Overwaitea Food Group has entered into an agreement to buy 15 grocery stores, including the Thrifty Foods in Sapperton and the Safeway at Royal City Centre in New West.
If the sale proceeds, there will be four Save-on-Foods locations in New Westminster: two uptown, one at Columbia Square (where the former IGA was located), and one in Sapperton, where the Thrifty Foods is currently located, Overwaitea Food Group spokesperson Julie Dickson Olmstead told The Record. She also noted that the company hopes to retain the current staff at all of the locations.
“Our hope and our intention is to have all of the team members that are in those stores join our group,” Dickson Olmstead said. “Certainly, they’ve all been made aware that they are part of the operations … and we’re excited about that. They are some of the best grocers in North America working in those stores, and we’re really excited to have them be part of our team.”
Canada’s competition watchdog ordered Sobeys to sell 23 grocery stores in Western Canada – including the Thrifty Foods in New Westminster – before it would approve a $5.8-billion purchase of grocer Safeway Canada. As a result, Overwaitea Food Group, a Jim Pattison business, entered into discussions with Sobeys, which resulted in the agreement to purchase more than a dozen of the community stores.
“This is our hometown,” Dickson Olmstead said about New West. “I’m getting goose bumps now. I’m such a suck when it comes to our history, but New Westminster is where we got our start. Our very first store was in New Westminster, just down by The Keg … our very first store in our whole company was actually started by R.C. Kidd (Robert C. Kidd) on Columbia."
The company turns 100 next year and to have four stores in the New West market is an “exciting” way to celebrate the milestone, she said.
“We are thrilled to be able to welcome these stores, along with their existing team members and customers, to our group,” Overwaitea president Darrell Jones said in a media release. “As a local grocer our philosophy is to tailor our stores and the mix in those stores to suit the needs of our customers and their communities.”
Overwaitea has received approval from the Competition Bureau, and Sobeys anticipates the deals will close in March or early April, a media release states.
The Overwaitea Food Group includes Save-on-Foods, PriceSmart Foods, Cooper's Foods and Urban Fare. Fourteen of the new acquisitions will be Save-on-Foods locations, while one, in Abbotsford, will be a Cooper's Foods, Dickson Olmstead said.
Many New Westminster residents were disappointed when they learned last fall that their beloved Thrifty's was on the market. They even went so far to start a petition. City council also came onboard to try to stop the sale.