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Safeway stores fly the Co-op flag

First two locations set to open today

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Store manager Paul Jackson and Red River Co-op general manager Doug Wiebe spent Wednesday putting the final touches on Co-op's new store in Southdale.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Store manager Paul Jackson and Red River Co-op general manager Doug Wiebe spent Wednesday putting the final touches on Co-op's new store in Southdale. Photo Store

The newest combatant in Winnipeg's grocery wars has arrived.

By this morning, Red River Co-op should have opened two of the four former Safeway stores it bought in February, at 1441 Main St. and 77 Vermillion Road. Its other two locations, at 850 Dakota St. and 1120 Grant Ave., will follow next week.

Doug Wiebe, Red River's general manager, spent Wednesday overseeing about 130 workers who gave the Southdale store a complete makeover during a 34-hour period prior to today's expected 7 a.m. opening.

While Red River will continue certain services that Safeway customers had been using for years, such as a pharmacy, deli and floral shop, it will also offer butcher services, which Safeway didn't.

"We hope to make some big inroads in this marketplace with cutting fresh meat in-store. Depending on the time of day, we should have somebody who can cut a special steak for you or a roast," Wiebe said.

Red River has also agreed to partner with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and will sell Bomber-branded products, such as granola bars and potato chips, as well as game tickets.

Red River sold Buck Pierce chips for a couple of years and Wiebe said a new player will be on the package now the quarterback has retired and taken a coaching gig with the team.

Wiebe said Red River is open to a number of possibilities for increasing revenue, including in-store liquor kiosks. He said liquor has been "very profitable" for its parent company, Federated Co-op, in Alberta.

"We have our first test store in Saskatchewan and liquor has gone off with a bang there. We think there's a good relationship between food and liquor. If we could do something with (Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries), we'd definitely be interested in doing that," he said.

Red River's grocery stores will not offer Air Miles -- that's a Safeway program -- but will offer the same profit-sharing model that it uses at its gas bars. Federated's grocery operations typically return three to four per cent to members, Wiebe said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2014 B8

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