NEW GLASGOW – Bill Dewtie was livid as he pulled into the Pictou County Co-Op grocery store parking lot to buy some groceries Thursday.
The evening before he received a phone call from the president of the board saying that the store was closing.
The closing date is tentatively set for April 5 and the land and building will be put on the market for redevelopment. The decision was made by Co-Op Atlantic, which is based in Moncton.
“People up there they lied to us in December,” Dewtie said. “I’m a board member and they told us they’d never close the store. I am not happy.”
He said he was shocked when he got the call because in December the board had been assured they would get the help they needed to stay open.
“When you can’t believe your Co-Op Atlantic, that’s pretty bad,” Dewtie said.
The decision to end its operation was announced Wednesday evening during a meeting with staff by Jim Fogarty, retail services manager at Co-Op Atlantic.
Declining sales and mounting losses over the last five years were the principal reasons behind the food store closure, the company stated in a release.
The co-operative retail store, which was established in 1969 as the Pictou County Co-operative, became a corporate store owned and operated by Co-Op Atlantic in 2000. It currently has a membership of more than 8,000. However, member support of the food store was not strong enough to keep the operation viable. Nearly 2,200 members had not made a single purchase during the last year and only 272 members had purchases exceeding $60 a week.
Fogarty outlined several initiatives designed to increase income for the store that had been taken over the last few years. Among them was the installation of a deli department; the rental of retail space for a flea market operation, a hair salon, and a pharmacy. Although those operations did bring in new income, they failed to improve financial performance in a significant way.
“The prolonged decline in sales made it clear that the trend was not going to change,” said Fogarty.
The food store closure will mean the loss of five full-time jobs and 16 part-time jobs. The company stated that a fair and equitable severance package will be offered each employee, as well as job counselling.
The farm store and the gas bar remain viable business entities and will continue serving their member-owners. A total of 12 jobs in those two outlets will be maintained. Members supporting their gas bar will continue to receive an annual rebate of three cents per litre in February, at fiscal year end.
Fogarty thanked the food store employees for their hard work and dedication, and the residents of Pictou County for their many years of support.
A stock liquidation sale will begin on March 15, with all merchandise reduced by 30 per cent.
Bruce McKay operates the V-Filling Station next door to the Co-Op and said he was sad to see the business close.
“It’s a shame,” he said.
His father Alex was one of the founding members of the Co-Op and it was on his land that the store was built after it outgrew its first location in 1971. Alex McKay had been such a strong supporter of the Co-Op that he sold the land at a much lower price than he could have got because he believed in it.
Bruce remembers his father getting him to help with putting fill on the property. If Alex were alive, Bruce said, he’d be pretty upset.
He said it will likely affect the number of customers they get.
“We got a lot of business from it,” he said. “It’ll hurt everybody.”
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