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

Chloe and Koy are two participants in the talent show format of the 2021 annual Children's Fest to be broadcast on community television March 5th and 6th. ()Photo: supplied by Prince Rupert Special Event Society)
30th Annual Children’s Fest takes on a new format

2021 Prince Rupert Children’s Fest will feature a show of local talent

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Families on the North Coast will benefit from 70 new childcare spaces Ministry of Children and Family Development announced on March 1. Seen here are children from Growing Together Child Care Centre in Surrey. (Photo supplied by Jennifer Rice, MLA for Northcoast)
Northcoast families to benefit from new childcare spaces

62 Childcare spaces in Lax Kw’alaams and 8 in Haida Gwaii are part of Childcare BC New Spaces Fund

Prince Rupert Firefighter Dylan Lawrence, demonstrates the new fire safety nozzles for hoses on March 1, which will allow for increased safety of firefighters at hazard scenes. The nozzles can spray water up to 200 feet and money for the purchase was donated to the department by Pembina. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pembina donates to Prince Rupert Fire Dept.

New fire equipment will improve safety in Prince Rupert

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

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’

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

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

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

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

A publicly accessible defibrillator as well as naloxone and first aid kits are included in a stand that has been installed at Crescent Beach. It is one of two planned for the South Surrey neighbourhood as St. John Ambulance works to install 1,000 of the life-saving devices around the province. (Contributed photo)
St. John Ambulance aims to install 1,000 publicly accessible AEDs across B.C.

Sponsors sought for stands that cost about $8,000 to equip and install

Left: Oakland County Jail. Right: Canuck Todd Bertuzzi on November 2, 2005. (CP/Chuck Stoody)
Former Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi arrested for suspected DUI: report

The Canadian winger had a complicated history in the NHL

Most Read