St. Stephen job fair attracts hundreds of hopefuls

Businesses in St. Stephen are doing what they can to keep people in the community, after more than 60 Sobeys employees lost their jobs when the local store closed last weekend.

Local businesses and organizations set up event after Sobeys closed, putting 60 people out of work

Hundreds of people turned up for a job fair in St. Stephen on Thursday, following the sudden closure of the Sobeys store in the southwestern New Brunswick town.

More than 60 people were thrown out of work when the store closed last weekend.

The Sobeys store in St. Stephen closed on the weekend, putting about 60 people in the town out of work. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
It's the latest hit in a town trying hard to turn things around.

So business and local organizations moved quickly to set up the job fair, before more people move away in search of work elsewhere. 

"That's not just a St. Stephen issue, it's an issue for New Brunswick as well, that we have that movement out west," said Ian Stewart, of Development St. Stephen.

Two of the former Sobeys employees told CBC News they are waiting for severance pay, and have been instructed not to speak with the media.

But they said they're hopeful the job fair means they will be able to stay in the Charlotte County region, and won't have to wait long for a new job.

13 companies participated

Thirteen companies had tables set up in the basement of St. Croix Vineyard Church, including Sticks and Stones, which manufactures granite countertops in the nearby industrial park.

"We had already been advertising in the paper, and actually my partner and I had talked about doing some kind of a job fair, so once this was announced, we knew we would be participating," said general manager Andrew Ludwig.

"At the end of the day we want to hire the right person, but locally would be our preference  support the local economy, and have people that are going to support the community with their families. That's definitely what we're about," he said.

Carla Nason was one of the many people dropping off resumes to companies such as Flakeboard, Cooke Aquaculture and Ganong.

"You know, it can be a real challenge," she said.

Brittany Pitrie agrees. "I'm willing to take any job that comes. A job's a job really."

Sobeys announced on June 26 it was closing about 50 underperforming stores across Canada, including six in the Atlantic region.

The St. Stephen location was among them. People in the town now have to shop at the Superstore, or across the border in Calais, Maine. 

The Foodland stores in Tracadie, Perth-AndoverEdmundstonNashwaaksis, and Amherst, N.S., have also closed.