Cam Bates manages the Aldergrove Save-On-Foods, which has scrambled to keep up with a recent dramatic increase in customers following the May closure of the local Safeway. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Cam Bates manages the Aldergrove Save-On-Foods, which has scrambled to keep up with a recent dramatic increase in customers following the May closure of the local Safeway. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Remaining grocers in Aldergrove welcoming new customers

Safeway’s May closure coincides with major changes in other stores

Aldergrove residents have faced a whirlwind of changes to their grocery shopping routine during the past few months.

After the long-time Aldergrove Safeway closed on May 25, retail operations at local Save-On-Foods and Otter Co-op have reported considerable increases in sales.

Save-On-Foods has reported a 30-per-cent increase in sales store-wide. Meanwhile, sections including the dairy department have seen a 40-per-cent influx, said store manager Cam Bates.

Along with the rise in recent sales, the store at 26310 Fraser Hwy. is at the tailend of its first “major facelift” since opening in the late 1990s, he noted.

Bates, whose worked for the company for nearly 30 years, said many products and store aisles have been switched up and consolidated for an improved shopping experience.

The renovations began May 6.

Cosmetics, for instance, can now be found in the pharmacy section among other changes, Bates said.

To accommodate former Safeway shoppers, employees at Save-On-Foods began taking note of product requests as early as April.

“Safeway sold things we didn’t… one customer requested Diet Mountain Dew before its closing so we ordered it in and now stock up to 20 cases per week of the stuff,” Bates elaborated.

RELATED: Aldergrove shoppers watch Safeway ‘shelves go empty’ before store closes

“We like to try to connect to the community,” he added.

The manager admits the store “isn’t big enough to hold everything needed,” – at approximately 20,000 square feet compared to Safeway’s 40,000. But, staff are working hard to accommodate its new mix of customers.

The biggest change to the store is the added selection of natural health foods, including a new four-foot gluten- and lactose-free section in the dairy department, Bates explained.

“Everything new that’s been added is based on what sells,” he elaborated.

The deli area is slated to unveil a new wing bar, offering 12 different types of wings made fresh daily along with the “all new” equipment in the perishable food sections, the manager shared.

The bakery will have new cake case display bins, nesting tables, and LED lights.

And in the produce department, they’re adding all new low-profile tables and two new coolers.

Even an in-store sushi station is on the horizon.

All the major renovations will be completed by the end of June.

The store is currently on the lookout for 10 new hires, after adding 12 more employees during this past month, the store manager concluded.

Aldergrove’s Otter Co-op has also seen an increase in sales dating back to January, said CEO Jack Nicholson. But it’s “too early to tell,” if it’s a direct result of the Safeway closure, which he noted is located “more downtown,” than Co-op’s 3650 – 248 St. location.

Nicholson attributes the sale increase largely to the “major” in-store renovation that began a year and a half ago.

The CEO hopes that business remains local for every grocer’s sake.

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