Whether they’re peckish beach-goers or starving university students, the team at Pepper’s Foods, tucked down by Cadboro Bay, welcomes customers for locally-sourced fare with a warm smile. Their hospitality has earned the little grocery store many awards over the years and this month, their trophy shelf got a little more crowded.
On May 11, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) hosted its annual awards in a virtual ceremony. Saanich’s Pepper’s Foods took home the bronze Independent Grocer of the Year Small Surface award – the category for all Canadian grocery stores under 15,000 square feet.
Pepper’s 2021 awards season kicked off when they picked up the Family Business Excellence award at the Family Business Association of Vancouver Island’s annual ceremony in April. Then came the CFIG awards.
Before the winners could be selected, a judge toured independent grocery stores across the country to score them on everything from cleanliness to customer satisfaction, explained Cory Davits, Pepper’s Foods general manager. He’s worked at the store for 35 years alongside his family – his father, John, is the owner, his uncle, Don Way, serves as store manager and his wife, Shannon, and daughter, Madison, also work at the store.
Pepper’s Foods picked up the regional Small Surface award as the top-scoring store in B.C. and the Yukon. This put the 4,000 square-foot grocery store in contention for the national award which was announced this month.
Upon hearing they’d been awarded bronze in the national competition, Davits “went around and congratulated everyone (on staff) for their efforts.” Because of COVID-19, the team couldn’t attend the ceremony, but he hopes to have a belated celebration once the restrictions loosen.
“It’s an honour because we’re beating out stores that are three times the size of us,” he said. But, it’s not all about the awards, it’s about making customers happy – something he says he couldn’t do without his dedicated team.
The accomplishment was more poignant this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Davits commended his team for making the store shine under the stressful conditions they faced as frontline workers.
Across town, Country Grocer’s Royal Oak store won the silver national award in the medium surface category – 15,000-25,000 square feet – and a gold award for the medium surface category for the B.C. and Yukon region.
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