When he was a boy playing hockey at the Civic Arena, lugging a hockey bag bigger than him across a dark parking lot to his dad’s truck, the old R.H. MacDonald & Sons Packing House across the street intrigued Aaron Luprypa.
As an adult with an active career in real estate, the historic building’s 38,000 square feet and heavy timber frame intrigued Luprypa even more.
“I liked the character, the history, the location—it all just consumed me,” says Luprypa, of the two years during which he got to know the owner, who bought the 30th street building in 1991 and converted it into a commercial storage warehouse, Forge Valley Storage.
“I didn’t set out to run a storage business, but here we are, and it’s exciting. It has so much potential.”
Long before the building was erected in 1945 to serve as a fruit packing plant, just a few blocks away, at the bottom of East Hill, was the ranch of Price Ellison. At the time, circa 1877, Vernon was known as Forge Valley because of Ellison’s blacksmith shop.
After taking possession of the Forge Valley Storage building in July to work toward ownership of the business, Luprypa and his brother, Zao, began hauling out remnants of its other lives, including apple conveyors from the forties and eight tons of steel. After the final bin of apples was lowered to the production line and the railway spur that forks into the east wall in 1991, over the years the building went on to serve as home to 15 million tree saplings, thousands of cases of beer, and pallets upon pallets of dried fruit and nuts. In 2016, the lower level office space was featured in the film Blackway, starring Anthony Hopkins.
While Luprypa has preserved the building’s charm as a historic packing house, he’s envisioned new ways to make it an important part of the fabric of downtown Vernon and beyond.
“It’s an exciting time in the business community. A lot of Okanagan companies are doing really well, so we’re providing a place where they can store inventory, packaging or ingredients right in downtown at a really affordable rate, which gives business owners better buying power when they’re ordering stock.”
Most of the main floor’s 15,000 square feet will be dedicated to pallet storage for commercial customers, and the three-quarter acre site—complete with loading dock, forklifts, freight services and pallet jacks—offers easy access from the highway even to 53-foot tractor-trailers. Forge Valley can also work with a transport company to deliver and pick up stored goods for businesses on demand. It’s also expected to become a storage home base for home stagers, moving companies and furniture businesses.
Residential customers also have the chance to fit whatever they can—everything from boxes, mattresses and fishing rods to camping gear, household goods and recliners—onto a pallet, have it stacked and wrapped up to a height of seven feet.
Luprypa envisions the 7,000 square feet of the second floor as home to the kayaks and mountain bikes of the area’s outdoor enthusiasts.
“We’re seeing a trend toward people getting into smaller homes and yet we’re acquiring more things because we want to enjoy the Okanagan lifestyle, so this is a way for people to make the most of their space and protect their furniture or gear in the off-season without paying storage locker prices. People are also seeing how great it can be to de-clutter and get the garage back.”
Fully secure, protected against rodents and climate controlled (the building is, on average, 10 C, even in the basement), Forge Valley is also an ideal winter home for cars, ATV’s and motorbikes. Using a sloped driveway into the motor storage area, vehicles have easy drive-in access from the road, and the basement offers another 15,000 square feet of possibilities. The lowest level will also soon be home to storage lockers in a range of sizes to so customers can store commercial and personal items better suited to lockers than pallets
Whenever customers need to access their goods and belongings, Luprypa’s brother, Zao, is on site and ready to provide access or bring pallets to the loading dock with the forklift.
“This is a family-run business and we take a lot of pride in storing customers’ goods safely and affordably. People can trust us, and they look forward to pulling up to this building.”