Chemainus Foods in receivership

Market place changes have finally caught up to us.

A popular grocery store, that has served residents of Chemainus for decades is closing its doors.

Last week Chemainus Foods announced a price reduction on remaining items in the store and customers were notified that the business, operated by Michele and Greg Riley was in receivership.

“Sadly we must tell you Chemainus Foods is closing,” the Riley’s said in a letter to the community.

“Market place changes have finally caught up to us and while we have tried to develop ideas that would keep the doors open we’ve not been successful.”

The Rileys were especially concerned for their staff. “Closing a store and losing a job is tough for everyone,” they said. “We know this will be a difficult time for our staff who have served us and the community well.”

Chemainus Foods received the Chamber of Commerce Retail Business of the Year Award in 2012.

“We will miss you and will also miss being a part of the various community events,” the Rileys concluded. “We are really sorry there was not a better outcome.”

The feelings were returned by shoppers at the store Thursday, Jan. 7, many of them not aware Chemainus Foods was in receivership.

“I just don’t want to see them go, and nobody I talk to wants to see them go,” said Jeanne Newton, who lives in Crofton, but has been shopping at Chemainus Foods for about 25 years. “We shop here all the time.”

“It’s an institution in the town,” said Gail Myles, a resident of Chemainus for about eight years. “We’re going to miss this store.”

She pointed out that the town centre of Chemainus is being redeveloped, and the loss of Chemainus Foods will be a setback to that initiative. “It’s an economic indicator in my mind,” she said.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, who is also a Chemainus resident, agreed the closure is not a good economic signal. “We don’t like to lose any business down there,” he said.

But he added that Chemainus Foods has faced stiff competition since 49th Parallel Grocery opened its outlet in the Chemainus Village Square.

“It’s very unfortunate, but I think people anticipated that it would be difficult for both businesses to survive,” he said.

With the old firehall across the street  slated for demolition, and a new branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library planned for the space, he anticipates there will be lots of interest from new businesses in the Chemainus Foods location.

But loss of business in the commercial cores of many Island communities is an ongoing issue, which projects like the Chemainus redevelopment project are intended to counter.

“We still believe we have to continue to redevelop the downtown,” Lefebure said. “It’s something we have to continue to work on in a supportive way.

“We also have to encourage our citizens to shop locally.”