Sunset Strip Mall: The first two storey commercial building for Barriere

What started as a spring project in 1998 still a going concern 22 years later

Barriere businessman and entrepreneur, Murray Purcha. (Jill Hayward photo)

The first two storey commercial building in Barriere was constructed in the spring of 1998 on the corner of Conner and Lilley Roads, adjacent to Highway 5, and right across the road from the Barriere Motor Inn. It was a state of the art construction at the time, featuring stucco outside walls, radiant in floor heating, and plans to install an elevator. This exciting project for the community was created by area businessman Murray Purcha, who named his new building the ‘Sunset Strip Mall’.

“It’s time something happened out here,” said Murray back in 1997, “Barriere is going to grow. Housing isn’t the answer. Cafes aren’t really the answer either. We need stores in this town instead of traveling to Kamloops to buy a $5 item, people want to buy it here.”

Murray was known for his ‘spring projects’, having brought Barriere Redi Mix into the community approximately two years prior in the spring, and also creating Northern Go Carts in the community in the spring of 1997. So when the spring of 1998 rolled around he was ready to bring another project to fruition, and it didn’t take him long to get the job done and off to a booming start.

As soon as the Sunset Strip Mall was ready for tenants the 5,200 square foot ground floor booked a 3,000 square foot unit for a NAPA Auto Parts store with a franchise taken by a “couple of local businessmen”. NAPA store stayed for 10 years in the Purcha building.

Yvonne’s Country Garden Florists and Craft Shop, owned and managed by Murray’s lovely wife Yvonne, took up the balance of the remaining 2,400 square feet of the ground floor in the new building. When NAPA moved out, Yvonne expanded her store by another 1000 sq feet. Yvonne’s Country Garden continued to serve the area for 20 years until 2018, when due to poor health Yvonne had to close up her store.

In 1998 the second storey of the new building was set up for five separate office spaces of 1,050 square feet each. Murray says over the years those offices have held the Department of Highways, Computer and Sign Making Services, a lawyer, the Star/Journal newspaper (now on the main floor), Bondar Forest Planning, and the Lower North Thompson Community Forest Society.

Some of the businesses that have rented space on the main floor of the building over the past 22 years include a Sewing Centre, Armour Mountain Office Services, Barriere and Area Chamber of Commerce, and Designer Liquidation.

Today the Sunset Strip Mall houses RE/MAX Integrity Realty, the North Thompson Star/Journal newspaper, and Pets R Family 2. A new business called Barriere Gym and Fitness Centre will also be opening at some time in the future once government pandemic regulations say it is safe to do so.

A number of years ago, when the Purcha’s sold the family farm north of Barriere, they remodelled the second storey of their building and created a large apartment for themselves and grandson Danny. The apartment is privately spacious, and thanks to the Purcha’s keen eye for detail, beautifully decorated.

Unfortunately, Yvonne passed away in

October of 2018, but Murray and Danny still call the apartment home.

One of Barriere’s most popular seasonal businesses is also attached to the Sunset Strip Mall. This is Murray’s Ice Cream Stand which is an area favourite for locals during the summer months, and a “must stop” for those traveling the highway. The current social distancing regulations have delayed the opening of the ice cream stand, but Murray says, “As soon as we get the go ahead from the government that it is okay to open we will.”

Murray tells that a few years ago he started to see a severe shortage of affordable rental accommodations available within Barriere. So once again the local entrepreneur decided it was “time to take on another project”. This project involved converting the remaining office spaces on the second floor of his building into five affordable one and two bedroom rental units. The project was a great success, and all of the units quickly leased out.

Murray says plans for an elevator to the second floor are still in the works, but the cost is over $30,000 to install one, “It’s very expensive, but if I had it in then older people would be able to get up there.”

What’s in the future now for the Sunset Strip Mall?

“Hooking up to the new sewer system in Barriere,” tells Murray, “Once that’s done, I am thinking about extending the building out the front where the grass is. That’s definitely something worth thinking about.”

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Building owner Murray Purcha stirs up a little dust as he sweeps the parking lot in front of the Star/Journal office in March of this year. (Keith McNeill - Barriere Star/Journal photo)) Building owner Murray Purcha stirs up a little dust as he sweeps the parking lot of his Sunset Strip Mall in front of the Star/Journal office on Sunday afternoon, March 29, 2020 (Keith McNeill / Barriere Star/Journal photo)

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