Edmonton

Freson Bros. expands amidst chain grocers, online shopping

In an age of big-chain stores and online shopping, an Albertan grocery chain is betting on the province’s support for local foods and businesses as it expands in the Edmonton area.

Local stores focus on selling ready-to-eat meals, local products

The Freson Bros. market in Stony Plain is one of 15 locally-owned grocery stores in Alberta. (Google Street View)

In an age of big-chain stores and online shopping, an Albertan grocery chain is betting on people's support for local foods and businesses as it expands in the Edmonton area.

Freson Bros. has 15 grocery stores in Alberta. With one opening in Fort Saskatchewan in 2018 and another in Edmonton in 2020, the company hopes the quality of its service and products will trump a little extra convenience offered by competitors.

"A lot of it is IT-driven. A lot of it is impersonal," Freson Bros. president Doug Lovsin told CBC's Radio Active. "[Our stores] feel like you go back in time … where old-fashioned service meets a modern experience."

Lovsin said his company faces stiff competition with other grocery chains and online shopping. But the company's recent shift in what they offer and how they operate their business will propel them to success, he predicted.

His company faced a similar shift when Freson Bros. first started as a meat market.

"Within the first year, they recognized that competition was changing — almost like what's happening with us, except through the internet," Lovsin said.

As a result, the company added groceries to its products, which previously had been restricted to selling just meat. More recently, the company has focused on ready-made meals and serving ready-to-eat food in their stores.

"We've moved in the direction where people can pop in and get a quick meal — and I don't mean just fried chicken," he said.

The stores also have buffets and salad bars. The Fort Saskatchewan store, which Lovsin said should open by the end of May, will have a 90-seat restaurant with a licence.

Edmonton's location, which should open in 2020, may even have a bit more than that. "We're going to push the envelope a little bit, more in the food side, for the Rabbit Hill location," Lovsin said.

Regardless of what kinds of bells and whistles the new stores have, one thing remains the same: the local business will push local products.

"Dad tells this story of when he bought 100 chickens, he actually had to go catch them before he could take them to his butcher shop," Lovsin said.

It might not be quite like that anymore, but the drive to sell local products remains the same.