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

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The avalanche came down on the highway sometime Sunday evening (Feb. 21) (Dawson photo)
Road to Bella Coola wharf reopens after large avalanche

The road was closed after a large avalanche covered a significant portion of the highway

Jenni Mueller lives near the wharf on the other side of the avalanche. She took this photo and thinks the avalanche happened around 8 p.m. last night (February 21). (Jenni Mueller photo)
Avalanche closes road to wharf at Bella Coola

A day and night of heavy rain resulted in avalanches across the region

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

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

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

Most Read