Save-On-Foods operations manager Karen Solbrekken and manager Ted Murrell were slicing up pieces of cake for Nelson residents who swung by their anniversary celebration on Sunday.

Save-On-Foods operations manager Karen Solbrekken and manager Ted Murrell were slicing up pieces of cake for Nelson residents who swung by their anniversary celebration on Sunday.

Nelson’s Save-On-Foods celebrates 100 years of value

Overwaitea’s 100th birthday coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Save-On-Foods predecessor opening its Nelson store.

Grocer Robert C. Kidd purchased his first New Westminister business a century ago today. His innovative merchandising techniques, including selling 18 ounces of tea for the price of a pound, propelled the store to extraordinary success.

When Kidd eventually opened a second location he decided to embrace the neighborhood moniker his customers had given his store: Overwaitea.

“That’s how we got our name. It’s literally overweight tea,” said Nelson Save-On-Foods manager Ted Murrell, who was cutting cake and celebrating Sunday afternoon as customers streamed into the aisles.

He said Kidd’s dedication to cost-saving for customers has been maintained throughout the company’s history.

Murrell has been the manager of the local store since October 2013, after moving from Kimberley, and said he feels privileged to serve the community.

“This store is amazing. The staff is amazing, we’re a close-knit family. The energy in this place is second to none. The whole community, we’re all about local here in town, and all about organics and natural. We are different here.”

Murrell said because the Kootenays have quixotic eating habits and residents have particular locally sourced products they want to access, they try their best to cater their offerings specifically to the Nelson market.

“Each location has its own niche, and it’s been customized to each town.”

Below: In this ca. 1920s or 1930s postcard, the Overwaitea teapot sign is seen at left, where Hall Printing is today.

 

Murrell’s especially proud that the Overwaitea Food Group is currently working with more local growers, ranchers and producers than any other grocer in Western Canada. In the store he tries to cultivate a friendly atmosphere, where customers can expect to be chatted with at the cash register and welcomed by the staff.

He’s also committed to partnering with the Nelson community.

“That’s what really stood out to me when I first moved here: Nelson supports Nelson. That’s what really drives everything.”

And above and beyond being a grocery store, Save-On-Foods also tries to be involved in “pretty much everything,” he said.

“The community groups come in to see us and we help out however we can, with gift cards or donations or helping with their event. The big ones we really get involved in are the Canada Day celebration down at Lakeside, and Easter, which is coming up on Saturday, April 4. The whole community comes down, hundreds of kids. It’s so fun.”

The centennial of the business coincides with the Nelson store’s 90th and the location’s 35th anniversary. Originally located at 517 Baker Street, it soon moved to 419 (now 471) Baker St., currently the location of Hall Printing.

In the late 1950s, the store moved to larger premises at 503 Vernon St., where the Nelson and District Credit Union is today, but it was burned out on July 19, 1972.

It re-opened as an anchor tenant for the Chahko Mika Mall in 1980 and was renamed Save-On-Foods in October 2001 following a $4 million renovation.

Though there used to Overwaiteas in Salmo, New Denver, and Kaslo, now the closest grocery stores in the Overwaitea chain are in Grand Forks, Nakusp, and Creston.

— With files from Greg Nesteroff