Longtime customer Brenda Graham said she was sad and shocked when she saw the “closed” signs on the front of the Shopper’s Grocery Mart on Alberni Highway in downtown Parksville Monday.
“It’s awful. It’s your little corner neighbourhood store. People come here and play the lottery. I always got my lottery here and say hi to Don,” said Graham.
Owners Don Wilhelm and his sister Laura have owned the store since their mom and dad retired several years ago, but they’ve both worked there almost all their lives.
“We’ve always worked here. I was eight and my brother was nine, so I mean we’ve always worked in here,” said Laura.
“Yeah, it was fun, coming down and working for dad and getting some chocolate bars and a coke,” said Don.
Their parents had moved the family to Parksville from northern B.C. in 1978 where they had owned a gas station.
Shopper’s Grocery Mart had been in two locations in Parksville, including it’s most recent location on Island Highway for the last 32 years.
However, increasing competition, bigger stores staying open later and rising wages spelled the end. But increasing theft in the last three years was the final straw.
“There’s really nothing you can do about it,” said Laura. “It’s petty theft and most of the people who are stealing are drug addicts and homeless.”
“It was pretty big because our profit is so low that when someone steals something off you you have to sell a lot just to make up for the one that was stolen and eventually you just can’t keep up,” added Don.
They say it’s been a good run and appreciated their customer’s patronage.
“Yeah, end of an era and I’d like to thank all my customers who have been coming in all this time,” said Don.