Tears and hugs were in abundance on Thursday, Safeway’s last day operating in Salmon Arm.
The store closed its doors on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m., after operating in the community since 1980.
“It’s been a really difficult day,” remarked Kevin Carson, a Safeway employee for 38 years, as he chatted with longtime customer Mark Pugh, who expresses condolences.
“It’s been 15 years coming up in November,” recalls Pugh, referring to how long he’s been coming to the Salmon Arm store. Every Sunday morning, he says, starting when his kids were small and were playing football.
“It’s kind of sad to see it going. My internal GPS comes here automatically. I’ll have to program it to somewhere else.”
Carson says many customers have been coming in, not necessarily to shop, but to say goodbye.
“I had one customer who comes in regularly. She has a scooter – she said ‘Kevin, who’s going to look after me now.’”
He explains she lives nearby and it’s not that easy for her to get around.
“It’s very heartwarming to realize how much we’ve impacted people’s lives. You get to know so many people – then something like this happens, it’s like losing part of your family.”
Like most of his co-workers, he’ll be heading to another Safeway, his in Kamloops. But first, he’ll spend five days in Salmon Arm helping to clear out the store and wrap things up.
Like Carson, Todd Carscadden agrees it’s a tough time.
“It’s very sad – all the customers, employees, it’s like one big family,” he says.
“All the customers have been very supportive of us in our future, wishing us luck. It’s been very nice.”
Sharon Hersey is a relative newbie at Safeway, having been an employee for eight-and-half years.
“It’s been mixed emotions. I’ve made a lot of friends with the customers – I feel bad for them.
For herself, though, she’s looking forward to a move to a new Safeway in a new town.
“I’m on a new adventure – I’m going to Cranbrook.”
Along with Kamloops and Cranbrook, towns the 48 employees will be heading to include Vernon, Kelowna and Langley.
Darlene Gooch knows exactly how long she’s worked at the Salmon Arm Safeway.
“Twenty-five years, 253 days.”
She’s shed lots of tears in the past few days.
“Most of these people, there are probably seven or eight of them I’ve worked with since I started. We’re scattered all over – it’s been almost like a grieving process I’m going through. The support of customers has been overwhelming,” she says. “Some of the people here I treasure. They have been great friends.”