Whistler’s Creekside Market Inc.
In Whistler, British Columbia, home of one of the largest ski areas in North America and host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Whistler’s Creekside Market Inc. has been a family-owned business, situated near the slopes for the last 27 years. The compact, chalet-style pedestrian village is a close-knit neighborhood, and the Creekside Market has been part of the fabric of this community since Jerry and Sana Marsh founded the independent grocery and specialty foods store in 1988.
Cozying into Creekside
The couple moved to Whistler in 1988 and first established Food Plus, a smaller 24-hour store across the street from Creekside Market’s current location. “Jerry was in the grocery business for years and together they ran the little market for 20 years,” says Kent Dawson, general manager of Creekside Market. “They always envisioned a full-service grocery store in the Creekside area. About 11 years ago, Jerry and Sana opened our current location and this has been the main business since. They now provide oversight and play a financial role and I run the day-to-day operations of the store.”
“Jerry and Sana are at the store most days, which helps keep that nice family feel to the market that is loved by all the staff and customers,” continues Dawson. “The office tends to be a meeting place for many of their friends that come into the market weekly.”
Since moving to Whistler the Marsh family has proudly served customers with quality, local products and family-friendly service. “Their children were raised here and the Creekside Market is a great family company to work for,” says Dawson. “As a longtime business, we’re really part of the fabric of this community.”
In fact, Dawson says its strong family-ownership and an accessible location that sets Creekside Market apart from larger corporations in the area. “Our independent ownership has been one of the strong suits of the market for years and our commitment to staff and keeping the small, family feel,” he says.
Jerry and Sana have always looked after the best interest of their employees, understanding the value of long-term team members. “Don Gourlie, assistant store manager, has been working with the Marshes for 27 years and it is because of them that he is still in the area,” says Dawson.
“Jerry and Sana really go above and beyond to help all the staff out,” adds Gourlie. “They provide the staff with ski passes, golf memberships and numerous staff functions throughout the year to help thank them for all their hard work. They truly are great people to work for.”
Find it all by foot
Creekside Market’s relatively small 7,500-square-foot location is centrally located, making it an easy target for foot traffic. “Whistler is a pedestrian village – more people walk, bike or skateboard than drive,” explains Dawson. “This is the case for many of the young people that arrive every year to Whistler. They normally don’t own a vehicle and we’re an easy walk from home.”
The Creekside Market offers a wide range of grocery items as well as natural and health products. While this side of the business is strong, Dawson says the store’s focus is in the fresh food sections of the market. “Our produce, deli, meat, seafood and bakery areas really drive the business and most of our growth in the last few years has been on the fresh foods side,” he says. “More and more customers shop on a daily basis which is really driving the sales of all our fresh offerings.”
Striving to source local items and support regional producers, the Creekside Market offers an ever-changing selection of seasonal items. In summer, shoppers find a range of fresh produce directly from local British Columbia farms. The selection includes organic blueberries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, potatoes, apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, organic greens and more.
“The meat and seafood departments have undergone a complete overhaul in the last year and a half and we are focusing on stocking Canadian-raised or -caught proteins,” says Dawson. “We source the best of the Alberta AAA beef available and we just recently started working with Rodear Farms, a natural grass-fed beef supplier from the inner British Columbia and the products have been very well received so far.”
“We source antibiotic and hormone-free proteins whenever available such as our pork from Paradise Valley,” continues Dawson. “We make all our own fresh sausages, burgers and sliders right in store. Our seafood is all wild and long-line caught, except for any fresh water fish such as our Lake Louise Steelhead that is raised on an organic diet.”
On the grocery shelves Creekside Market stocks a range of specialty items such as homemade balsamic reductions, locally-made chocolates, coffee, gelato, baby food, organic cereals, granolas, 100 percent pure Canadian maple syrup and baked goods and much more. To accommodate such a wide selection Dawson says the market has undergone a significant store renovation in the last two years and Creekside Market continues to perform remodels and updates. “We recently added more refrigerated cases to house more fresh items,” he says. “There are constant, ongoing updates.”
Going above and beyond in customer service
Dawson says the store is always looking for ways to meet the needs of its customers in terms of both selection and service. “We offer online ordering and delivery service so customers can have groceries direct to their door at home or a rental property in the Whistler area,” he says. “It’s as simple as ordering online with the desired grocery list in advance and we’ll save you time by accommodating the specifics of the order in a timely fashion. This is a service we’ve provided for many years to thousands of locals and visitors because people are here to enjoy the outdoors and all of the activities the area has to offer and this saves a lot of time.”
With some 10,000 year-round residents, population surges to upward of 35,000 in the busy winter season. “Whistler is very much a tourist area,” notes Dawson.
While Creekside Market certainly caters to visitors, Dawson says the business has garnered a strong local following. “We try to support all local producers and it helps drive business because people like buying local,” he says. “We’ve really focused on capturing local customers and looking after them because they help us thrive year-round.”
Dawson says the store’s biggest challenge is maintaining a steady workforce with such a seasonal dip in population. “We currently have about 60 employees and in peak season that jumps up to 75 to 80,” he says. “Our busiest two weeks of the year are right around Christmas and New Year’s and other busy times are around school winter breaks. But since hosting the Olympics, the legacy of the games has benefited business by drawing more people to Whistler all year.”
Even through the spring and summer, the municipality of Whistler has done an amazing job filling the offseason with numerous events such as; Tough Mudder, Ironman Canada, music festivals, concert series, children’s art festivals, national barbecue championships and more. “All of these events are making Whistler a year around destination now,” notes Dawson. “Our summer business is getting stronger than winter months and growing rapidly.”
Through the hustle and bustle of winter and now a more active summer season, slope-side Whistler’s Creekside Market Inc. continues to serve locals and visitors with a wide selection of grocery items and fresh, local products – all backed by family ownership.