ‘positive.’ I like to see the wonder in things and live for the moment. If I’m not at the store, I’m on the slopes.”

“We feel lucky to have found a town that has been so accessible, a business where we can offer an inclusive experience,” Berg said. “And we’re lucky to have found each other.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett inside the Chemainus Public Market at their Clover Clothing Co. location. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett inside the Chemainus Public Market at their Clover Clothing Co. location. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett had long thought about opening a consignment store. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett had long thought about opening a consignment store. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett outside the Chemainus Public Market. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett outside the Chemainus Public Market. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett at the Chemainus Public Market where their Clover Clothing Co. is located. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Bronwyn Berg and Hal Bennett at the Chemainus Public Market where their Clover Clothing Co. is located. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Hal Bennett gets the racks ready at the Clover Clothing Co. for opening. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Hal Bennett gets the racks ready at the Clover Clothing Co. for opening. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

Loop Energy’s first engineer, Vance Chou (right), working with a National Research Council colleague to test one of the first fuel-cell prototypes at the Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in 2002. (Loop Energy photos)
Loop Energy: Chilliwack fuel-cell startup hits bumps on road to success

This is part two of a 3-part series on the rise of Loop Energy, now being traded publicly on the TSX

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

Dawn Haig, manager of Save-On-Foods Cottonwood location, said they are “one hundred per cent” ready to open on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Fourth Chilliwack Save-On-Foods 100% ready to open Thursday, says store manager

More than 100 jobs created at new 38,000-square foot grocery store location at Cottonwood Centre

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Harrison Mills boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Rendering of proposed homeless shelter and supportive housing facility on Rowat Avenue and Trethewey Avenue in Chilliwack. (BC Housing)
Supportive housing and shelter proposed to replace the Portal in Chilliwack

Province looking to fast-track hybrid proposal for 50 supportive homes and 40 shelter spaces

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Abbotsford Regional Hospital (Black Press file photo)
Nurse assaulted at Abbotsford hospital in same ward as 2019 dumbbell attack

BC Nurses’ Union confirms assault on Feb. 21; more details to come

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

After a routine rescue of an injured hiker, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue noted there have been four injury rescues on well-groomed trails in recent months. (Special to The News)
Injured hiker rescued from Golden Ears park

Be prepared in the backcountry, warns Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

Vancouver Giants president, governor and majority owner Ron Toigo welcomed the provincial announcement made on Monday, Mar. 1, 2021 that the province could soon allow WHL teams to resume competitive play. (Vancouver Giants/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Return to play news welcomed by Vancouver Giants team

rOwner, coach and players pleased by report WHL could soon resume play in B.C.

Most Read