After almost 40 years of operation, the Aldergrove Safeway store will close near the end of May – then re-open four months later as a FreshCo store.
Last week, the store manager of the grocery retail chain gathered all in-house employees to the front of the store.
“They told us all… right with customers walking by,” Teresa Kolarcik, an employee of Safeway for 27 years, said.
“I’m still shocked.”
Kolarcik began working at Safeway when she was just 17 years old.
Since then, she’s taken joy in serving her “regulars,” and watching their children grow up throughout the years.
“I’ve had the same customers for the past 27 years, all at the same store,” said Kolarcik.
The announcement comes with a set of other closures and termination notices for Lower Mainland’s Safeway employees.
In addition to the store located at the corner of Fraser Highway and 276th Street, four other retail outlets will be shutting their doors.
It translates to 609 job losses in total, covering five store locations: Aldergrove, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Delta and Abbotsford.
“It’s heartbreaking… I truly enjoyed my job and I’ve worked hard to get where I am,” said Kolarcik.
She says she has no idea what she will do now.
A total of 123 employees at the Aldergrove store will lose their jobs.
The official closing date is set for May 25.
A few customers are fearful of the change, and what the short-term closure might mean for the community – especially neighbouring seniors.
Ramen Toor lives a few blocks away and said the store has proven convenient for him.
“We live right by here, we’ve been here for six years and it’s the closest store. I’m okay because I have a car, but I think about the old people living [near]by who come with their buggies. What are they going to do” during the transition?
Brandon Ogrady also lives nearby in Aldergrove, but doesn’t shop at Safeway frequently.
He was surprised to learn of the impending changes.
“That’s crazy. I’m quite surprised because that means the only other store is Save-On-Foods,” Ogrady said.
I’m surprised I didn’t hear anything,” he added.
Trudy Campen has lived in Aldergrove since 1982, and said she’s “gotten used to Safeway being here, and certain brands,” the store offers.
“I’ll certainly miss those [brands],” she said.
Campen will also miss the “convenience” of the store when it temporarily closes, as she lives nearby.
All three agree they’ll give the new FreshCo a try, but none of them are familiar with the chain.
“It’s nature of business today. We have to get used to changes,” Campen said.
The five Safeway locations will be renovated and re-opened as FreshCo stores.
FreshCo is an Ontario-based division of Sobeys Inc., with the majority of its locations in Eastern Canada.
According to Sobeys, the notice is in accordance with the Employee Standards Act.
Long-term Safeway employees are eligible for buyouts, and those with seniority in the union may be able to bump employees out of jobs at other locations in B.C.
“We are working with employees and unions to ensure the terms of their collective agreements are met as we work through this transition,” the company press release stated.
“As always, we will expend every effort to place employees in other stores within our store network in B.C.”
The company says pharmacy customers will continue to be served during construction – via temporary locations.
And, when the store reopens “our customers can expect the same great service from our pharmacy teams.”
According to a Sobeys press release issued Jan. 29: “Our FreshCo stores reflect our customers’ growing demand for fresh, quality food at discount prices. FreshCo stores will feature a bold brand and clear tagline: ‘Lowering food prices.’”
Sobeys acquired the Canadian division of Safeway, along with other retail brands including Thrifty Foods and IGA, in 2013 in a $5.8-billion deal.
In December 2017, Sobeys announced it would convert 25 per cent of Safeways in Western Canada.