By Jennifer Cronin
Free Press Staff
Kim was born in Coronach, Sask. to Earl and Iris McPeek. At the age of six, the journey to Fernie began. As an entrepreneur, Kim’s father followed his dreams, which took the family to Regina, North Battleford, Camrose, Leduc and Edmonton, arriving in Fernie on July 1, 1971.
Kim speaks of her father with admiration as she recalls his jobs that ranged from Ross Thatcher’s campaign manager to starting a lumber business. When the family settled in Fernie, her dad bought a cement plant, but got out in the 1980s, as no one was building at the time. He subsequently ran a restaurant at what is now the Raging Elk Hostel, purchased the old Motor Inn, and tackled other endeavours.
The oldest of five girls, Kim recalls her first impression, as a 13-year-old, of Fernie, “I thought I was being punished. With no buses, malls and no track and field at the high school, it was trauma. It was a long time until Fernie felt like home. I always expected to move again.”
The family initially took up residence at the Fernie campground, living in a U-Haul.
“We cooked on a campfire. I thought we were camping,” Kim shared, “When I became an adult I realized we had actually been homeless!”
Eventually the family settled in Fernie. In 1972, Kim met her now-husband Len who had come from Saskatchewan to work for her father in the construction business, arriving by bus from Ituna, Sask.
During a trip to Rossland in 1978 Kim and Len eloped. Meanwhile, back at home, Kim’s mom Iris had gone berry picking and got lost in the bush. As there was no point in searching in the dark, it wasn’t until the next morning that Iris was found, only to be greeted by the news that her daughter was married.
Kim had a variety of jobs before settling on hairdressing. She attended school in Nelson in 1977. Upon her return, Kim apprenticed and learned the barbering trade from Doug the Barber. In 1985 she bought her own business.
On New Year’s Eve 1986, Kim and Len welcomed their only child, daughter Chantal who Kim refers to as “a gift.”
Two months after Chantal’s arrival, Kim returned to work.
Soon after, Len secured a position as a Heavy Equipment Operator for the City of Fernie.
Trying to find the perfect location for her business, Kim test-drove a number of spots before buying her shop, Mirror Images, on 7th Avenue. After six months of renovations, she opened the doors in 1998. She continues to work in the shop and presently is a representative for both Scentsy and Norwex.
Kim feels the changes to Fernie have made the town “prettier,” increasing the property values, but she said she feels saddened when she looks at its future.
“Tourism is good to a certain degree, but it doesn’t pay well, and with the cost of living, our kids cannot afford to live here. There have been schools closed, and now there is a baby boom, and soon there will not be enough schools.”
She went on to say that she feels that the charm of Fernie was that of a heritage town, and now this is being forgotten.
In the past 44 years, Kim’s perspective of Fernie has changed.
“Every time I leave and return I breathe a sigh of relief as I come down the valley and see the mountains,” she noted.
With Len’s retirement imminent at the end of August, Kim shares, “I would really like to sell the business and perhaps work for someone else a few days a week. It is time to look after myself.”
Kim and Len will continue to spend time at Lake Koocanusa where they have had their trailer for over 20 years.
As a business owner, and her father’s daughter who is never afraid to try new things, Kim Serwatkewich is an entrepreneurial “face of the valley.”