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Volken’s store in Newton bought by Terra Group

The John Volken Academy, a long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, will remain open next door
Volken’s Market and Furniture Store at 6911 King George Boulevard in Surrey has been sold to Terra Group Investments Inc. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

A Surrey grocery and furniture warehouse store operated by John Volken Academy students, with all proceeds donated to charity, has been sold to Surrey real estate developer the Terra Group.

The John Volken Academy, a long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, will remain open next door but the store itself, at 6911 King George Blvd. in Newton, is having a closing sale until April 30 with a date to vacate on June 27.

The Surrey philanthropist established Academy Farms in 2018 in Langley, raising bison for meat, milking water buffalo and opening a farm market at 23480 40 Ave. The students are involved in that venture, again with the proceeds going to charity.

“One of the things is the people in the program seem to like doing that a lot more than they like to be in and around the store, they want to be outside. Most of them are young people, so they want to do that sort of thing. I think that will help with retention too, you know, people don’t drop out as easily and that sort of thing,” Bill Kooner, Volken’s vice-president of legal services, explained.

As for the store, Kooner said, Terra is “breaking it up and leasing it” but “all the corner, the gym, all that kind of stuff, we’re keeping that, still the residents, and all that sort of thing.”

Volken’s store-closing sale is on until April 30. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Volken was born in Germany during the Second World War and spent part of his childhood in an orphanage in Soviet-occupied East Germany. At 18, he came to Canada, envisioning a new life as a lumberjack in the great white north. After landing in Halifax, he caught a train to Toronto not knowing anyone in Canada, not knowing English, with no job prospect and only $90 in his pocket.

He was a quick study, with a strong work ethic and possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit that saw him rise from a dishwasher earning 25-cents an hour to building a furniture retail chain empire in North America that featured 150 stores and $200 million in annual sales.

In 2004, Volken sold that business and with its proceeds established a foundation that supports his academy, which provides “effective, long-term, residential addiction treatment for men and women,” as well as supporting other charities.

It has three locations – a rehab for men in Seattle, one for men and women in Phoenix, Arizona, and a third for men and women here at 6911 KGB, where he also resides.

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Ranj Deol, president of Terra Group Investments Inc., shared what’s in store for the soon-to-be former store.

“We’re just going to retain the building and lease it out,” Deol said, noting it’s only 15 years old and it “doesn’t make economical sense” to knock it down. “We’ve got a couple of tenants in there now – we’ve signed up a storage company and also a daycare is under contract but not finalized yet.

“The third one is a grocery also that we’re working with right now that I anticipate that’ll be penned up probably this week. We just working through, again a lot of it’s design and what we’re doing with the building and add this wall, move this wall, that type of thing.

“We’re landholders, we buy properties, we’re only interested in the property itself, John decided he wanted to sell,” Deol explained. Terra now owns 6899 King George Boulevard, he noted, “which is the full land sitting in between the Brick and Value Village, so the Value Village and the Brick is one property, then there’s this property which is 4.5 acres and then next to that is the Volken Academy, which sits on another separate property, so John will retain both of them on either side of us but basically we’re buying the one building.

“So the grocery store he wanted to wind up, it’s been a lot of work for him,” Deol said. “We’re just re-leasing it all because the grocery is going to be leaving at the end of June.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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