Grant Wood, owner and operator of the new Canadian Tire in North Saanich, said he is looking forward to serving the Saanich Peninsula.
“I’m just excited to get this business and opportunity up and running, and being an integral of the community,” he said. “Our customers are our community,” he added.
Wood — who hails from British Columbia and opened his previous store in Newfoundland — made these comments Thursday morning shortly after cutting the ribbon to the store during the store’s grand opening. It had held a soft opening on Oct. 25.
North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr and Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith helped Wood cut the ribbon Thursday, with festivities running until Sunday afternoon. Legendary former National Hockey League goalie Kirk McLean will sign autographs at the store on Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
The store will also host face-painting and a balloon artist on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the first 100 customers will receive various giveaways Friday and Saturday.
If Thursday morning was an indication, Wood and his staff of 50 will be busy.
“We had 125 to 130 people waiting outside [Thursday morning],” he said. “I think the community is welcoming us and we are looking forward to doing business.”
So is the local business community.
Gordon Benn, president of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said today’s grand opening sends a positive signal about the Peninsula as a place to do business.
“It helps keep the shopping dollars at home, and we are delighted to welcome them to our business community,” he said.
In fact, Benn believes that the store will not only stop locals from heading south, but it will also attract shoppers from Greater Victoria municipalities outside the Peninsula, such as the District of Saanich as well as the City of Victoria, with benefits for all businesses in the region.
Reasons for this assessment include the size of the store with a retail space of 32,000 sq. ft. and a garden centre scheduled to open in the spring of 2019.
“It will have attractions other Canadian Tire stores don’t have,” he said.
Unique features of the new store include among others touch screens throughout the store allowing customers to search for products and check prices. The auto service centre will also include top-of-the-line automated equipment.
Canadian Tire store is the first retailer opening at Sandown Park, a commercial development of 12 acres on the site of a former horse racetrack.
Plans to develop the site have been in the works since the District of North Saanich approved plans by the landowner of the racing track to split the property into two parcels in 2014, with 12 acres going towards Sandown Park, and the remaining lot of some 85 acres coming into the hands of the District as potential farmland.
“The political and economic climate of that site was very favourable,” said Benn, who anticipates that this development will spark additional development.
North Saanich received an application from Canadian Tires in late 2016.