After almost 30 years in the Crestview community, the Sobeys at Cavalier Drive and Hamilton Avenue will close on May 1.
The decision was not an easy one, said Sobeys West spokesperson Keri Scobie, who listed demographics, location, improvement costs, and historical sales as factors that forced the company’s hand to not renew the location’s lease.
"They’re never really easy decisions to make when you’ve been part of a community, but Sobeys is a business and it’s a competitive environment," Scobie said, adding she’s had conversations with customers in the neighbourhood about the closing.
"We are about our customers and supporting communities, but there’s that balance… I can appreciate that people are upset that we’re moving, but it doesn’t always make sense for us to stay in certain markets."
The 44 staff were informed on March 10, Scobie said, and will all be offered positions at Sobeys’ 10 remaining Winnipeg locations.
Store manager Garry Gajdosik said he and his employees were asked not to speak to media about the closing.
One upset customer took his displeasure online. Kevin Nakonechny wrote on Sobeys’ Facebook page to tell "the bozos at head office who decided to close" the store that he won’t be shopping at Sobeys anymore over the decision. He asked to know why a store that is busy every time he shops there is closing.
Sobeys responded to him, thanked him for the comment, and gave the same explanation for the closing as Scobie did.
Other customers are more forgiving.
Liz Wiebe, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 1985 and raised three children, said she was sad to see the store closing but could understand the decision.
"I can see their point. I was in there now and it’s dead in there," she said around 6 p.m. last Wednesday.
"They have to make money," she said, adding she will continue to shop at Sobeys.
Lenore Carriere said she too is sad to see the store close, but like Wiebe will continue to shop at Sobeys.
"I know we have a Sobeys at Unicity, but I really like this store. Now I have to go fight traffic."
Debbie Janz, who works at a neighbouring business in the strip mall, said she’s heard rumours that the Cavalier Shopping Centre owner is negotiating with another grocery to move in.
"It could be just rumours. Everybody wants it to be true," Janz said.
The rumours might have grown from the efforts of Assiniboia MLA Jim Rondeau, who started a petition to keep Sobeys open.
Rondeau, whose office is in the same strip mall, says he’s since resigned to the fact that the company is not going to reverse course, but he thinks a new grocery store could survive there, and he’s using the petition now as ammunition to woo a new tenant.
"If we’re not going to have the Sobeys there I want another grocery store to accommodate local needs," Rondeau said, adding he has several contacts in the grocery industry and has been introducing them to the centre’s owner.
"I feel like a matchmaker."
Attempts to reach the building owner were unsuccessful.