Shawna Klassen-Roth found a new business

Shawna Klassen-Roth found a new business

A new world opens up

Vernon Telescope

Stargazing was the last thing on Shawna Klassen-Roth’s mind a year ago. She was working full time and her husband, Raffaele Scotto Lachianca, had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder and couldn’t work.

Scotto Lachianca, a mechanical marine engineer originally from Naples, Italy, turned to his childhood interest of astronomy for something to do. It was the beginning of his still on-going recovery and the start of a new business for Klassen-Roth.

He began with putting parts of basic telescopes together, eventually connecting his camera to a telescope, and spent every clear night outside. There were astronomy books of all kinds around the house.

“He rarely slept because he would be outside until 4 a.m. watching the moon or he would wake up at four in the morning to catch a glimpse of Venus as the sun rose,” said Klassen-Roth. “It sounds so wonderful but it was in fact the worst time in our lives. My husband was incredibly sick, not able to keep his food down, and I was a basket case, barely keeping up.”

She became interested in astronomy because it was something they could do together. “Raf and I have a history of things happening for a reason at the most inconvenient times and then turning into something wonderful. The telescopes were a saving grace for both of us,” she said.

“People can feel that astronomy is intimidating and high-tech but it can be affordable for everyone from trained professionals to people who find it is simply their passion.”

The couple joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and met people who shared their interest.

Klassen-Roth, who has a B.A. in International Relations from UBCO, learned more and realized that there was no dedicated telescope store in the Okanagan. She thought that it could be a business and started Vernon Telescope.

“I was finding it more difficult to find the equipment I wanted and I thought others might be, too. I think it is easier to buy telescopes and accessories when you can actually see them and try them. Buying a telescope is very personal. People should do their research on what they want to do with a telescope so they are sure to get what is right for them,” she said.

She started making phone calls and sending emails to build up stock for the business and was thrilled to be able to represent brands like Takahashi, which she calls the “Rolls Royce of telescopes,” as the only dealer in Western Canada. She has also been able to get other well-known brand names for the store. She decided that the store should carry other products, like microscopes and binoculars, to help people appreciate the beauty of the Okanagan.

She’s pleased to show off the stock, including a traditional brass “pirate spy-glass,” star charts and a microscope that can be used with a computer. She is able to order a wide variety of items and invites people to bring in the old telescopes they might have to see how they can be updated.

Vernon Telescope was at the Vernon Boat Show and Klassen-Roth plans to be at other public events throughout the summer.

“The response was incredible and the interest was so rewarding. Vernonites love to support other Vernonites, that’s something really remarkable about Vernon,” she said.

“I want to support the community as well. I did a spring creek clean up in April. Vernon Telescope is going to volunteer through the Astronomy Club with the public viewing in the summer. I am always learning. It’s a wonderful hobby that a person can start at any age.”

Vernon Telescope donated a brass desktop telescope for the Vernon and District Immigrant Services raffle and an antique-style brass monocular to the Alan Brooks fundraiser, as well as binoculars to the Lydia Bishop Bird Sanctuary.

While Klassen-Roth is thrilled with the success of her new business, her greatest joy is seeing her husband continue to recover and look forward to the time when he is well enough to go back to work.

“It is as if Vernon Telescope was meant to happen. I think the motto suits us well: ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible,’ Albert Einstein.”

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