Emma Laliberte displays a bottle from the collection and one of her candles. Photo supplied

Old bottles spur new ideas for Merville Botanicals

Couple using collection for their upcycled candle creations

It’s not so much “old bottles, new wine,” but a Merville couple has started a business to repurpose some special old bottles for new products.

Emma Laliberte says she and husband Peter Kachanoski started Merville Botanicals to create reusable, everyday products.

“We live in a time filled with one-time use items,” she says, adding that even candle containers often end up being used only once.

Kachanoski’s background is in finance and he’s currently back in school, while Laliberte handles marketing for local business CORE Landscape Products. Already, they have people and local businesses getting in touch with them about the Merville Botanicals candles.

“We’ve got a list of people interested,” says Kachanoski.

READ MORE: Comox’s CORE featured Dec. 28 on Celebrity IOU with Justin Hartley

Laliberte started making the candles, along with soap, recently after coming into a special collection that belonged to a man with a local connection. William Adkin was from Prince Rupert but settled in Black Creek.

“When we came across the vintage bottles and learned the incredible story behind them, we knew we had something special,” says Laliberte.

Adkin used to check out old abandoned railway towns on the shores of the West Coast to find his treasures and over several years found more than 500 bottles dating back to the 1940s and ’50s. Each is numbered and logged in a manifest.

“He chronicled everything,” says Kachanoski. “No bottle is the same.”

Adkin’s daughter, Laurie Bulatovich, says he was fascinated by coastal history and the relics of the pioneers, often scouring maps of the old towns and encampments, then heading out with her, her mom and the dog to start digging. They found various items such as Chinese pottery and household pots and lamp, but the bottles were a major part of his finds.

“Each treasure was shared and discussed and stowed with care, and like a lottery, we anticipated the next cool item,” Bulatovich says.

With Merville Botanicals giving the bottles a new life, there’s definitely an ecological impetus underlying their project.

“Upcycling wine bottles, teacups and other containers reduces waste in our landfills and also extends the life of these objects,” Laliberte says. “Applying a creative spin by offering refills encourages and educates people on the endless possibilities of everyday products. So many people have jars, crystal bowls, vintage bottles and teacups collecting dust, so that’s where we come in. We breathe life back into these meaningful objects for people to enjoy.”

The chance to make use of Adkin’s old bottle collection was a big incentive too.

“We just landed these bottles,” says Kachanoski. “These vintage bottles from the coast were kind of what kicked things off…. It’s nice to reuse these things.”

Adkin settled in Black Creek, bringing along his vintage collection, but passed away in June 2020 at age 89. The collection was then distributed to collectors like Merville Botanicals, which got permission from Bulatovich to reuse the bottles to make the candles and keep the story alive.

“By repurposing William’s collection we feel compelled to share his incredible journey … continuing the legacy of Williams Adkin in our Vintage Candle Collection,” says Laliberte.

The collection is also supporting a cause, as the couple has committed 20 per cent of sales to a Vancouver Island non-profit organization called RainCoast Dog Rescue Society, based in Sooke.

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Comox Valley Record