The long-awaited downtown grocery store opened its doors to serve the Vernon community Thursday morning.
FreshCo’s store manager Sean Watson, a familiar face to the neighbourhood, said he’s excited to be open to the community and offered his gratitude for Vernon’s patience as the new grocery chain replaced the Safeway amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safeway closed its doors after 54 years in November 2019.
“Seniors in the area have been without a downtown grocery store for a while and it’s definitely nice to be back open for them and give them some options,” Watson said Thursday, June 18. “And help out the people in the area that have been feeling the pain with increased traffic flow and whatnot due to us being closed.”
Watson may look familiar as he served as Safeway’s manager for nearly three years before the switch to the value-based FreshCo.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Watson said. “We’re about the value to the customer.”
FreschCo may not offer all the full-service amenities other grocery stores have, such as a deli counter, but that value saved is re-directed toward the customer, the manager said.
“Deli-wise, you can still, more or less, get what you can get, but you’re getting it packed and at a cheaper price,” Watson said.
FreshCo also brings wider ethnic options, wider aisles, scooter-friendly check stands and other new additions.
“It was really about trying to design a layout that would benefit the people that shop here the most,” Watson said.
Now, customers and foodies from near and far can find something to satiate that craving as FreschCo offers foods from South and East Asia, the U.K. and Europe, “not only in the fresh departments but up and down the grocery aisles and in the frozen departments as well,” Watson said.
Opening during the middle of a pandemic has posed its obstacles, Watson said.
Issues with supply chains are one thing, but Watson said the FreshCo Vernon team has implemented all the standard grocery store requirements to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Directional arrows on the floor, one-way aisles, physical distancing and increased sanitization of hands, shopping carts and high-touch areas are all among the implemented changes.
“We’re doing things to keep not only our customers safe but our employees safe as well,” Watson said. “All while offering an excellent shopping experience as well.”