Save-On-Foods is coming to Whitehorse.
The B.C.-based grocery chain held a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday on the site for the new store at the corner of Chilkoot Way and Quartz Road. Construction is expected to start later this year with the store opening in the summer of 2017.
“As a Western Canadian retailer we believe that we have what it takes to be really homegrown,” said company president Darrell Jones.
“We have one simple goal, to be the best place to shop.”
The plans are to build a 42,000-square-foot grocery store, along with a 12,000-square-foot wholesale store to sell to the public in bulk.
Jones said he expects the project to create about 100 construction jobs and more than 100 positions once the stores are up and running.
“We see this as a huge opportunity for our membership,” said Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Rick Karp.
“We see this as a huge opportunity for the people of Whitehorse, for employment, for contracts. We’ve got building that’s going to happen. Whitehorse is growing again.”
Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis said he’s confident the new store is going to be successful.
“That’s not to say that the businesses that are here right now aren’t doing a great job. The competition makes us stronger, it gives us choice, and I’m just ecstatic to see us grow like we have.”
Dreams for that piece of downtown land have gone unfulfilled for years. Landmark Cinemas once touted the location as the future site for a new mulitiplex in town. In 2009 those plans were quietly suspended.
Late last year Angus Properties Ltd. sold the land to the Jim Pattison Group, which owns Save-On-Foods.
“The site had plans with Landmark Cinemas of Canada to develop a new movie theatre. As many years have passed without construction moving forward a mutually agreed on decision was accepted to terminate the lease and subsequently hand the property back to the landlord,” Angus Properties said in a statement welcoming Save-On-Foods to the neighbourhood.
The grocery store is not the only thing being built on that spot. The former Ricki’s All Day Grill will have to be torn down to make way for the new construction.
A new Ricki’s will be built on a different corner of the property, Jones said.
Save-On-Foods will be the third major grocery retailer to set up shop in Whitehorse, along with the Real Canadian Superstore and Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer.
If everything goes as planned, it will fit squarely in the middle in terms of size – bigger than Independent’s 33,000 square feet but smaller than the 90,000 square feet taken up by Superstore.
Jones contends that a community the size of Whitehorse could easily support four large grocery stores.
“This is not really at all an over-stored community. Very actually under-stored for the size of the community.”
The company is aware of the difficulties when it comes to shipping fresh produce north of 60 and making sure it stays fresh by the time it arrives, Jones said.
They just opened a half-million square foot warehouse in Edmonton to hold fresh produce, he said.
“We know it’s a challenge, we’re used to it. We deliver to Fort Nelson, Fort St. John, Fort McMurray, so northern stores are not anything new to us. We welcome the opportunity.”
The store will have designated shelves to sell locally grown food and locally made products, Jones said.
“We want all the local suppliers that make and produce things, please let them know that we’re here. We want their products, we want them to come tell us what they have, and we want to stock them in our store.”
It appears Whitehorse will also be channelling a bit of its inner Vancouver with this new construction. Once the grocery store is built there will be two Starbucks nearly next door to each other.
The Save-On-Foods will include a Starbucks inside. Angus Properties, which owns and operates the Chilkoot Centre
on the next lot over, said the Starbucks in that mall will remain up and running.
“Currently a drive-thru Starbucks located at the Chilkoot Centre just across the street does exist and will remain serving as a destination location, while the Starbucks inside the new grocery anchor will be enjoyed by shoppers as a convenience,” Angus’s statement said.
Jones said officials with Save-On-Foods will be back in Whitehorse this summer to talk to the community about what it would like to see in the new grocery store.
In the fall they’ll start recruiting new employees, he said.
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