by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
The brand new country-styled building on Fraser Highway is going to make things a whole lot easier for the team at Ralph’s Farm Market and even better for customers.
This new location, talked about for around 10 years, is taking shape to deliver a better shopping experience for Langley.
Monday, Oct. 30 ended an era as friends, family, and onlookers watched the old buildings and structures come down making way for parking.
New store manager David Sella noted, it was quite a sight.
“It was great, Ralph got to climb in the excavator and take the first swings,” he said of the demolition. “It went as planned.”
Sella’s name is new (he’s been on board for just six weeks) yet he’s proud to be part of the team already.
Murray Redekop will continue his focus on fruits and vegetables as produce manager, while Murray’s wife Dianne will transition from store manager to grocery manager.
Ralph and Elizabeth Merk are the owners of this family-run business: Dianne and Ralph are siblings, bringing family together on a daily basis.
“We’ve hired a new store manager,” Murray Redekop said. “In moving to the new building, it’s a little bit more involved. We thought it would be nice to have someone take on a managerial position – something we haven’t had before.”
It’s going to be a considerable job for Sella.
With about the same amount of space for produce, a new mini-bistro area, and a small butcher shop being added to the offerings already seen at Ralph’s, there will be even more reasons for customers to come in and shop.
“Our focus still is produce, but we’re adding a bistro – a little sit-down area for people to have coffee and a muffin or soup,” Redekop noted.
“And we’ve also added a fresh meat counter with a full-time butcher. We’re going to have all kinds of cuts [of meat]. That’s something we’re really excited about.”
The addition of the bistro and meat counter gives Ralph’s more of a one-stop shopping experience, but it will be a few weeks before the new space is revealed to customers.
“To renovate would have almost resulted in a new building itself,” Redekop explained.
“It came a head when we just looked at the store that we [were] in and realized that either we renovate and do an extensive renovation, or we just build new. The positive for us has been that we were able to stay open [for a longer time than if renovating] and the disruption in business has just been in our parking lot.”
Redekop added that while the building is slightly larger than the space Ralph’s has previously occupied, the new building was more about efficiency than adding floor space. Offices, coolers, and storage will all be housed together for the first time.
“We have a whole bunch of little out-buildings outside whereas with our new building everything is under one roof,” he said.
“We probably have five man-hours a day without the doors even being open. Because of our tent situation we have to take everything out and bring everything in. With the new building… that won’t be an issue anymore.”
For those who’ve grown to love the laid-back country nature of Ralph’s, don’t worry, this too will find its way into the new building, he insisted.
“Our goal isn’t to change who we’ve been,” Redekop said. “We still want to be a lot about community and look forward to serving our customers the same way that we did in the past.”
Sella echoed this, “They’ve done it right. Ralph and Elizabeth are true to themselves and true to their beliefs. They’re as good as everybody thinks they are.”
Ralph’s is now closed to put on final touches in preparation for the move into the building.
“I believe Nov. 15th we’re getting power,” Sella said. “All the hardware is in, the refrigeration cases are in, paint and decor is in place and the floors getting finished.”
Redekop said to mark early December on the calendar as the date to watch for the new doors to open – if all goes as planned.
There is likely to be a grand opening a few weeks later.
“We’ll definitely have that,” he said of a grand opening celebration. “And will let our customers know when that’s happening.”
Redekop sees the new building opening as a celebration of community because customers have been watching the new building take form from the foundation to near finished stage. He has sensed the excitement among regulars as the building progressed.
“We’ve kind of taken the slogan, to our customers, ‘thanks for growing with us’,” he noted. “That’s kind of how we’ve grown into the structure that we have now and even into our new store.”
The country look of the new building pleases Redekop, in that it still has the look of a market. He said this is the beginning of making a visit to Ralph’s more of an experience for customers, as well as the nearly 40 local employees. All seem to be excited about the new space.
Ralph dreamed of the new building on the 22-acre site for a number of years.
Growing up from the simple start of selling produce from a hay wagon, Ralph’s Farm Market is a local success story.