Queued up first in line outside of Sobeys Extra Brandon South since 7 a.m. for its 9 a.m. opening on Friday, Dennis Kilborn said he simply wanted to learn what the newly expanded store was all about.
He usually shops at Real Canadian Superstore, but said he’d planned on comparing prices to see whether Sobeys might receive his business in the future.
Directly behind Kilborn for Friday’s grand opening, friend David Bell said he was already a Sobeys and Safeway regular and that he’d come to see what had changed in Sobeys’ shift from the east side of 18th Street to its new expanded location at Shoppers Mall.
Behind Bell were hundreds of others intent on seeing the new space; a group that continued streaming into the store more than a half-hour after the ribbon was cut for its grand opening.
At 62,500 square feet, the new Sobeys is the company’s largest.
In their shift to the new location, the grocery store’s staff level grew by approximately 50 members to its current 160, manager Ryan Hackett reported.
While the grocery department’s staff level remained approximately the same, their fresh offerings doubled in size, with produce staff almost tripling, Hackett said.
With healthy eating gaining in prominence, he said that it was important they meet that growing need in the market.
On this front, the new Sobeys also includes a Wellbeing Market, where wellbeing counsellor Nicole Gawthrop offers one-on-one meetings with clients to discuss their health goals.
Naturopathic doctor Jil Simmons is also on board to offer guidance alongside other health professionals, of whom all are registered dietitians.
Gawthrop said they hope to offer cooking classes and various other demonstrations at the new store’s community room.
Surrounding their station at the centre of the store are various health food items and natural materials, such as organic cleaning products.
It’s one of a few stores within a store at the new Sobeys, with a pet store located at the southeast corner, a pharmacy situated behind the Wellbeing Market and a Starbucks near the entranceway.
The space also includes an in-house kitchen and sushi bar with a full-time chef, creating an additional internal restaurant space, with people able to eat their purchases at tables set out at the community room.
Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony included remarks by three levels of government officials, with Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire citing the record-setting Sobeys footprint as evidence that "big things can happen in Brandon."
The opening ceremony set what Hackett said would be a precedent of community involvement by pledging $1,000 toward the City of Brandon Youth Centre and $500 to the Westaway Bay Family Resource Centre.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB