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Nakusp says goodbye to Overwaitea

Century-old chain’s last stores in Nakusp, Golden to re-brand
Manager Ernie Oxenham stands outside of the first Overwaitea store in Nakusp in 1929, located across from the Leland Hotel in what is now Happy Buddha. Overwaitea moved up to the intersection of Broadway and Slocan (today’s CIBC) in 1946 and then into its current location in 1971. (Photo courtesy Arrow Lakes Historical Society)

When Overwaitea closes tonight in Nakusp, an important piece of B.C.’s business history will come to an end.

The grocery store is ‘re-branding’, or changing its name, to Save-On-Foods.

The Nakusp store, and another in Golden, are the last two Overwaitea stores in the province, and the last to go through re-branding.

“The outside sign rolls in on Thursday, then we have crews working all night taking down the old sign and putting up the new one,” says store manager Todd McMullen. “So we close at 6 p.m. as an Overwaitea and re-open Friday at 8 a.m. as a Save-On-Foods.”

The grocery chain started just over a century ago in New Westminster, B.C., and opened a store in Nakusp in 1929, operating in two different locations before moving to the current site in 1971.

The company was purchased in the 1960s by Jim Pattison, and became part of a larger group that includes Save-On, Urban Fare, and Price Smart Foods. The chain has 160 outlets from Manitoba to Yukon.

Over the last decade the few remaining Overwaiteas have been re-branded to Save-On-Foods.

In a news release, the company said that “realigning its stores as Save-On-Foods—its most prominent banner—allows it to deliver the products, promotions and programs that customers in these communities have been asking for.”

McMullen says that means customers will find it easier to shop and save.

“One of the benefits of being a Save-On-Foods is being included in some of the hot deals they offer, called Darrell’s Deals,” he says. “We have been honouring the deals, but people could have a hard time finding them — they’d have to go online or see them in other stores, because Overwaitea was on a different marketing program.

“Now we’ll have advertising to tell people what the deals are here.”

Other than new uniforms for staff, there won’t be much else different for customers to see.

McMullen admits, however, that all the re-branding in the world won’t stop locals from calling the store Overwaitea for years to come.

“When I first started with Overwaitea, I was in Prince George and we converted to a Save-On-Foods. I was there for three or four years.

“I think it took my mom that long to call it a ‘Save-On’,” he laughs. “I’d be going to work and she’d say, ‘So, you’re going to Overwaitea?’ and I’d say, ‘No mom, we changed that to Save-On-Foods a few years back.”

In a little nod to history, the store will keep its teapot sign at the entrance, though the historic symbol will get a coat of fresh paint in the new corporate colours, says McMullen.

There’ll be a ribbon-cutting and free cupcakes handed out to the first 180 customers on Friday morning.

The sign will come down on Thursday, ending almost 90 years of business in Nakusp.