Fort Langley has had a troubled year. When fire destroyed the IGA grocery store on Jan. 4, it left more than a blackened corner where the village’s only major grocery had stood for 70 years. It put a big dent in the local economy.
One of the challenges of the IGA fire was saving Frontier Building Supply from the flames.
Township firefighters saved the building, but the business has suffered as a result of reduced traffic, and is closing its doors at the end of May.
The people of Fort Langley won’t let business owner Jim Dyck go quietly.
They are giving him and his wife Margo a send-off to remember on Friday, June 17 at the Fort Langley Community Hall. Tickets are $10 each and are available at Wendel’s Cafe and Yellowhead Trading.
Everyone is welcome, said Janice Robertson, one of the organizers. The evening promises to be special and casual, she said.
The music will be from the ’60s, and there will be performers and refreshments. True to Fort Langley’s community spirit, some local restaurants are donating finger food.
As emcee, sculptor and comedienne Elaine Brewer-White promises to keep the affair lively.
The departure of such an integral part of the village is heartbreaking, Robertson said.
“It’s the end of an era, and most people think that way. It’s quite a loss to us,” she said.
Proceeds from the ticket sales will be used to send the Dycks on a second honeymoon.
They will need it. Jim has been working 77 hours a week – 11 hours every day of the week. He took over the business from his parents, Bill and Blanche, who opened the shop in December, 1971.
He rules out retirement. “I just don’t want to work 365 days of the year.”
Dyck is planning a couple of months off, then will look for work to occupy him.
“I should be able to find a 40-hours-a-week job,” he said. “It will seem like part-time. It will be interesting to see what’s out there for an old guy.”
What made the job interesting for 61-year-old Dyck is that every day was different.
“It’s really an interesting mix of customers — dairy farmers, horsey people, the business community, the older residential community and the brand new residential community. They are all really passionate about living in Fort Langley and they like to support local businesses,” he said.
With the loss of the IGA, which is to be rebuilt, many Fort residents are driving outside the village for their purchases.
The turndown in business as a result of the IGA fire was the tipping point for Dyck.
“It was the last sign that maybe it was time to do something,” he said, adding that the store had been for sale for a year.
Interest was tepid, although Home Hardware had expressed interest, but did not pursue the purchase because the store space was too small.
“My desire was that it would sell so that it could stay here,” Dyck said. “I feel that it’s letting the town down, but it’s got to be.”
Few Fort Langley people have not stepped inside Frontier Building Supplies and not been seized by that sense of nostalgia and quaintness.
Almost a blend of country store and hardware shop, Frontier is where you can buy a bag of nails along with a jar of homemade chutney and a wooden bird feeder.
After May 31, all these will belong to a bygone era. Dyck will not.
“I want to stay involved in the town as much as I can,” he promised.