Twin Valley board may reconsider Elkhorn decision

October 23, 2018, 10:38 am
Kevin Weedmark

Twin Valley Co-op has announced plans to close the hardware store and gas bar in Elkhorn as of Jan. 31, 2019. After a community meeting Thursday night, the board may take a closer look at the decision.

Twin Valley Co-op’s board will take a closer look at the decision to close the gas bar and hardware store in Elkhorn after a community meeting on the planned closure of the store.

Twin Valley announced October 5 that it would be closing the Elkhorn hardware store and gas business January 31 of next year.
The Elkhorn Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting Thursday, October 18 to give community members a chance to find out more about the decision.

Following the meeting, Twin Valley GM Dwayne Moncur said he thought the meeting was positive.

“The community this evening showed just how passionate they are about what’s happening here, and what may be happening in the future. I thought it was a fabulous meeting, I really did.

“I liked the structure of it, the way the questions were formatted. I appreciated the opportunity.”

Moncur said he and the board heard the concerns from the community.

“What I heard is they certainly don’t want to see that location close. We will take it back to the board and we’ll have a look at it, but we need some feedback from the people here as to what they’re looking for. We don’t have all the answers. At least now everybody knows there’s a concern, and we do have some issues. We need to do what we can to make things better.

“We’ll go back and discuss it. Maybe we halt this and maybe we don’t. As I’m thinking about this, if we stay open, there will be some wholesale changes in that hardware store. It won’t look like it does right now.

“We need more sales and we need to figure out what it’s going to take to get there.”

He said that Twin Valley makes money overall, with agro and petroleum being the most profitable divisions, and some of the food and hardware stores operating at a loss.

“We have a number of centres that show a net loss at the end of the year, and we have to do something about it. It’s a problem system-wide. Hence they’re talking about amalgamations. We’ve tried so hard for so long to provide service to everybody and it’s not profitable.”

Mark Humpries of the Elkhorn Chamber of Commerce said following the meeting that the next step for the chamber is to take a survey in the community and find out what people think is important.

“They said tonight tell us what you need, tell us what you want in that store. That’s what they have asked for, and that’s what we will give them. We will survey the people in the village and see what we can come up with. We want to keep this store, but we have to do our part to rally the community to really support our local stores in every way they possibly can.”

During the meeting Moncur said sales have been down at both the food and hardware stores in Elkhorn, which he said may be related to the opening of a large new Co-op food store in Virden, and a large new Co-op home centre in Moosomin.

“The Elkhorn location has suffered for a long time,” he said. “With the hardware store opening up in Moosomin, we knew it was coming. Good on Moosomin for building it, good on Virden for building the new food store. But that’s hurting us here.”

He said sales at the Elkhorn food store are down 7.2 per cent year to date, and the food store has lost $83,000 year to date.

He said the new model for smaller communities is a hybrid store, combining food and hardware in one location. “Any grocery store that has less than $2 million in sales is not going to be profitable,” he said. “If we weren’t having this conversation tonight, we’d be having it three years from now, and we’d pack this hall because we would be closing the food store.”

Moncur told the crowd that the Co-op hasn’t always received full support from the community. “Over the last while there have been a whole bunch of new homes built in Elkhorn,” he said. “We never got a chance to bid on supplying anything for them. There must be $2 million worth of homes, some very nice homes in Elkhorn that we never got a chance to provide anything to.

“And your RM doesn’t buy bulk petroleum from us—we haven’t even been given a chance to bid on it.”

He said the Elkhorn hardware store would need vastly greater sales to be profitable.

“We would probably need $2 million in sales to make that hardware store profitable,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

He said the Agro location in Elkhorn makes a profit, but not enough to offset the losses at the other two Elkhorn locations.

“We have problems in all of our departments,” he said. “Agro and fuel are the two money makers in Twin Valley. That’s what keeps these co-ops going. The plan was to try to combine the stores here, make it a hybrid, and cut our losses. We understand that as we made this decision we may lose some customers, but how do we stop the bleeding?”

Moncur said during the meeting that community members’ commitment to support the co-op if it retains the location may not last.
“People are going to say tonight we will support it and you will for a little while,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re putting your money into a losing proposition.”

Mark Humphries took issue with that.

“You said we will support it for a bit and then it will drop off,” he said. “This town isn’t one of those towns. If they think they might lose something they will fight for it.

“If you close this, will you lose the footfall through town and will we be here again for the food store three years from now.”

In response to a question from the World-Spectator during the meeting, Twin Valley Board Chair Jim Boucher said the board will take a closer look at its decision.

“In all fairness, absolutely we will go back and rehash this,” he said.

“That was the intent of us coming here and so many board members showing up. I appreciate the chance to hear your concerns.”