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Leaders react to Grenfell Co-Op closure

The Grenfell Co-Op in St. Anthony is closing after 105 years in business.
The Grenfell Co-Op in St. Anthony is closing after 105 years in business. - Kyle Greenham

Mayor and MHA express thoughts on loss of historic store

ST. ANTHONY, NL – Political leaders are expressing sadness at the announcement the Grenfell Co-Op will be closing after 105 years in business.

For St. Anthony mayor and chamber of commerce president Desmond McDonald, his biggest concern is the job loss.

The Grenfell Co-Op employed 17 positions – now all gone.

“My hope is they’ll find employment elsewhere, rather quickly,” he said.

“The board, the employees there, put in a lot of time. They worked hard to keep it going through the tough times. And unfortunately, they weren’t able to turn it around.

“A lot of kudos goes out to those guys, they have to be thanked because of what they did to keep the doors open to the Co-Op.”

According to McDonald, losing a business like the Grenfell Co-Op has an effect on the whole community– especially a business that’s been established for 105 years.

“It’s sad to lose touch with a part of our history,” he said. “And to know this was a community organization versus a corporate entity – you lose part of your community spirit when stuff like this happens.”

He said the Co-Op was a huge supporter of community charities that will now have to find another source to be able to operate.

Fixture

St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows MHA Christopher Mitchelmore released a statement to the Northern Pen over Facebook on the closure of the Grenfell Co-Op.

“The Grenfell Co-Op was a fixture in St. Anthony for more than a century, since the days of Dr. Grenfell. I want to thank the board, management, staff and loyal members for contributing to the Co-Op’s success and also in recent years relaying the dire situation of the need for members to support the Co-Op,” the statement reads.

“It is certainly sad to see the oldest retail Co-Op in Canada set to close.”

Mitchelmore advised former employees they could receive assistance from one of the government departments.

“The Department of Advanced, Education, Skills and Labour in St. Anthony can help assist employees that are impacted through resume writing, job search, career counselling and re-training opportunities,” he said.

Both McDonald and Mitchelmore noted the business couldn’t operate without a stronger consumer base.

“Customers chose not to support the Co-Op, they chose to support its competitor,” said McDonald. “That’s the nature of business sometimes.”

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“There are tremendous benefits to co-operatives, but they can only exist with the support of their membership,” said Mitchelmore.

Now, McDonald and others in the community are concerned the competition will be able to increase prices.

“If food rises, and we’re expecting a hike in electricity rates, and with that comes inflation on everything, how do people on fixed incomes survive these changes?” he asked.

“We may not see an increase in food prices. You might just have your regular inflation rate and that’s it. But competition drives businesses to be more competitive and offer deals. Now, we’re in a situation where that may not be necessarily the case. But we’ll see.”

He points out there are a lot of communities in the province with one grocery store and they seem to be doing fine.

McDonald says the town hasn’t received any interest from any outside chain or franchise to start a grocery store in St. Anthony.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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