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Sobey's ordered to sell Sapperton Thrifty's
An order by Canada's Competition Bureau that Sobey's has to sell its Thrifty Foods grocery store in Sapperton as part of the Halifax-based company's $5.6 billion acquisition of Safeway isn't sitting well with some residents.
The two-year old store in the Brewery District is one of 23 stores in Western Canada Sobey's must unload to preserve competition in the market. There are three Safeway stores in New Westminster and another at nearby Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby.
Gord Hobbis of the Sapperton Business Association said "it was a shock" when he heard the news.
"It's our first grocery store in this area in 23 years," said Hobbis. "That's really important to build the neighbourhood."
Hobbis said Thrifty has been very active in the Sapperton community since the store opened in the new Brewery District development two years ago. It's a sponsor of the Sapperton Street Festival, involved with the local Rotary Club, and employs local people.
"Every business has to be conscious of how they get involved in the community," said Hobbis. "We're going to miss them."
For Catherine Cartwright, the announcement that Thrifty must leave hits close to home. The president of the McBride-Sapperton Residents Association grew up in Victoria where her family did their weekly marketing at one of the chain's 29 BC outlets.
"I was thrilled when they moved to the neighbourhood," said Cartwright. "When I first moved here there was hardly anywhere to shop that you could walk to."
She said she especially likes the vegetarian options the store offers. And she appreciates their presence at community functions.
"They're good community citizens," said Cartwright. "They want to be a good addition to a neighbourhood."
Hobbis said the store's round-the-clock opening hours are especially important to the workers at nearby Royal Columbian Hospital coming off late night or early morning shifts. It also delivered groceries to select areas. He said getting a new grocery retailer into the space that is equally as attentive to the needs of the community will be important.
"It's an anchor," said Hobbis. "It keeps people in the area, it gets constant traffic. It's all part of seeing activity in the neighbourhood."
Cartwright isn't as optimistic that will happen.
"I don't know whether a new store would cater as well to the neighbourhood," she said. "People are very protective of their neighbourhood. Sapperton is the kind of neighbourhood that rallies when we feel we're under siege."