Casey’s a community fixture for eight decades

Market in Oak Bay features South Island produce

Kevin Lui

Come 3 p.m. during school season, kids rush the candy shelves at Casey’s Market, a post final-bell tradition that could go back 80 years. The market celebrates eight decades of business this year.

“The most popular is ice cream,” said Kevin Liu, who bought the business just over a year ago. This summer they doubled the ice cream flavour offerings to 16. “It makes it harder for the customer to decide.”

Liu focuses on local products, including Sun Wing tomatoes and produce,

“Many people here used to drive to the farm,” Liu said.

There are baskets of Sol Farm strawberries, Portofino baking from buns to single-serving sized sweets. The deli features sandwiches made fresh on-site each morning, with the turkey far and away the most popular.

A business relationship with Thrifty’s allows for purchasing, and in turn providing, non-perishable product at a competitive price.

This year they introduced Island Farms in response to customer suggestions, carrying two brands, a risk for a smaller market.

“We try to have more variety for customers,” Liu said, noting the area has a significant senior population. “They need conveniences to get everything.”

Despite the demise of most movie rental shops in the region, Casey’s still offers video rentals, though they don’t see much action. Liu has a plan though, he’s working out a structure such as a $5 annual membership to access the entire 3,000-title library.

In another traditional corner store consideration for the neighbourhood, they keep large bottles of pop and sparkling water in the cooler. It’s not unusual for someone to pop by in the evening to grab a drink for the dinner table.

Liu embraces the community that he says has embraced him. A regular coffee klatch meets on the patio, enjoying the Island-roasted organic coffee. When he came just over a year ago they welcomed and supported Liu. They’re good people, with helpful advice, he says. For example, a potted tree at the back of the patio came from a customer. “They support me,” he said, noting positive feedback on the changes he’s made here and there. “I’m encouraged by that.”

They’re also buoyed by increased sales over the year.

“We are quite stable because of the support from the neighbourhood. They want to buy from us,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot during the last year – still learning.”

To celebrate 80 years, staff and family at Casey’s dished out free cones and               more than 300 hot dogs a while back. Liu says that community feeling, and this business in particular, gave him the best introduction to Canada when he came from China.

“It’s a good way for me to understand local culture and community. It gives me a fast track to put me in the local culture,” he said. Even now, with a comfort level that now sees him venturing out to Langford or Saanich, “I still think Oak Bay is the best place.”

 

Casey’s Market, and its doubled selection of ice cream flavours, is located at the the intersection of Central and St. Patrick’s avenues.

 

 

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