Family business

Today was the last day for all of us to work together at Reggie’s. The store has been sold, and the new owners assume full control of the business as of Sept 1. Mom and Dad are retiring after 22.5 years of being in business – Across the Highway from Cowichan High School.

So many times I’d come to work in the past. And this would be the last time. And I know it.

When I was 15, I recall riding into town on my bike to work at the store. When I was 17, I’d come over in my spare during grade 12 and work during the school-day. Weekends through college. Every summer in my teens. Lots of after-school work.

There were lots of early mornings. When I was living at home, Dad would come in to wake me up by whispering from the doorway to my room, “Time to get up!”. Like last Saturday, when we got up at 4:45 AM for breakfast, and then drove into town in the Chevy. I always liked being in town and starting work before most everyone else was up – except for the truck-drivers. They’d be on the road. And many of them would stop at the store. Early. To unload skid after skid of all sorts of products.

And today would be the last day I would work many of those products. I’ve got my favourite fruits and veggies to work in the store, and tried to get around to all of them today.

Fresh veggies at the store!

Today I got up at 5 AM, and left James Bay at 6 AM, arriving at the store at about 7 AM. Things were in full-swing of course, as Reg and Al had already been flying at it for a bit. The second pot of coffee was about to go on, so I was in time for a fresh cup….I put on Grant’s green apron, and got busy with putting the veggies out on the rack.

Fresh veggies

Carrots was where I chose to start. Al reminded me that carrots was “Reggie’s job”. You see, no one is as good as Reggie at arranging the carrots in the display just right. I know that. And Reggie knows that. He sees me working the carrots, and comes over to give me a couple of tips. sigh So, I make them turn out alright. I had a 50 pound bag of BC carrots to work, so out they went.

And then peppers. Spinach. Green cabbage. Leaf lettuce. Parsnips. Beets. Mushrooms. I worked a bunch of the produce before moving onto the fruit……

Fully-stocked deli!

One of the fun things about the business is the seasonal goods that come and go throughout the year. Right now we have a lot of fruit like peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums. The fresh-picked corn is also here, from just north of town. BC Summer goodness….

Mom and Dianne soon rolled in and started setting up the deli. This would be the last day for all the deli-ladies to be all together in the store. I used to have a name for them when I was a kid working at the store. I called them the “wise-old deli ladies”. Yes, with all due respect, they were older than I. And all were ladies. And much, much, wiser.

We have quite a busy deli, with all sorts of international meat, cheese, and grocery items. The deli does catering, gift baskets, meat trays, and lunch. Boy, do they do lunch. The lunch business has been quite crazy for a while now, as the word got out that some of the finest and freshest sandwiches could be found in Reggie’s. So, a dedicated lunch clientele has become well-established over the years.

Dedicated customers. So many dedicated customers. I was quite lucky today, and this past Saturday to see some of my old customers, that shopped at the store when I was a kid, and that are still around. They’ve seen me grow up, and are always interested in what I’m up to now. One of the big jobs you do in a family-business is get to know the community by knowing its people. And now we know a lot of people. We know them, and they know us. I’ve had a few folks say to me that we are all so “community-oriented”. And that the store has been such a “community asset”. Many of them have been shopping with us since the day the store opened.

Mom and Dad

One of the challenging things in recent weeks has been informing people that the store is changing hands. In talking to Mom on the phone in recent weeks, she’s been telling me of the various reactions. Most people are delighted that my Mom and Dad are finally retiring after all these years, but they are really going to miss seeing them all the time.

Well, today was my last day to work at the store, and to share in the emotional effort it has been to spread the news. One of our customers was very delighted to see me there today, and asked what I was doing there today. I explained that today was our last day to work together as a family, assuming that she was in the loop on the recent sale. She didn’t know. And she’s been shopping at the store since the beginning. I could see that the news caught her a little off-guard. She asked to see my Dad – ‘Where is Reggie?” I took her around the back of the deli and ushered her in to see Dad. I left them behind, and got back to work on an order I was pulling for one of our wholesale customers. I didn’t find out until later that she shed a few tears back there while visiting with my Mom and Dad.

So, we pulled some orders. Answered the phone. Took more orders. Put out lots of stock. Bagged some groceries. Reg and I went for our final delivery trip downtown. Back to the store. Answered the phone. Saw a few more customers. Put out some more produce. Oh yeah, I worked the dairy case this morning. For the last time.

I ran around and took some pictures. Customers came in with gifts, and cards. Even balloons!

And then it was 5:30 PM. Time to close the door, and wind things down. Ring off the tills. Put away the deli. Put away the produce. Holiday ahead. Put away the cardboard out back. Clean, and tidy the floor. Count the sales. Do the book-keeping. I hung out with Reg until he was done all that. The cash balanced out close enough.

I gave Reg my key.