In a terse joint statement, the Co-op and Tsartlip said only that they had decided not to proceed with the business venture known as the Gowdy Road Project.
“It got to the point where we did a detailed feasibility study, and quite frankly the cost of the project combined with the amount of market share we’d require to make it financially feasible and provide an adequate return on our shareholder’s investment just wasn’t there. It’s just that simple,” Erik Gault, operations manager and interim CEO for the Co-op, said in an interview. “It’s expensive to undertake.”
Gault said the Co-op is now going to have to consider all of its options.
“I think it’s time for us to stop and take a look and see if there is a better way to skin the cat, so to speak,” he said.
In a bid to expand its food store, currently an 18,000-square-foot facility on Keating Cross Road, Peninsula Co-op in 2010 planned to build a grocery store on land near West Saanich Road.
But faced with problems around rezoning that land, the plan was scrapped in 2011 in favour of the project on Tsartlip First Nation land near Stelly’s Cross Road and Gowdy Road.
The agreement with the Tsartlip would have had the Co-op lease 5.6 acres for 99 years from the band to build a food market, including a fast-food outlet, new space for the Co-op’s head office and possibly a financial institution.
With both plans now cast aside, the Co-op is left wondering what to do now and whether its future lies in Central Saanich, Gault said.
“We have no plans other than we’d love to stay in Central Saanich. Our grassroots are here, and we’ve been here since 1977,” he said. “We’re in a tough position. We were hopeful we’d have a new food store in Central Saanich, but that doesn’t appear to be on the imminent horizon.”
When asked if there is space within the Keating Industrial Park — where they are now — for an expanded store, Gault said there may be but it’s not an attractive option.
“In my opinion, a successful food store would be located where the people are, and we are not in an ideal situation now,” he said. “It’s an industrial park. It’s called that for a reason.
“We have been blessed with good loyalty since we opened the doors ... but it’s not an ideal location. We don’t get any walk-up traffic,” he said.
Gault said they will likely look at options including keeping the existing store open, while perhaps looking at new locations within the region where Co-op members live.
“I think we have to look at everything and decide how do we move forward in a way that gives us the ability to get our products into our members’ hands,” he said.
Gault said everything will likely come under review when the new chief executive and general manager take over in March.
Dave Hoy, who for 12 years has been GM of the Mid-Island Co-op in Nanaimo, has been hired to take over from Ron Heal, who left the post in the fall.
The Peninsula Co-op has 58,000 members, a figure that has grown by about 4,000 each year as the company has expanded operations and now has annual sales in excess of $170 million.
The company employs 320, has 15 retail gas bars, five commercial card-lock facilities, a home-heating division and a food store.
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