VANCOUVER ISLAND – Craig Little likes to say he has deep Island roots; an intimate and personal connection to the place he started his family, and a now thriving business. He takes pride in that connection to Vancouver Island, and the communities that call it home.
“Although I was originally born in Leroy, Saskatchewan, I have lived on the same Vancouver Island property in Cobble Hill since 1957,” explains Craig. “We now have three generations of family living on our original Cobble Hill homestead. When I was seventeen I built my own log cabin on the property. We’ve added on to it over the years, and are still proud to call it home. In 1988 I opened the doors to our first Arbutus RV dealership across the highway from where I had grown up.”
From that humble dealership grew Arbutus RV & Marine Sales Ltd, today with locations in Mill Bay, Nanaimo, Sidney, Courtenay, Port Alberni, and most recently a brand new location in Parksville.
Craig and wife Rose Little have watched their business thrive, and by extension the community in which they work, with their one-hundred and fifty plus employees Island-sourced.
Elaborates Rose, “Having our own Island roots down so deep in our local market has provided us with the support and wisdom to flourish and continue to grow. We are very proud of our team and their families. Our strength lies in our people, and the quality of service we provide. We believe quality customer care and compassionate community giving have resulted in a strong team spirit and a unique dedication to our guests and our communities. It’s our greatest accomplishment.”
This community giving includes regular fundraising and significant contributions to numerous Island food banks and several other charitable causes across BC.
Arbutus does more than selling, servicing and listing RVs. In 1998 they launched the Island RV Guide, a monthly fifty-six page publication highlighting not only their inventory, but featuring tech tips, potential RV destinations, and featuring travel story submissions from Arbutus customers. A digital publication today, the Island RV Guide can be viewed online. Most recently, they’ve also added another feature to their already deep set of services, creating the Arbutus RV Medic, a mobile RV repair service currently running in the Great Victoria Marketplace.
True to their commitment to community, Craig and his team made the decision to remain open during the COVID-19 crisis, understanding that their particular line of business is uniquely valuable in a time of social distancing and protecting loved ones.
Elaborates Craig, “Given the fact that a lot of our Arbutus community are full-time RVers, and many rely on RVs as a means to safely isolate while either working in frontline positions or wanting to protect those who might be immunocompromised, we as a company decided to remain open to support those essential services in our Island communities. Despite this, we’ve encouraged and supported any of our staff with health concerns to stay home until they’re comfortable returning to join us.”
While the pandemic has been difficult, Craig and Rose feel the situation has motivated many families to examine their lifestyles and vacation options, and see the RV lifestyle as the ultimate way to social distance while rekindling and reinforcing time spent together enjoying everything Vancouver Island has to offer. As things have slowly opened up over recent months, the value of their business has only been reinforced.
Concludes Craig, “The Island lifestyle and it’s endless natural beauty are a perfect fit for the RV business, and we have seen a huge lift since BC began re-opening its business doors. We feel very fortunate to live and work in BC, particularly on Vancouver Island. Both the economic climate and our general weather are arguably the best in Canada. We plan to continue growing the Arbutus RV brand and expand our services to meet the needs of our continually growing customer base as the island opens up, and far beyond.”