Over the past year, a local landmark has been in the midst of a metamorphosis.
Now Nesters Market is bigger and better than before, and determined to hold its share of the grocery market in Whistler.
The grocery store has gone through extensive renovations over the past year, while keeping its doors open to the public, and the company wants to thank its customers with an official grand opening.
"We've put out our customers in a big way for the last nine months. We've put a full week together for them just to say a big thank you for their loyalty to us," said Bruce Stewart, the general manager of Nesters.
From Dec. 9 to 15 the store will be having giveaways every day, in addition to demonstrations, samplings and "huge specials."
Next Saturday, Dec. 15 the celebration winds up with a barbecue in front of the store. Everyone is welcome to munch on a European smokey and have a drink between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
"I'm very relieved that the store is almost finished," said Stewart. "(The past year) was mayhem. It was very challenging to shop and finish the construction around the customers."
Despite the inconvenience of construction, many customers still came to Nesters to shop.
"Our business was strong over that period. People seemed very excited about the changes," said Stewart.
Now the store boasts a new bakery, a specialty meats counter, an expanded deli, as well as a live fish tank with lobster and crab.
The back of the store has more than doubled, jumping from 6,000 to 13,262 square feet.
With the extra room, Nesters now has wider aisles and more overall selection in products, including a larger organic produce selection.
"I find people are getting to be more particular about what they cook. They're more interested in gourmet cooking, continually looking for quality ingredients," said Stewart.
Nesters has been a local landmark in town since March 1987. It was one of the few places for locals to get groceries for a long period of time, said Stewart. In fact, at Christmas there would be a bouncer at the front door to stagger the amount of customers coming into the store at any given time.
In 1995 however, the IGA moved into the centre of town and many people thought Nesters would not be able to compete. This new expansion proves those skeptics wrong.
"What we lack, we gain the in the quality of customer service that we offer, and our prices of course," said Stewart. "Our whole mission statement is 'where the locals shop.'"
Nesters prides itself on its commitment to the local community. The company participates in fundraisers and charitable events and this year the store is giving a $1,000 university scholarship to a local high school student.
The company has stiff competition from both IGA and the Grocery Store but Stewart said Nesters remains competitive because of their dedication to lower prices, quality of product, and friendly customer service.
The challenges and rewards facing a small grocery store in a resort town are far different than those of a chain store in the city.
Finding and retaining quality staff who are staying in Whistler for more than one season can sometimes be very difficult, Stewart said, not to mention the large overhead, the lack of space and winter delivery problems.
Another challenge is trying to meet the flood of customers that descend upon the store between 4 and 8 p.m.
But there are perks that come with working in a place like Whistler. And even though the store is in one of the top ski resorts in the world, Stewart said the locals are the best thing about working at Nesters.
"The biggest perk is the customers... having the same people come in on a daily basis, you get to know them," said Stewart.
"Thanks again to our loyal customers and we look forward to seeing you for the grand opening," says Stewart.
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