With helping hands from Ucluelet Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke and board chair Gordon Dunsmore, Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noël cuts the red ribbon on Sept. 12 at 1 p.m in front of the food store to commemorate the completion of $4M worth of renovations. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Ucluelet Co-op celebrates major renovations

"It's just a job well-done."

Ucluelet Co-op officially cut the ribbon to the new store on Saturday, Sept. 12.

General manager Laurie Gehrke said undergoing $4-million in renovations during a pandemic was a “nightmare”.

“We were scheduled to start Jan. 5 and end May 12. It was supposed to be all done before summer. Then COVID hit, and it hit right when we had everything torn to parts. Dirt floors, no plumbing… It was a nightmare,” Gehrke recalls.

She said the project shut down March 26 and re-started June 8.

“I cannot express enough our thanks for the community support, for the staff’s hard work and to the contractors for understanding and for working around the clock at times to helping us stick to our timeline. It’s been an incredible project and it’s something the community should be proud of,” said Gehrke.

Ucluelet Co-op board chair Gord Dunsmore said he loves the refreshed Co-op food store.

“The patience of the staff through this all… It’s been so stressful for all of them. It’s just a job well-done,” he said.

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said it’s wonderful to see this investment in the community.

“The Co-op has been a staple in our community since 1956 and I have been coming here since 1971. It continues to grow and service the West Coast. I think we are just fortunate to have the board members that are committed to the community as well as this wonderful general manager that continues to impress everyone,” said Noel at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Renovations to the Ucluelet Co-op include new shelving and flooring throughout the store, new dairy coolers, new LED lighting, the installation of a new pharmacy, new public washrooms, and upgrades to the deli.

Part of the project involved creating English and Nuu-chah-nulth store signage. Gehrke said she thinks they are the only Consumer Co-operative in Canada to marry the two languages. She worked with Ucluelet Secondary Student Timmy Masso and local elders to create the posters.

“We send our deepest thanks to them,” notes Gehrke.

While the public washrooms are complete, they remain closed due to COVID-19.

“We have been trying to hire a [full-time washroom attendant and full-time front door attendant] for two months and haven’t been able to find anyone. By COVID rules and requirements by WorkSafe B.C. and our health authority, we have to clean the washrooms every hour and I don’t have the staff for that. We can barely stay ahead keeping the shelves full,” Gehrke said.


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