After over forty years as a Beacon Avenue fixture, Sidney’s Safeway grocery store will soon become a Save-On-Foods after a deal was struck between Overwaitea Food Group and Sobeys last week.
The Overwaitea Food Group purchased four Safeway stores in Greater Victoria previously owned by Sobeys in the deal announced last Thursday.
“We are thrilled to be able to welcome these stores, along with their existing team members and customers to our group,” said Overwaitea president Darrell Jones in a statement.
“As a local grocer our philosophy is to tailor our stores and the mix in those stores to suit the needs of our customers and their communities.”
Stores at Fort and Foul Bay roads in Victoria, as well as stores at Tillicum, University Heights and in Sidney will transition to Save-On-Foods locations sometime between mid-March and the end of April, said Julie Dickson, Overwaitea spokesperson.
“We start to take possession in mid-March and take two or three stores a week over about a six-week period,” she said.
In June, Sobeys, which operates Thrifty Foods, announced it was buying 213 grocery stores, 10 liquor stores, four distribution centres and 12 manufacturing centres that make up Canada Safeway, in a $5.8-billion deal. The deal triggered a sell-off order in October from the Canadian Competition Bureau to sell 23 Safeway locations.
Overwaitea is also purchasing 15 other store locations in B.C. and Alberta, 14 of which will become Save-on-Foods and one location will become Cooper’s Foods.
The move affects about 400 unionized employees in the Capital Region.
“We’ve let the team members and store managers know that all pay and benefits they currently have under their contracts will remain in place,” said Jones.
Safeway locations in Port Alberni, Ladysmith and Duncan, and a Thrifty Foods in Nanaimo are also part of the sale, meaning Safeway will vanish from Vancouver Island altogether.
“The face of retail food is really changing dramatically in B.C., and it’s a bit disappointing to see the Safeway banner disappear from the Island, but we’ll roll with it,” said Andy Neufeld, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers 1518, which represents both Safeway and Save-on-Foods employees.
Neufeld said new employee contracts will be “virtually identical” to the current agreements, and that all benefits and pensions will remain in place for existing employees.
“The important thing for Safeway members is they won’t go backwards under a new contract,” he said. “We are really delighted Overwaitea has stepped up and taken over these stores.”
— with files from Edward Hill and Daniel Palmer