Nesters Market, the grocery store "where the locals shop" has been sold to the Vancouver-based Buy-Low Foods.
"My stomachs been churning for three months while weve been going through this process," said co-owner and founder Brian Kerr.
The hard part, said Kerr, was making sure all staff will remain in place with their present wages and benefits. After that part of the deal was completed the rest went fairly easily.
"Selling the store was a very difficult decision for me, my family and my partners but we know that we are leaving the company in good hands with Buy-Low Foods," said Kerr.
Buy-Low Foods has supplied Nesters with groceries for the past 10 years, ever since food wholesaler Kelly Douglas decided to drop independent grocery stores. G&H Marketing became Nesters wholesaler in 1993. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions G&H became part of the Buy Low company, which is part of the Pattison Group of Companies.
Kerr and partner Ken Beatty founded Nesters Market in 1987. Some staff, such as meat and seafood manager Joe Rush and Sheila Lacombe, have been with Nesters since the beginning.
"The staff have been very important to us," said Kerr.
The decision to sell sort of evolved after a number of changes in recent years, Kerr added.
Two years ago Kerr was elected MLA for the Malahat Juan de Fuca riding on Vancouver Island. Those duties kept him a long way from Whistler.
Last year the long-awaited expansion of Nesters Market was completed, but it was a stressful time, Kerr said. He had negotiated a deal to open another grocery store at Creekside but with government duties placing considerable demands on his time he decided to drop the Creekside project. That led to re-thinking of his commitment to Nesters Market.
"Finding the right buyer who understood our market and unique position with the local community in Whistler was our main concern," added Kerr. "We are confident that Buy-Low Foods will continue with our philosophy and style of management so that customers will notice no difference."
Ric Laidlaw, who was the general manager of Coopers Markets in the Okanagan before becoming president of Buy-Low Foods, announced that Buy-Low plans to take the Nesters concept and branding into a new store in Vancouvers Yaletown. Store manager Bruce Stewart and Rush will be working with Buy-Low to establish a second Nesters Market in Yaletown.
"Its a market niche for them," Kerr said. "It works better than Buy-Low in that market."
Buy-Low will continue the Value Card program, which allows shoppers to collect points and get discounts on certain items.
Nesters Market has been "where the locals shop" for the past 17 years. Last year the 3,000 member Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers chose it as the top grocery store in Canada.