By Laura Keil
Valemount’s only dedicated grocery store may continue to have periodic closures for at least a week, as the company battles persistent high temperatures and poor ventilation, but store officials say they are “moving mountains” to ensure customers have access to a safe food supply while the problem is fixed.
The heat wave, paired with a recent roof repair that sealed up previous air circulation, knocked out a compressor in early July.
“The compressor room was up to 55 degrees Celcius,” said Mark McCurdy, VP Retail Operations and Brand Strategy with Georgia Main Food Group, which owns the store. He added the other problem was temperatures were so high, staff couldn’t work.
It was a triple whammy for the store, which also saw its manager leave last week. McCurdy said a new interim manager is arriving. Two other store representatives have been in Valemount this past week coordinating the effort to get the new compressor up and running. Today (Monday) was the first day they tested out the coolers using the new compressor.
But with temperatures forecast in the 30s and high 20s again this week, McCurdy says if the building traps too much heat, they may be forced to close in the afternoons, opening instead at 6am until mid-morning and possibly opening again in the evening. Closing in the afternoons would allow them to move products into the walk-in coolers in the back of the store to keep them fresh. He said they have also temporarily shut down the bakery, since the ovens were adding too much heat to the building, but they are bringing in commercial breads.
The long-term solution is installing air conditioning. McCurdy said they are working with the landlord to get a commercial HVAC installed to help with the air flow and air conditioning, but it could take a week or two before it arrives.
“We’ve spoken with the landlord and he recognizes this is an emergency situation,” he said, noting that even overnight the store isn’t cooling down, sitting at 26 degrees Celcius early this morning.
Valemount’s Mayor Owen Torgerson said he had a conversation with the building’s owner and stressed the need for a rapid response.
“We both agreed that rapid repairs were necessary,” he said. “He said that they’d be working on temporary solutions while more permanent repairs were being planned.”
McCurdy said in the meantime the store is trying to create a safe environment for customers and staff. Regarding food safety, he said all coolers are checked hourly to ensure they maintain the proper temperature.
“Any food that was in harm’s way we had to throw out. Unfortunately we had to dispose of most of our fresh products.”
Anything that has gone bad can be exchanged and the customer should also receive a gift card in what he calls a “double guarantee.”
He said a new food shipment is coming tomorrow (Tuesday) and another one on Wednesday.
The store was closed for a period over the weekend, and opened late on Monday, around 10am.
“We’re opening up as long as we can to help people get in and buy groceries,” McCurdy said. ““We’re moving mountains to get this fixed and get it right so that we can continue to provide groceries for Valemount.”
McCurdy said this is the only IGA store affected this way, but other stores around the world have been similarly affected by the heat wave. He said they will be getting more information out to the public in the coming days pertaining to store hours.
The store manager, Bert Pyper—who worked in Valemount for about a year—had trouble finding good rental housing due to the influx of pipeline workers and inflated rental prices, McCurdy said, and was recently offered a position in Alberta where he lived previously.
Other places that sell groceries in Valemount, including some fresh produce, are Valemount IDA, Valemount Tempo, and Infinity Office and Health. The Valemount Farmer’s Market runs every Thursday from 4pm-7pm next to the Visitor Information Centre.
Watch the Goat’s social media feeds for updated store hours as they are released!