Longtime White Rock business Penguin Meats is closing Aug. 1. (Alex Browne photo)

Iconic White Rock store to close after corporate decision

Penguin Meats plans to continue to serve customers through wholesale location

Penguin Meats’ retail store – a cornerstone of the White Rock business community – is closing its doors after 55 years in operation.

A press release from Penguin Meat Supply Ltd. indicates, however, that the company plans to continue serving its customer base through a new distribution model based at its South Surrey wholesale location.

General manager Steve Levis confirmed Tuesday (July 21) that the last day of operation for the store, at 1545 Johnston Rd., will be Saturday, Aug. 1.

Levis said the corporate decision was handed down to employees in a meeting held Monday night, but deferred to senior management to comment on the reasons for the closure of the retail outlet by the company, part of the Premium Brands Holdings Corporation since 2018.

In a corporate press release issued late Tuesday, the company cited the pandemic business climate as the reason for making a “difficult decision.”

“(The company)… like many others, has been irreparably impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release states. “As a result we have decided to focus our operations on wholesale distribution,” the release states.

“We are committed to providing the customer service you have all come to expect at our wholesale location (19195 33 Ave.) through a direct-to-customer program that we are currently developing.

“We want to thank the White Rock community, our loyal customers, partners, and the employees who made it all possible.”

“It’s a sad, sad day that we had to make this announcement,” Levis told Peace Arch News earlier on Tuesday.

“Penguin Meats has been part of the White Rock community for more than 50 years. We are so appreciative to the community for its support over all those years, and so grateful for the hard work of all our employees. The staff have done a tremendous job and this is nothing against them.”

READ MORE: Penguin Meats marks major milestone

Levis said a small team of store employees will be kept on to oversee the wind-down of the retail operation over this week and next week. Penguin Meats’ wholesale operation, and the company’s Langley Cold Storage facility, will continue to operate as before, he said.

Originally located in Whalley, Penguin Meats was started by Harry Michaluk and sons Vic and Walter in the 1950s. In October of 1964, the business moved to new premises at 1554 Johnston Rd. and in the early 1970s, Vic and his wife Irene bought out Harry and Walter to become sole owners.

Their daughter Toni married long-time employee Doug Charles and the couple – who had been working for the business since they were in high school – became even more involved in operations, with Charles serving as manager for many years until he passed away from cancer in 2018.

READ MORE: Doug Charles remembered for ‘gentle ways’

In 2016, the store relocated to new premises on the west side of Johnston Road, after its long-time location was slated for demolition as part of site clearance for the PARC seniors residence.

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