It has taken four decades but Wayne Richmond is embarking on something of a homecoming.
The patriarch of a family business that has gone from one small grocery store to a chain that now boasts full-size 49th Parallel Grocery Stores in Ladysmith, Cedar and Chemainus and smaller outlets in Duncan and Chemainus, is returning to his roots.
“Dad grew up on Isley Street, which isn’t too far from where the new store is going,” explained Peter Richmond, as family members joined North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring and contractor Steven McPhee for a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday morning.
“We are extremely excited to finally be breaking ground on the development and to be partnering with Peter, Wayne and the rest of the 49th Parallel family,” says McPhee.
The Richmonds are building a 25,000 square foot store that will be the anchor for a development on a site southwest of the Berkey’s Corner roundabout which is the intersection of Sherman, Somenos and Cowichan Lake Roads.
After growing up on Isley Street, Richmond and his wife, Harmina, bought a small corner grocery store in Ladysmith in 1977 and began building the 49th Parallel brand and successful neighbourhood food outlets.
Along the way they raised their two children, Peter and Kathy and the venture became a bona fide family business. Peter joined the business in 1996 and is now company president and Kathy works in the head office in Ladysmith.
“We bought Bruce’s Grocery with the idea of having a larger store before now,” Peter said.
The venerable, but under-sized Bruce’s Grocery on Cairnsmore will remain but is due for some upgrades as the Richmonds continue their commitment to the local community. It became a 49th Parallel store 11 years ago.
“We believe in serving the local community and we always draw from an area about two or three miles from our stores,” Richmond added.
Richmond says the new Berkey’s Corner store will be an improvement over the smaller, 4,800 square foot store on Cairnsmore but will stick to the formula that has made the 49th chain successful.
“We’ll be able to have more variety and more selection,” he pointed out.
Speaking to a Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce audience a day earlier, Richmond said despite increasing competition and rapid changes in the grocery industry, he was determined to avoid one emerging trend.
“We keep an eye on changes, particularly in technology,” Richmond said. “But you won’t be seeing any self-checkouts in our stores.”
The five 49th Parallel stores employ 275 people.
McPhee, vice-president of leasing and development for Forum Properties, the company building the store, expects the project to be complete by this time next year.