Family business fades into history

After 37 years in the business, the Palamar brothers are getting out of groceries. Super Valu, in the Yukon Mall, is planning to close on February 14th. "Happy Valentine's," said cashier Heather Morrison, who's been...

After 37 years in the business, the Palamar brothers are getting out of groceries.

Super Valu, in the Yukon Mall, is planning to close on February 14th.

“Happy Valentine’s,” said cashier Heather Morrison, who’s been at the store for 18 months.

“Maybe they’ll put in a bowling alley,” said a customer.

Walking up an aisle flanked by empty Minute Maid boxes, Mike Palamar took stock of his floundering business.

“There’s a point you reach where you know it’s not feasible to keep operating anymore,” he said.

“Every year the sales kept dropping a little bit—it’s supposed to be going the other way.”

On Wednesday, everything in the store was 10 per cent off.

“That’s a good start in the grocery business,” said Palamar, who expects the discount to grow as the closing date approaches.

“In two-and-a-half weeks I hope it is mostly empty,” he said.

Already, shelves that should be bursting with products are sporting gaps like missing teeth.

When Palamar’s dad, Don, entered the grocery business in 1970, there was one store downtown—where Extra Foods sits today.

Called Super Valu, the store was owned by Loblaws. Don was the manager.

Two years later, Don and his partner Bob Evans took a chance and decided to open their own store, taking over Taylor and Drury in Horwood’s Mall.

They called it Food Fair.

Yukoners could come in, buy a case of canned tomatoes and some sacks of flour, then head next door for shotgun shells.

“We used to be able to put things on sale by the case lot,” said Mike. “And it was mind-boggling how much we’d sell.

“People used to stock up, but now people shop every two days.”

Mike was 13 when he started packing bags, stocking shelves and collecting carts.

Now, 32 years later, he’s still doing it.

In 1985, Mike and his brother Jim bought out Evans’ share of the business.

“We operated the store as a family until dad retired three or four years ago,” he said.

The mom-and-pop business flourished, and in 1991, Food Fair moved to its Yukon Mall local. The Palamars sub-leased the space from Loblaws.

It wasn’t until Wal-Mart set up shop on the outskirts of town that things took a turn for the worse.

“First they let in Wal-Mart, and then (the Real Canadian) Superstore,” said Mike.

“That’s when business started declining.

“You could throw a Wal-Mart on the moon, and they’d throw a Superstore across the street.”

Customers began to disappear.

“We lost them to both stores,” said Mike.

“Three stores downtown within two minutes of each other—that’s too much for an independent.”

Then, Mike heard a rumour from a Loblaws executive that Extra Foods was closing. Loblaws owns both Extra Foods and Superstore.

“I was led to believe they were closing,” he said.

That’s when Mike renamed his store Super Valu, a Loblaws franchise.

“We thought they’d support us and we’d support them,” he said.

The changed allowed him to access products controlled by the corporation, like President’s Choice and No Name.

“We used to get these products, but then (Loblaws) took them away because we were not affiliated—I was not flying their name,” he said.

But Extra Foods didn’t close.

Instead, a corporate reshuffle saw more money pouring into the yellow store.

“Once I knew they weren’t closing, the writing was on the wall,” said Mike.

Because Loblaws corporation owns Extra Foods and Superstore, it can afford the competition.

“They have deep pockets,” said Mike.

“But when you’re an independent, you have to worry about making payroll.”

In its prime, Food Fair employed more than 70 staff. Now, Mike’s payroll is at 25.

The staff, many who’ve been with the store for years, were surprised to learn it was closing.

“We thought Loblaws might buy it out and run it as a corporate Super Valu,” said Mike.

But when he didn’t get a definitive answer, he opted to shut down the store.

Morrison doesn’t have another job lined up yet.

“But I’ll find something,” she said, bagging a four-litre jug of milk.

Mike is going to miss his staff and customers.

Although the regulars have dwindled over the years, he still has customers who’ve been faithful for more than three decades.

“I had one lady who said she was there the first day we opened as Food Fair and she will be there the last day we close,” said Mike.

Some regulars come for the store’s specialty products, like the ample assortment of wheat-free flours by Bob’s Red Mill.

“I tried to buy from lots of different companies to keep my business different,” he said.

“But I dealt with a lot more companies as Food Fair than I did after becoming Super Valu.”

Most of the store’s specialty products are available at Riverside, one of the other mom-and-pop businesses holding out in town.

“It’s been there as long as I can remember,” said Mike.

“As a kid I used to leave the pool, where the High Country Inn is now, and buy candy on the way home.”

The Super A stores are also independently owned, he said.

“But they’re in their own suburbs, like Porter Creek and Riverdale, in convenient locations.” They don’t have big box stores less than five minutes away.

Extra Foods manager Bill Dunlop was not able to talk about his store.

He gave the News a Toronto Loblaws’ phone number.

The corporation did not respond by press time.

“Once a Wal-Mart shows up…” said Mike.

“I try not to shop there,” he added.

Mike hasn’t had a decent holiday in years, ever since the business started struggling.

“I’m going to relax, regroup, and the find something else to do,” he said.

Groceries have been Mike’s life.

“I’ve never done anything else,” said the 45-year-old.

“I’ve never filled out a resume.

“It’s a new beginning.

“I’m a little nervous and excited.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read