Swan Lake Nurseryland owner Mike Kowaluk, left, with his wife, Joyce, is being remembered as a North Okanagan community pillar. Kowaluk died Saturday, Feb. 6, in Vernon Jubilee Hospital at age 88. (Photo contributed)

Swan Lake Nurseryland owner Mike Kowaluk, left, with his wife, Joyce, is being remembered as a North Okanagan community pillar. Kowaluk died Saturday, Feb. 6, in Vernon Jubilee Hospital at age 88. (Photo contributed)

Vernon community pillar dies at 88

Mike Kowaluk was longtime owner of Swan Lake Nurseryland, former chair of Vernon Winter Carnival

For a little guy, said Kirk Hughes of his father, Swan Lake Nurseryland owner Mike Kowaluk, he’s going to leave a big hole.

Kowaluk, who helped turn the business into one of the North Okanagan’s most popular attractions for produce, groceries, home decor and gardening products, died Saturday, Feb. 6, in Vernon Jubilee Hospital at age 88.

“He may have been small in stature but he will leave a big hole in our lives. He was a pillar in the community,” said Hughes, who took over running the business from his dad. “He was super community-minded.”

As an example, Kowaluk spearheaded a movement in 2009 to upgrade the centre median along Highway 97 between Squires Four Pub and his business.

Swan Lake Nurseryland has been a staple for North Okanagan families, supporting North Okanagan farmers, since 1959.

Kowaluk’s parents started the operation as a fruit stand, and his brother-in-law and sister were with them. Kowaluk, born in Royal Park, Alta., in 1932 and moved to the North Okanagan with his family prior to the Second World War, joined a few years later.

When the fruit market and garden centre first started it was a seasonal operation. After 30 years of being open 12 months a year, the family made the decision to return to seasonal hours in 2019 as Swan Lake Nurseryland celebrated its 60th anniversary.

The fruit market and garden centre grew substantially since Kowaluk’s parents first started the small fruit stand.

“It was a shack,” said Kowaluk, in an interview with The Morning Star in 2019. He remembered selling cherries for 29 cents a pound — compared to 2019’s price of $3.99, which Kowaluk said is actually cheap.

While prices have grown with the times, so too have the customers.

“Over the years traffic increased. We enjoy a huge customer base from Alberta and other parts of the country. We draw a lot of traffic from Oliver and Osoyoos to Revelstoke to Kamloops,” said Kowaluk.

One of the things Kowaluk passed on to his son was the importance of relationships in business, customer service and all aspects of life.

“Because of the relationships he fostered, he had a reputation of trust, respect, and integrity in the community, with our customers, and in the industry,” said Hughes. “I try very hard to emulate those values.”

It’s the local community that keeps Swan Lake busy, as more and more people seek out locally-grown produce, which benefits both the grower and the retailer.

“We’re really very conscious of buying and selling local product,” said Kowaluk in the same interview. “Over the years, there’s more local product available.”

Plus there are the generations of people who continue to make Swan Lake their go-to stop.

The business overcame a devastating fire on July 6, 1993, that reduced the building to rubble, but Kowaluk rebuilt.

He was also involved with the Vernon Winter Carnival, serving as event chairperson in 1966 and co-chair in 1974.

Kowaluk is survived by his wife, Joyce, son Kirk, daughter-in-law Vicki, and two granddaughters, Madison Hughes and Sydnee Hughes, along with many friends and supporters in the community.

READ MORE: Nurseryland celebrates 60th by going seasonal

READ MORE: Swan Lake beautification proceeds


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Local BusinessObituary

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Beaver activity was reported by City of Vernon staff in Vernon Creek near the Marshall Field Dog Park. (Courtesy Photo - Frank Zmuda)
Busy beavers in Vernon Creek threaten infrastructure

Throughout freshet season, city staff do daily checks at more than 50 locations

An investigation is ongoing into a two-vehicle collision Sunday, March 7, shortly before 3:30 p.m. in Coldstream on Highway 97 at College Way that sent one driver to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Coldstream collision sends one to hospital

Two vehicles involved in collision Sunday, March 7, at Highway 97 and College Way

The goal of the group is to help women owned businesses recover from the pandemic and to assist women to become angel investors and women owned or co-owned businesses to better access capital.
Okanagan women’s investor fund launched to aid women-owned businesses

Twenty-five women have formed a new Okanagan angel investment fund

City of Armstrong council will discuss a proposed Consumer Price Index increase of 0.84% to their monthly stipends at its regular meeting Monday, March 8. (Morning Star - file photo)
Armstrong council to discuss small pay raise

Staff recommending 0.84% Consumer Price Index hike to monthly stipends

Head chef Travis Ashley dumps the first load of lobsters into the vats of boiling saltwater. (Jim Taylor - Contributed)
150 lobsters served in Lake Country drive-thru fundraiser

Rotary Club sees success in unique COVID-friendly lobster dinner event

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Noah Vaten(left) having a cigarette out front of the Kelowna Law Courts on a brief break during his manslaughter trial on March 8, 2021. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Accused Kelowna killer ‘blacked out’ on cocaine, kicked cop shop window looking for help

Video of Noah Vaten’s interrogation shown during manslaughter trial details night of Canada Day killing in the accused’s own words

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

It's tick season in South Okanagan.
Tick season has started in South Okanagan

A Penticton adventure company collected 200 ticks last year to be studied for Lyme Disease

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Phase four of the Kicking Horse Canyon project would twin the winding stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Golden. ~ Photo by B.C. Ministry of Transportation
Additional closures announced to Trans-Canada east of Golden

Additional closures will be needed in May as a part of Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project

Dawn Low first moved “upstairs” to the administrative department of the City of Revelstoke in 2009. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
120 years later, first female CAO appointed in Revelstoke

International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911, in Austria,… Continue reading

Most Read