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Tru Value Foods: Purveyors of Nourishment for Body and Spirit
Tru Value Foods (TVF) is a 20-year-old, four-location full-service grocery store chain with a sincere commitment to providing quality, competitively priced products and services that contribute to the health of communities in and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
“Our philosophy really is a simple one,” explains Phil Greenhalgh, part-owner and general manager of TVF. “Look after your staff and your customers, you will get it back.”
Investing in the Local Community
Putting staff first so they in turn put customers first, always delivering services shoppers can rely on, has resulted in TVF being a valued and respected part of its communities. The company started from one location in Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula, but expanded with locations on Mayne Island, Pender Island and two on Quadra Island. The clean, friendly environments and excellent variety of community-minded products of TVF immediately made the company a hit in their neighborhood niche.
“Today, we are one of the primary grocers on the Gulf Islands and we strive to be involved with our communities and our neighbors. For example, in 2001 we launched our Spirit Board Program, which directs one percent of all of our sales back to local charities,” asserts Greenhalgh. “We try to source local products whenever available and to support local charities as much as we can. It’s a key part of finding success on the Islands and we feel it is important for the customers to see that we are invested in the economic stability of the communities in which we serve. The more they shop with us, the more we are able to give back through our Spirit Board Program, and the more employees we are able to employ and support.
“More than anything, though, we listen to the customer,” continues Greenhalgh. “We have done customer surveys in the past and we always respond. If a customer can’t find something on our shelves, they can always ask and we will do our best to get it in for them.”
This philosophy to customize each venue to local needs is further informed by the unique geography across which TVF operates. “Our business is incredibly seasonal,” reveals Greenhalgh. “In the summer months, we have a lot of tourists and people who will bring their boats up to visit the Islands, as well as many people who own cabins but live on the mainland. We have become very sensitive to the needs of the boaters, who will often stop by to refuel at Island marinas and stock up on supplies with us. As they will be without a vehicle, we will bring the customer and their groceries back to their dock. It’s a service we take pride in providing to the customer."
Growing on Experience
Though the company has grown in recent years, thanks in part to its conscientious initiatives, the past few years have not been without their trials. “The company was originally started in 1991 by Wayne Verch and Jerry Rainer. Last year in July, sadly, we lost Wayne to a stroke,” explains Greenhalgh. “That same year, just one month after Wayne’s passing, the landlord of our original location decided not to renew our lease.”
Despite these devastating losses, TVF never lost its center. “Wayne was a cabinet member with the B.C Cancer Foundation’s Inspire the World Campaign. In honouring his commitment to that program we decided to start our own bottled water program with the intent of donating a percentage of the sales proceeds to the Inspire the World Campaign in his honor,” explains Greenhalgh. “We do a lot of fundraising in our stores in support of this charity and we have made it a priority to give back to that organization.”
Additionally, the Company is in the preliminary stages of finding a new location to replace the Brentwood branch. “We’re still in the very early stages of finding a new location, but we’re very excited to continue growing the company,” says Greenhalgh.
Focusing on What Matters Most
TVF has been growing. Its founders left jobs with Thrifty Foods, a large Vancouver Island-based retailer, and set out to realize the dream of starting an independent chain. Now, no matter the location, TVF prides itself on providing “small-town friendliness with uptown selection,” including healthy, all-natural and organic goods, and to this day maintains a healthy relationship with Thrifty Foods to facilitate its selection.
“Wayne and I met years ago when we both worked for Thrifty Foods and we always kept in touch. Eventually he invited me to come and help him grow the business, and I decided that because all of my kids had grown up that I could afford to buy into the company and take a little bit of risk,” laughs Greenhalgh. “I have enjoyed this job 100 percent, because every day is different and because Wayne and Jerry really brought the Thrifty Foods philosophy to Tru Value Foods.
“We currently source most of our produce and grocery items from Thrifty Foods Independent Services Division, which supplies wholesale produce and other items to independent grocery stores,” continues Greenhalgh. “It would be very difficult for us to do business without them. The Independent Services Division has been fantastic to work with. They care about us and work very hard for us. The manager of the Division, Sturdee Arden, and his team are just phenomenal assets to us. They make sure that we get a lot more than just products from them. They even came in and helped us revamp the produce department at one of our locations, right down to moving produce cases and racking. They will help a client reorganize their whole store if needed. They get really involved and I don’t think there is any other independent supplier who will do what they do for us.”
Several core Thrifty Foods values have been learned by this long-standing relationship, including the fact that trust and confidence in a company’s employees is paramount to the success of a company. “We realized very early on that taking care and trusting employees are key to creating a good shopping experience for customers. It’s something I learned from Alex Campbell, who founded Thrifty Foods. He told me when I was a store manager that the best thing you can do is to simply be clear about what you expect from your staff and give them the tools to do it. Aside from that, you need to trust and have confidence in them, and I have learned firsthand how important that can be. I have complete trust in our store managers. They are excellent, excellent store managers who have passion for what they do,” says Greenhalgh.
With solid relationships amongst staff and suppliers, Tru Value Foods is sure to continue growing the brand as it was always envisioned – a company with integrity and complete dedication to those it serves.