BAIE VERTE, NL — The bottom line for the Baie Verte Consumers Co-operative is strong, according to the president of its board of directors, who is happy with the store’s position.
Oliver Penney’s comments come in the wake of the recent announcement of the closure of the Co-Op grocery store in St. Anthony.
The board in that Northern Peninsula town said the business was not generating enough revenue to continue buying products and paying employees.
At a special meeting at the St. Anthony Lions Club on Jan. 23, the Grenfell Co-Op membership passed a motion to begin the process of closing their store. The decision was made because of declining sales, low member interest and other growing issues that have plagued the Grenfell Co-Op for the past few years.
Read about the Grenfell Co-op decision: Grenfell Co-Op closing in St. Anthony after more than a century
Penney acknowledged the grocery store in Baie Verte has had its challenges over the years, but nothing compared to those reported in St. Anthony.
The Baie Verte store is under new management and changed suppliers — now working with Sobey’s — several years ago following the bankruptcy of Co-Op Atlantic.
The president says the local store has benefitted from both changes.
“We are strong,” said Penney. “There was a couple of years, with the changeover and everything, it was a bit of a struggle. This year things are looking good.”
Even with that struggle, Penney says the Baie Verte grocery store didn’t face the challenges reported by its St. Anthony counterpart.
“I am somewhat familiar with the St. Anthony issue, and we have never had a concern like they did,” he said. “I don’t think we had any worries in terms of closure or anything like that.
“We have never had that issue, and we should see a good bottom line this year.”
Penney said like most rural grocery stores, keeping shelves stocked is the main challenge — an issue that is out of local management’s hands and primarily impacted by transportation issues involving ferry service to the province and weather.
That is a common complaint of customers in the town, along with increased grocery prices, which often leads to residents of the Baie Verte Peninsula travelling to other centres —Springdale, Grand Falls-Windsor or Corner Brook — to shop for their groceries.
The Co-Op also has some competition in town with Clover Farm, but Penney says the co-operative is the primary option for shoppers as a bigger store with a greater variety.
Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott said he recognized the difference between situations with the stores in Baie Verte and St. Anthony. He also said the Co-Op in Baie Verte is the primary supplier to the area, giving it an advantage over its counterpart on the Northern Peninsula.
The mayor said area residents’ primary concern pertaining to the local Co-Op seems to be the cost of groceries. While he would like to see the community support a local business, he also understands the desire people have to save money when possible.
“People travel so much now compared to years ago,” he said. “One time it was not common for people to drive to Grand Falls(-Windsor) or Corner Brook, and now it seems people are doing it weekly or every second week.”
Many people pick up groceries when they visit these major centres. Some concentrate on sale items while others pick up in bulk, knowing they are saving in the long run.