Western Foods has kept it all in the family for 40 years.
Starting off with a small corner store in Esquimalt that eventually grew into a supermarket on Goldstream Ave., founder Charlie Low and his family celebrate Western Foods’ 40 years in the Western Communities with festivities marking the multi-generational family business run by Low’s children today.
“It all started with my parents opening and founding this store back in 1974,” said Low’s daughter, and current Western Foods managing director, Laura Lum. “It was farmland and they had the opportunity to open up the store and they went for it.”
Lum has been in the business herself for 20 years, it was her first job and she has worked in pretty much every department of the store from cashier, to the meat department to management, giving her an opportunity to learn from her father in the family business she is proud to be involved with today.
“It was great, he was my mentor and he was always in retail so he had that knack for knowing what people wanted and giving them the best value for the money,” she said. “Everything fresh and always giving back to the community, he knew all the customers.”
Western Foods boasts two locations today, the second opening in Sooke in 1995, and combine to employ more than 100 staff and more than 30,000 square-feet between the two supermarkets.
Lum said the trick to their success has been to keep the business family-oriented, by treating both their employees and their customers like family.
“I think that’s the most important for us,” she said. “We have lots of staff here that have been with us for 20 years. I think that’s key, we treat everybody like a family.”
Lum’s younger brother Ed Lowe manages the Sooke location and has seen the business go from the simple hand-written paperwork of decades ago, to modern scanning and checkout.
While methods have changed over four decades, he said their philosophies and principals haven’t.
“(I am) proud, happy and gracious we are still around, being the only grocery store in the Western Communities to have that history with the same owners,” Low said.
“It’s amazing what my parents did immigrating to Canada and starting a small grocery store in Esquimalt to having a great community business employing a lot of people.”
Lum said that pride is a big part of what they bring to the store.
“We are just so happy we have been in the community for 40 years and so happy for the support from the community,” Lum said. “ We hope to be here for another 40.”
The Western Foods 40th anniversary festivities are at the Goldstream location May 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event will include the Belmont secondary school marching band, free cake, clowns, face painting and a visit from Langford mayor and council.