When it comes to friendly and helpful customer service, Kootenay Market is near the top. That’s one of the main reasons the popular grocery store has become the destination for many local food shoppers. Due to this success, the store is looking at a major expansion, which should happen early next year.
“Kootenay Market is known as having a very friendly staff,” said manager Dan Rye. “We’ve won many awards for customer service. Over the years we’ve won retail business of the year through the Chamber of Commerce, we’ve won customer service awards through the chamber. Our draw has always been friendly staff. When people leave here we want them to be happy – with a smile on their face.”
The store is proud to hire local students and give them a leg up in their employment careers.
“We hire a lot of students and in a lot of cases it’s the students’ first jobs,” said Rye. “We work with that. We’ve got people work here that have played for the Rebels and done other sports. We try to work around that. Work is not everything. These kids go to school five days a week and I don’t expect them to work every night and every weekend. It’s worked very well for us. We’ve had some families who’ve had three or four kids work with us. We feel it’s a good place to work. We try and make it a good, friendly atmosphere. I believe that’s the strongest point of the store.”
Another area in which Kootenay Market prides itself on is buying locally whenever possible.
“We support a lot of local, say within 100 kilometres, companies,” said Rye. “We get a lot of stuff out of Grand Forks, Nelson, Creston. A lot of that is our specialty us. We’re buying borscht from a lady up the Slocan Valley. We’re buying yogurt from a company in Grand Forks. We’re buying coffee from Winlaw. We really try to support local businesses.”
Rye says that organic produce has become very popular in recent years.
“We started going into the organics, I’d say about seven or eight years ago,” he said. “We started with just a few ideas and ‘we’ll see how it goes’. I was a little leery at first, I’ll admit. But now we’re bringing in organic produce at least once a week. We just don’t have enough room to do it properly. Probably with the expansion we’ll be looking at doubling our organic space.”
Rye also want to expand the fresh deli. “We’re offering soups now,” he said. “We make sub sandwiches, pizzas, wraps, all here. The demand is there and we’re doing it. Our deli is something we really want to expand on and do a better job with better selection and more hot foods.”
Kootenay Market has applied and received the necessary permits to begin expansion, which will add on extra space to the north side of the building.
“We’re adding about 5,000 square feet,” said Rye. “We’re going to basically double our freezer capacity; probably double our cooler capacity. Expand on our fresh produce departments and expand on our natural foods, which is becoming more and more of what people want to buy and we are selling a lot of it and we’re going to do a better job of it.”
Rye said the store is almost ready to being the expansion.
“We have the re-zoning permission from the city,” he said.
“It got approved by the city. It’s just a matter of getting the drawings (blueprints) out for some quotes and hopefully get it started in the spring.”
Rye anticipates the work will take about six months, which would mean it should be completed around fall of 2013.
“Right now we have three checkouts, so we would be gaining another checkout,” he said. “Plus we’ll be putting in a customer service area. So basically we’d have five checkout areas. We’re going to expand on fresh deli. We’ll be putting meat freezers on the floor, which we don’t have right now.”
Rye says the expansion has been in the works for awhile.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about doing for quite some time,” he said. “I think it’s a good time to do it. We’ve got a good little business that we’ve established down here and it’s time to reinvest.”
Kootenay Market has been in Castlegar in the same location since 1998. Rye came to town in September of 1999 and has been the store manager since then.
“In that time we’ve seen our store grow and we’ve seen our staff grow along with it,” he said. “We’ve got a nice little market here in this area. We get a lot of walk in traffic. We get the seniors from Castlewood coming over. We’ve got M&M’s here and the flower shop and the liquor store. Hopefully, we can make this more of a destination.”
Rye is certainly active in the community. He is a former president of the Castlegar Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce. He is currently on city council and is enjoying his first term in office.
“I love it,” he said about his time on council so far. “I think council is good. It’s a good group of people. There’s a lot of good things happening in the community so far. I think the idea that Castlegar is becoming the hub (of the West Kootenays) is coming more to fruition all the time.”