Mount Currie residents will no longer have to travel to Pemberton for food as a grocery store has officially opened at the Xit'olacw townsite.
Tim Schmidt, interim general manager of the Lil'wat Business Corporations, confirmed to Pique last week that the First Nation community east of Pemberton now has its own grocery store, eliminating the need for residents to travel four kilometres for food.
The store, which is called the Tsipun Grocery Store, had its soft opening last Friday but will have a grand opening in late August or early September.
"It really aims to provide the community with a fully-serviced grocery store because it is somewhat remote, and obviously not everybody drives to Pemberton," he said. "It aims at providing the same or better level of service that AG Foods or Pemberton Valley Supermarket provide."
Located on Blackbear Road, the Tsipun Grocery Store cost about $1.5 million to build and was made possible through the efforts of both community members and the Lil'wat Business Corporation.
The latter gathers revenues from involvement in concrete production, civil construction, the Lil'wat Gas Station and the corner store, all of which contributed funds toward the grocery store. Mount Currie Management Inc. and Creekside Resources Inc., both administered by Lil'wat, served as the managing companies on the project.
Bonnie Desrosiers, general manager of the store, said it also gets support from the Thrifty Foods Wholesale Division. She went on to say the store isn't just meant to serve Mount Currie - it's also there to provide food for an "outlying community base."
"D'Arcy, Owl Ridge, Skookumchuk Way, they all have to go to Pemberton," she said. "(The store's) providing a service for all the communities at the end of the valley. So it's open to everybody, not just Mount Currie members."
When asked why the band decided to build the store when there's already two in fairly close proximity in Pemberton, Schmidt said it's to ensure that the community can obtain good food close to home.
"It is largely access and making sure the community members all have access to good quality foods, fresh produce and fresh meat and everything else," he said. "But also to allow us to control what the community members, I guess, are exposed to, and to perhaps in the future even look out for products that are locally sourced."
Schmidt and Desrosiers eventually hope to provide some distinctive products made by local sources such as organically-grown produce and locally-canned salmon, but for now they're focused on opening the store and alerting the community to its existence.
Schmidt also said he's interested in selling produce grown in Pemberton.
"Up until now it's been a challenge to tap into that market," he said. "We would definitely prefer to find locally-grown foods. I think it's beneficial, basically, from an economic point of view, but also from an environmental point of view not to be shipping a tomato halfway around the world."
Desrosiers said the store expects to host a community event every month. First up is a fundraiser for youth soccer where she hopes to garner sponsorships from some supply companies and promote health within the community, another mission she hopes the store can carry out.
"The first thing we're going to promote is the healthy energy bars and vitamin water and stuff like that," she said. "And of course the fresh fruit and fresh vegetables."