Five years in business is a milestone for anyone. But when you start out as a first-time business owner competing with big-box corporations, and then receive a life-altering medical diagnosis a couple of years in, it truly is an accomplishment worth celebrating.
When Karen Eastland opened Courtenay Pet Centre in 2008, she knew it would be a challenge. But she was confident that her professional background and love of animals would stand her in good stead.
“I’d worked at a pet store in Campbell River for five years,” said Eastland, who owns the shop with husband Dale Mattson. “We thought the people of Courtenay would be supportive of a smaller place that could focus on their needs and have less of a corporate feel. Looking back, it was a pretty brave move on our part.”
With a focus on fish, birds, reptiles and other small critters, the shop immediately grabbed a share of the local market. Wal-Mart closed down its pet section, which helped. Then the eventual closure of Petland brought even more traffic, which allowed Eastland to add a staff member. This became particularly important when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011.
“When I first got sick, I was always tired and sometimes would have to lie down in the back of the store,” she said. “I thought I was getting burnt out, but one day I woke up and my legs were numb. It was difficult at first, and I relied on my mom, husband and staff to help out. I couldn’t have done it, and I still couldn’t do it, without them.”
Courtenay Pet Centre is at 4-2760 Cliffe Ave.