“It’s a new opportunity, a new venture, for Southern Plains Co-op”

The Southern Plains Co-op’s grocery store in Estevan and its convenience store in Oxbow will soon have a different look, and just in time for summer.

The co-op has announced that liquor stores will be added to the two locations. Brian Enns, the general manager for the Southern Plains Co-op, said he is hopeful they can be open in early June.

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Construction will be complete for the two liquor stores, he said, and they will have the merchandise. The challenge will be to have all of the equipment and shelving in place.

“As we looked at how best we can provide service to our member customers, this is something that … was available.,” said Enns.

The liquor store for Estevan will occupy about 2,100 square feet. Three offices, which are in the space where the liquor store will be constructed, are in the process of being relocated to another part of the building. Those three existing offices will then be removed.

The store will extend from the admin department office to the area occupied by checkout No. 1.

“We’re remodelling our aisles right now,” said Enns. “We’ve extended them on the back end a little bit, and we will be reducing some of them on the front, and changing how the aisles are set up a little bit. We’re not losing any shelving space, but we’re changing the store moderately. Nothing major.”

Among the highlights of the Estevan store will be a growler bar, where people can get their growlers filled with Saskatchewan craft beer.

The Oxbow location will be attached to the convenience store and will encompass 1,500 square feet.

Both stores will have self-serve walk-in coolers, which will be the only ones in their respective communities. Those coolers will be stocked with beer, wines and other chilled products.

There will be a point-of-sale at each location, where customers will have to pay for their liquor purchases. But then after they have made their purchases, they can venture back into the main store area for their shopping. 

There won’t be direct access to the liquor stores from the exterior of the buildings. People will still have to go through the grocery store in Estevan or the convenience store in Oxbow.

Customers in Estevan and Oxbow are eager are eager to see the co-op starting to sell liquor, Enss said.

“It’s created a bit of a buzz around our customers. When they come in the store, they’re seeing the shelving moved, and wondering what’s going on, so we tell them. We’ve had really no negative feedback, and that’s quite interesting.

“At Southern Plains, we continue to look for opportunities to grow our business, and this year it turns out to be liquor.”

Enns noted that the rules regarding the sale of alcohol have changed, so anybody with a retail sales permit for liquor can sell it. The co-op was able to purchase an RSP from the existing vendor tin Oxbow, and secure one from a vendor in Estevan.

Co-ops in Saskatchewan are not strangers to the liquor business. Federated Co-op has people designated to help retailers starting to sell alcohol. Numerous liquor store outlets are tied to the co-ops in the Prairie provinces, including one in Stoughton.

“It’s a new opportunity, a new venture, for Southern Plains Co-op,” said Enns.

The projected cost of the renovation in Estevan is $700,000, while the expansion in Oxbow is projected to be $1.1 million. 

The co-op is looking forward to when the stores, and to having some products and services customers can’t get elsewhere in Estevan and Oxbow.

Enns said the co-op has been looking at different ways to invest into the community over the years. It has spent about $15 million on different projects in the last five years, with the new grocery store, convenience store and service station in Oxbow, and a new card lock service station on Estevan’s truck bypass. They’re also looking at a new grocery store in Carlyle.

And now they’re adding to their fleet of services in Estevan and Oxbow.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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