And then there were two Thrifty Foods stores in Courtenay

Despite rain, a large and enthusiastic crowd gathered Wednesday for the grand opening of the new Thrifty Foods in Courtenay.

THRIFTY FOODS CROWN ISLE manager Jeff Ackinclose

THRIFTY FOODS CROWN ISLE manager Jeff Ackinclose

Despite rain, a large and enthusiastic crowd gathered  Wednesday for the grand opening of the new Thrifty Foods in Courtenay.

“This is the second store in this great community that has supported us so loyally since 1994, so this is a real special store,” Thrifty Foods general manager Jim Dores said to the crowd in front of the new store at Lerwick and Ryan roads. “We’re really looking forward to earning the right to call you our customers in the years to come.”

Store manager Jeff Ackinclose thanked everyone for their hard work on the store, and later, when asked how he was feeling, he told the Record he was relieved after a hard push preparing for opening day.

“Relief. Relief that we’re open and all the hard work that the staff’s done has flourished in this store — it’s beautiful,” he said, adding he was pleased to see such a large turnout to the grand opening.

With 40,000 square feet of space, Thrifty Foods Crown Isle is a full-service grocery store with a pharmacy, floral department, and a huge fresh produce section featuring an eight-foot wall of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables prepared in store.

Dignitaries like Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula and K’ómoks First Nation Coun. Barb Mitchell attended, the Comox Valley Pipe Band gave a special performance, and St. Joseph’s General Hospital staff were on hand to celebrate the opening — and an announcement of extra fundraising for the hospital from Thrifty Foods.

Since 1996, Thrifty Foods has given over $34,000 to the St. Joseph’s General Hospital Foundation through the store’s annual Pumpkins for Charity campaign, which sees $1 for every pumpkin sold in all Thrifty Foods stores go to local hospital foundations.

In celebration of the new store, St. Joseph’s will receive $2 from every pumpkin sold at both Courtenay Thrifty locations until Halloween and $1,000 from the Thrifty Foods Pumpkins for Charity Facebook pumpkin carving photo contest.

The funds will go toward purchasing a new bladder scanner for the hospital. Lynn Dashkewytch, St. Joseph’s General Hospital Foundation executive director, called the store’s generosity “remarkable,” noting the importance of the funds.

“The offer for them to increase it from $1 to $2 is really wonderful because diagnostic pieces of equipment seem to be getting more and more expensive each year,” said Dashkewytch, adding the $34,000 to date has been a huge help at the hospital. “That’s helped a number of departments purchase really important medical equipment so it directly enhances the level of care for our family and loved ones in the Comox Valley.”

Once the giant pumpkin — rather than the traditional cake — was cut, customers flocked into the store to check it out, and take advantage of the free product samples and special deals offered on the big day.

Throughout the store, sample stations were set up with treats like fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain, cupcakes, and pieces of a 35-kilogram wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which had been aged for a minimum of 30 months in a special region of Italy.

When the Record caught up Jangula inside the store, he said he’s pleased about the economic growth the store will generate in the Comox Valley, noting his son used to work for the company and it treats its employees — and communities — well.

“Thrifty’s is a really good company,” said Jangula. “It has a great track record for … supporting community functions like Cops for Cancer — almost every community fundraiser has Thrifty’s behind it.”

Ackinclose pointed out 130 employees have been hired at the new store, about 80 of whom are from the Comox Valley. He also noted more jobs will crop up as the Thrifty Foods-owned Crown Isle Shopping Centre expands to include over 20 specialty store and restaurants.

The new Thrifty Foods store is the company’s 29th store and is now open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week.

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