Ardiel Investments Ltd.: Anchoring the North Shuswap Business Community

Ardiel Investments Ltd., better known as Scotch Creek Super Valu and Scotch Creek Esso (Super Valu), might just be the biggest little store in interior British Columbia. Super Valu offers a true one-stop shopping experience by offering a variety of amenities, which include a full line of groceries, a full-service deli, bakery, meat department and garden center, as well as an Esso gas station, a post office and the title of a Government Rural Liquor Agency.

Annette Brausse, president of Super Valu, manages to combine a big-city selection with the charm of a rural general store. Above all, it is Annette and her employees' personal attention to customer service that sets the company apart from all others. No matter how the company has grown over the years, Annette has retained a strong connection to the community as an anchor of the local business.

“I always say we run one of the most challenging and unique businesses in British Columbia,” jokes Annette, but she’s serious. “I have owned and operated the grocery store in Scotch Creek for 26 years. It has grown from the Scotch Creek Market with two employees to the Super Valu and a freestanding Esso station, which now has 40 to 80 employees depending on the season. Over the years our businesses have become quite unique due to the influx of the tourists, and it is a challenge to operate and staff.”

According to Annette, the town’s year-round population is 3,200 residents and during the tourist season that population can increase by up to 45,000 residents. “Our sales increase by 100 percent during the peak seasons,” Annette explains.

The facility has been converted into a full-scale warehouse complete with a bottle return service and a commissary kitchen, which churns out many fresh sandwiches, pizzas and other prepared foods every day for sale on the store’s retail side. As the economy develops in the Shuswap region of British Columbia, Annette has plans to relocate and build a new warehouse next to the store, which she hopes will increase efficiency and create new sales in the peak season.

A Friendly Neighborhood Feel

Annette is right on target expecting growth, as Super Valu has access to all of the signature President’s Choice and No Name private-label products that can be found regularly at Loblaws Inc.’s Superstores. “I’ve been a Loblaws wholesale customer for at least 26 years, so I really believe in the products,” adds Annette.

To that end, Super Valu stays on top of new and exciting product releases through a President’s Choice insider’s promotional event, which is held three times annually. Aside from that, the company has also focused efforts on keeping off-season sales healthy with in-store product samplings, tastings and promotions.

Annette insists on maintaining an ambitiously high level of service at all times of the year. When there was a drop in the economy 2009, Annette had to become more aggressive with pricing and advertising to ensure the affected communities would have access to the products they needed. “To me, it never mattered that we are a rural community 45 minutes from Kamloops [British Columbia],” asserts Annette. “I still want my customers to feel like they’re shopping downtown.”

During the off-season, Super Valu maintains inventory as fresh as in the summer months, though the operation does scale back somewhat. This allows the company to continually update and renovate smaller portions of the stores, installing either new freezers or a new deli counter, for example, in preparation for the busier summer months.

Cornerstone of Small Business

The family-operated company believes that every staff member should be willing to lend a hand with whatever is needed, including Annette herself who tries to keep a friendly neighborhood feel at the store by making frequent appearances and reinforcing the importance of getting to know the customer. “The only customer complaint we heard of when we relocated to a larger facility was that it meant I wouldn’t be out on the floor as often,” chuckles Annette.

And it certainly is a family affair. With the help of Annette’s husband, Tim, and their daughters, Amanda Jackson and Brittany Brausse, Super Valu runs smoothly. Amanda and Brittany are happy to work alongside Annette and Tim, overseeing and learning the business and making this a true family operation.

The family remains highly active in the community, especially Annette. She is one of the directors of the North Shuswap Community Association, community Food Bank, the Rural Agency Store Advisory, and is a member of the North Shuswap Chamber of Commerce. Annette’s spirit has clearly inspired the entire Brausse family, as they all help organize many critically important fundraisers for the community.

“My belief when it comes to fundraising is supporting a community that supports me,” says Annette. With the help of the company’s resources, the team organizes a wine and cheese tasting event every year at the North Shuswap Community Center, which brings in enough funds to run the community hall for six months, according to Annette. Other highlights for the community hall include a Father’s Day lobster and prime rib dinner, for which Tim prepares his famous mouthwatering prime rib. The sweet treats don’t stop there, as Super Valu is also involved with the school system’s Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) supporting the schools hot lunch program weekly throughout the school year.

Through her community involvement, Annette plans to focus her efforts on growing the off-season business. “I see that there is opportunity for growth in Shuswap, knowing that there is the possibility of a road connecting the area directly to the Sun Peaks Ski Resort nearby,” she explains. “Developing the road to Sun Peaks will establish extra avenues of off-season business for both communities and the possibility of triggering additional development around Shuswap Lake. Currently the Chamber of Commerce is working with the local government to create this additional long-term opportunity.”

No matter what, the Brausse family and the Ardiel Investments Ltd. team will continue to remain anchors of the North Shuswap business community, succeeding with a perfect balance of big-city selection and small-town charm.