Walking into downtown Nanaimo’s Superette Foods is a trip back in time for longtime customer Howard Hill.
Here, price tags are still applied by hand, wooden floorboards creak, and there’s always time for a chat at the till.
“It’s nice to go back to the way life used to be. Slower and friendlier,” Hill told CHEK News Wednesday.
“It is old world or a part of even my old world. When I grew up, we had corner stores, and this is just an institute,” said Sharon Rae, a Nanaimo resident and longtime customer.
“Yeah, it kind of feels like a home in a sense, you know,” said Superette employee Anthony Hudson.
“It’s one of the cheaper places in town to buy food,” said longtime customer Earl Wesche.
But the discount grocery at the corner of Milton and Albert streets that still sells a whole bag of mixed produce for $2 is up for sale, and anxiety is mounting about what will happen to it when it’s purchased.
“With the food prices going crazy, people are nervous. It’s getting worse and worse,” said Superette employee Jeremy Van Wyck.
“I was almost in tears, pretty much in tears. It’s an institution that we need to maintain,” said Rae.
“This is heritage,” said Hill.
According to Gary Negrin, the owner of Superette Foods, he is ready to retire. The 72-year-old has worked at the store since he was a 13-year-old produce boy and said he bought it in 1977.
In a statement to CHEK News, Negrin said: “It was a two-way street. We looked after each other. It started out in 1977 as a four-year project and just kept going.”
“Every day I hear, ‘I don’t know what I’d do without this place.’ So the idea of it selling is making people nervous. So I hate to see that. But we’ll see. I think lots of paces sell and stay going,” said Van Wyck.
“I hope it stays open. It better stay open. Or I’m moving,” added Wesche.
With a $1.6 million asking price in Nanaimo’s high real estate market, the future of the corner store and historic building that’s been a general store since 1903 remains uncertain.
However, customers now choosing to remain behind the scenes are already discussing buying it and keeping the shop that has become a Nanaimo institution going.