Location manager Faye Gerring holds the keys to the new Valleyview Co-op Gas Bar/C-Store. PHOTO/SUBMITTED
By Anne Davison
Before the day dawns, at 6 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, Faye Gerring will open Virden’s Valleyview Co-op C-Store/Gas Bar for its first customers at the new location.
The new store at 555 Frontage Road, adjacent to the TransCanada highway, will give Valleyview Co-op members access to twice as many pumps and an enhanced experience.
Location manager Faye Gerring says her team is excited about moving to their new home.
"There is so much to look forward to as we get closer to opening: meeting new customers, having more space, increased traffic, displaying new products, having more storage, and a bigger store. I was here for the opening of the downtown location 27 years ago, so being a part of this new, modern location is extra special for me and my team."
Valleyview Co-op identified that they had outgrown the location at 114, 7th Ave S. and announced the purchase of a property on Frontage Road in January of 2022.
Energy Division Manager Sue Capern says Valleyview Co-op will decommission the downtown site over the next few months.
"The existing site in downtown Virden has been a great location to serve Co-op members. Currently, Valleyview Co-op is exploring opportunities to repurpose the site for our community's best interest. During the transition, there will be a three-day period where service will be unavailable. We hope to minimize this closure's impact on our members, and we look forward to welcoming them into the new highway location."
Feb. 11 will be the final day for Gerring and her team working the pumps at 7th Ave S. and King St. The transition to the highway location will take three days (Feb 12, 13, and 14), during which time both locations will be closed.
Gerring admits a twinge of nostalgia as they prepare to leave the downtown C-store. However, there’s no time to dwell on that as she adds new staff, looking at a 30 per cent increase in worker for the new location. Staff training began in September.
Over the years, staff turn-over has been low, a testament to Gerring’s steady hand. “I’ve been very fortunate,” she says of the staff she has worked with. “I’ve got some dependable workers, that’s for sure.”
Some of the recent applicants are young people. “I’m glad. It’s good for them to get out into the workforce. The co-op has been a good place for them to start to work.”
Relationships bolster the workplace culture and she’s pleased to say of past employees, “Lots of them still give you a big ‘Hi’ if they see you downtown. That’s very important.”
In a look back at her own 42 years with Valleyview she adds, “I’ve had good managers, very supportive.”
Amidst current busyness, she admits, “There’s some mixed emotions … leaving the place you’ve been.” In the next moment she says “But I’m excited about the new challenges. It’s going to be so much fun… once I get my staff here, they’re my rock. We stick together pretty tight.”
From the perspective of energy division manager, Capern notes that the square footage at the new location has almost doubled.
With almost twice as many pumps, she says, “Self-service is also available, although our focus is always going to be on full service, and that’s going to continue to be our focus and our brand. We just want to give our customers the options that they’ve asked for,” adding, “Those full-serve options can be hard to find in other markets.”
She says of Gerring, “Faye’s got a deep understanding, she’s been our manager for over 30 years. She’s kept that focus on service which is really important to her.”
Food is an important part of the service. “We’re doing iced coffee and we’re doing ice cream as well, soft serve ice cream.” Capern says that with a new convection oven, look for items like chicken fingers. “There’s all sorts of menu options that we’re going to try on for size. And then just see what people like.”
Valleyview’s move to the frontage area, and yet across King Street, distances them from the already busy strip. “I kind of like the fact that we’re on the other side. It’s just a little less busy on that side.” It means quick and easy access to the co-op’s gas and convenience store services from both the highway and the Virden town side.
The new gas bar and C-store is roughly a $6.5 million (projected) investment for Valleyview Co-op, something the store accomplished without financing, says Capern.
The move is expected to grow the sales. “We expect to potentially grow the business by an extra couple of million litres per year with the addition of highway traffic. That’s why we’ve added the additional staff and the additional pumps. It’s still a good location for people who live in town, but we’ll also be able to support it by additional highway business. When you look at expanding a business, there’s additional costs with that, so you want to grow the business (traffic) to support those costs.”