Ontario-based FreshCo is coming to B.C. with locations opening at the former Newton and Strawberry Hill Safeway locations. (Photo: Sobeys Inc.)

Discount grocery store FreshCo to replace Surrey Safeway locations

Strawberry Hill, Newton stores two of 10 locations announced in B.C.

A discount grocery chain will be opening up in the two former Surrey Safeway locations.

Sobey’s and Empire Company Limited announced in a news release Tuesday (Jan. 29) that the two Surrey Safeway locations, Strawberry Hill and Newton, will be opening up as FreshCo, a discount grocery store, some time in 2019.

The Strawberry Hill and Newton locations are two of “12 FreshCo locations confirmed to open in B.C. and Manitoba in 2019,” the release reads.

Other locations confirmed to date are: Abbotsford, Aldergrove, downtown Chilliwack, Ladner, Maple Ridge, Mission and Broadmoor and Blundell in Richmond. There will also be two locations in Manitoba.

The first five Western Canada FreshCo locations, according to the release, are expected to open in the spring of 2019 — three in B.C. and two in Manitoba. The release didn’t state which B.C. stores would be the first to open.

An additional seven stores are expected to open in B.C. “in the first half of fiscal 2020, depending on timing of construction schedules and permits.”

About a year ago, Sobey’s announced the closure of the Strawberry Hill and Newton Safeway locations “for financial reasons.” The closures put 251 Surrey employees out of work.

RELATED: Safeway closures at two Surrey stores will end 251 jobs, Jan. 24, 2018

At the time, a senior executive of Sobey’s speculated in a letter that the Newton and Strawberry Hill locations could reopen as FreshCo “depending on the outcome of negotiations for the new collective agreements.”

FreshCo is a Sobeys Inc. brand discount grocery store that has 95 locations, all of them in Ontario.

“Customers love it in Ontario,” director of external communications Jacquelin Weatherbee told Black Press Media. “We’ve repeatedly been told that customers were looking for a strong discount shopping experience.”

According to the press release on Jan. 29: “Our FreshCo stores reflect our customers’ growing demand for fresh, quality food at discount prices. FreshCo stores will feature a bold brand and clear tagline: ‘Lowering food prices.’”

RELATED: Safeway union urges rejection of mediator recommendations, Aug. 17, 2018

Once the stores close, the renovation will take four to five months after which they will reopen as FreshCo.

In total 610 employees are affected by the changes, and there is definitely some uncertainty for them.

The news release says that there will be a “voluntary buyout option to be presented to eligible B.C. Safeway employees.”

The company said pharmacy customers will continue to be served during construction via temporary locations, and when the store reopens “our customers can expect the same great service from our pharmacy teams.”

The move to convert some Safeway stores in B.C. to FreshCo is actually not new. In December 2017, Sobeys announced it would convert 25 per cent of Safeways in Western Canada.



edit@surreynowleader.com

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