Glen Saunders and Waldo stand in front of Prince Rupert’s first Jeff King mural. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: Glen Saunders wants to paint the town

The Cow Bay business owner has left lasting touches on Prince Rupert

Wolves, playful otters, and more than a few whales have become permanent fixtures in Prince Rupert, no matter the season.

The life-like murals — some taking up the full side of buildings — were the brainchild of Glen Saunders, who wanted to add a splash of colour to brighten up the rainy city.

It was the spring of 1991 when Saunders visited Rupert to scope out a new location for a kitchenware store. He’d opened Kermode Trading, now Flying Fish, in Terrace the year before and had noticed a void in the market on the North Coast.

“Everybody told me to go to Smiles for lunch,” Saunders said. “When I got down to Smiles, it was hopping and I was sitting looking out the window. There was an empty building across the street, which is where Cowpuccino’s is now.

“I went back to Terrace and I thought, ‘God, why would I want to be anywhere but down here?’”

So he came back the same day, only to find out someone else had placed an offer. A couple of months later he learned the deal hadn’t closed. A few weeks later, Cow Bay Gift Galley opened with renovations still underway.

“It was a scramble. We had the roof on and that was about it,” he said with a laugh.

Cow Bay was a rougher area in those days, he recalls.

“It didn’t look anything like it looks today.”

Much of that is due to Saunders’s volunteer efforts.

READ MORE: Whale tail benches installed across city

Originally from Nanaimo, Saunders’s first venture was as part of his family’s logging business, which he is still a part owner of. Now he splits his time between Prince Rupert, Terrace, Nanaimo and the Interior, where his businesses are based. He travels often for work, with his pug Waldo never far away. When he’s not on the road, Saunders lists swimming, hiking, gardening and cooking as his favourite pastimes.

“We do a lot of entertaining,” Saunders said. “We cook with friends wherever we’re at, which is awesome.”

It was in Nanaimo where Saunders met Jeff King. The two had lost touch for almost two decades before Saunders was working on a new project. In 2011, Paint Prince Rupert began to spruce up fading buildings in the city with volunteer efforts, inspiring civic pride with every brush stroke. The season was ending, and after painting more than 30 businesses, Saunders wanted to do something special.

“A lot of Jeff King’s work is with wildlife, so that’s what we focused on,” Saunders said. “We just thought it was the perfect fit for the North Coast.”

He remembered driving in Nanaimo and passing one of King’s previous murals. He decided to call up his old friend and ask if King was still creating the large-scale paintings — and he was.

“A lot of people came out and helped us paint. I might have organized it and I was out there painting, but it was an amazing outpouring of people that helped make it all happen,” Saunders said.

The iconic larger-than-life murals aren’t the only decorative touch Saunders has inspired in Prince Rupert. For the 25th anniversary of Cow Bay Gift Galley, Saunders wanted to mark the occasion.

“I’m proud to be in business in Rupert for as long as I have and still am. The benches were a nice way, I thought, to give back to the community.”

Whale tail benches — also by King — were installed in three locations in Prince Rupert. Now, Saunders said there are three more that will hopefully find a home somewhere in the city this year. He also hopes to keep adding murals to Prince Rupert’s art scene.

“Prince Rupert has always been a place with a huge heart and lots of giving. It’s got a hundred-year history of that. It’s nothing new,” Saunders said. “This is just a continuation of that fabric of the community.”

“I like painting and I like facilitating, but I’m not very artistic, I’m afraid,” Saunders said of his own talents. What he’s learned, and wants to pass on, is “Nothing gets done by one person. You can have an idea, but my businesses wouldn’t succeed if it wasn’t for our whole team. It’s the same for the community work we did, it wasn’t just one person. It was many, many people who made it.”

Now, when he drives into Prince Rupert, Saunders still smiles when he sees the murals.

“It’s nice to be able to do something you think is going to have a lasting value in the community and give people a pride of place. If we can do more towards that, I’m all in.”

Read more Heart of Our City profiles here.

Just Posted

Bantam Seawolves place second in provincials

Windemere Valley Rockies beat Prince Rupert 4 - 1 in Bantam Tier 4 B.C. Championships

Seawolves go for gold in B.C. provincials

Bantam Tier 4 Championship finals are at the Jim Ciccone arena on March 20

Lax Kxeen rises in Fraser Institute elementary schools rankings

Public Lax Kxeen and Roosevelt Park schools get first passing grades in over 10 years

Prince Rupert Tribesmen set to defend Junior All Native title

The top-seeded U17 team plays their first game of the 2019 tournament on March 19

Entrepreneurial girls cash in on record-breaking Rupert weather

Elementary students set up iced tea, lemonade stands before first day of spring

Rumors to hit the Lester Centre stage this Thursday

Prince Rupert community cast and crew present Neil Simon’s two-act comedy from March 21-23

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Most Read