A Nelson heritage building gets a new lease on life

A longstanding accounting firm in Nelson is calling a 104-year-old building its new home

After six months of renovations, Berg Lehmann Chartered Accountants have breathed new life into a 104-year-old building in Nelson.

What used to be owned by the Nelson Salvation Army is now the accounting firm’s main office. Built in 1908, this two-storey brick building sits at 513 Victoria Street in the downtown area. It housed the Salvation Army and its sanctuary for about 85 years before the building was sold and later purchased by the firm. Before Berg Lehmann could move in on November 1, 2012, though, the building had to be completely refurbished.

The biggest job was the sanctuary.

“The church had a slanted floor and that had to be pulled out, so we put an entire new floor in the main floor,” said Craig Berg, co-owner of Berg Lehmann. “The second floor only went for half the building and we extended it to the rest of the building. Now it is two full floors.”

The construction team also moved a staircase and installed a new heating ventilation system as well as new lights, drywall, beams, insulation and more. The exterior of the building was given a fresh coat of paint and a new canopy.

Berg said the heritage flavour of the building was preserved by keeping the vaulted ceilings and other characteristics of a building erected in the early 1900s. The renovations even exposed an old brick chimney.

The other players

The project employed local contractors, tradespeople and building supply stores.

“It was a conscious effort to use local people,” said Berg.

Dan Maglio Contracting Ltd. was the project manager.

The building is 4,800 square feet in total and Berg said there is space for 25 offices, though Berg Lehmann currently has 18 staff.

“This was a move for better office space and better location and also to set us up for room to grow for the next number of years,” said Berg.

About the company

Berg Lehmann is a well-established name in Nelson. The firm has been around since 1950 and this is the company’s third move. Berg has been with the business for 20 years. His father was one of the original owners and Berg took over the reins when his father was nearing retirement.

“I got to work with him for five years and then he retired and continued to work with me but on a part-time basis,” said Berg. “It was a real treat to be able to work with my father.”

Intergenerational business transfers, like what occurred when Berg purchased his father’s share in the firm, are common in Nelson.

“You look around and there are a lot of second-, third- and even some fourth-generation businesses here,” said Berg. “It’s quite an enjoyable part of my business to help in that transition from one generation to the next.”

Berg said Nelson’s economy seems to be more stable than that of many other communities in the interior of B.C.

“A really nice thing about Nelson and our business is that we have a stable client base,” said Berg.

He also appreciates the variety of his clientele.

“Because we service a very wide variety of clients,” said Berg, “(we handle) everything from individual personal tax returns to multimillion-dollar businesses and everything in between.”

Nelson is a desirable place to live, Berg said, and because of that, the company has attracted several top-notch accountants who have worked at major firms in the big cities.

“They have fantastic training and they get to bring those skills and share them with us,” he said.

Staff members at Berg Lehmann share in the community of Nelson as well. Berg is currently involved in the Rotary club, and his business partner, Stefan Lehmann, used to sit on the board of governors for Selkirk College. For several years, Lehmann also served as a founding member of the Osprey Community Foundation in Nelson.

A job well done

The renovation and move to Berg Lehmann’s new office at 513 Victoria Street means a lot to Berg, and he said the City of Nelson assisted greatly with the project.

“I think the City is very supportive of maintaining heritage in the downtown core,” said Berg.

The Berg Lehmann office project is one of four major heritage revitalization projects currently underway in Nelson.

One-on-one with Craig Berg

In a recent interview, Kootenay Business asked Craig Berg, co-owner of Berg Lehmann Chartered Accountants, some personal questions.

Where are you from? I grew up in Nelson and I moved to Vancouver for 10 years. Between Vancouver and the Okanagan, I went to university and worked for a large firm, got my training and finally came back here. When it was time to start a family, my wife and I looked around at what opportunities were available and we just couldn’t think of a better place to be than back in Nelson.

Did you always want to be an accountant? Oh no—I never excluded it but I did not chase it. It was one of those things that develops over time. I kept my options open and went through university and got to see what was available. That is where my interests lay and that’s how I ended up going that way.

How do you spend your downtime? I like to sail and I like to ski. I have a sailboat that we take on Kootenay Lake and other lakes, primarily the Okanagan. We race and then we also like to cruise and we’ve made a couple of trips to the Caribbean and a couple to the Coast.

What kind of skiing do you do? Downhill skiing at Whitewater here. I was in high school when Whitewater first opened. I remember going up there and helping put on the original roofing at Whitewater as a volunteer in the early days. I have good memories of Whitewater back as a child. 

Kirsten Armleder

Kirsten is a staff writer and photographer for Kootenay Business who enjoys learning more about the people who help this region thrive. View all of Kirsten Armleder’s articles

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