Dean family outlines downsizing plan

by Matthew Uhrig
Press staff

WINCHESTER – The Dean family calls it “changing back to its roots.”

Amid a sale process that will see Mike Dean’s Super Food Stores’ flagship Winchester location and distribution site sold to Sobeys, the family-owned business has announced its intentions to downsize to just three stores.

According to a statement from the business’ founder, Mike, and his son, Gordon, “this is a huge undertaking,” replete with numerous factors in order to restructure for the marketplace of 2015 and future needs and expectations.

The Deans’ stake in the Eastern Ontario grocery market will soon rest on operations in Chesterville, where the family’s first store opened in 1976, Bourget, and Sharbot Lake.

It’s a reduction by three stores, following the closure of its Almonte location, the sale of Vankleek Hill’s store to Sobeys (which will operate under the Foodland banner) and the impending sale of the Winchester site.

The official confirmation from the family comes at time when persistent rumours indicated the Deans were exiting the grocery business entirely, selling off some stores and closing others.

In Winchester, Mike and Gordon said, it will be “business as usual” for the next few weeks.

With the changes, Mike Dean’s head office will relocate to Chesterville, while its warehouse will be moving to Industrial Drive in the village. The company will also be expanding its existing grocery line, emphasizing fresh meat and produce and locally sourced products.

Meanwhile, the family’s announcement of the upcoming changes follows Sobeys admission that the Canadian grocery conglomerate is nearing a purchase agreement of the Deans’ County Road 3 (Main Street) store.

Specific details, plans, and timelines are being kept under wraps until paperwork is finalized. However, Sobeys is said to be assessing options when it comes to the operation of the village’s current downtown Foodland, and whether it will be relocated to the Deans’ location.

“With every new opportunity, we conduct a careful and extensive review of our store network, market by market, to ensure that it aligns with our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers,” Vicki Leung, Sobeys communications manager, told the Winchester Press earlier this month. 

As for Mike Dean’s 30 or so employees, each will be offered jobs once Sobeys has taken control, though it’s possible some will choose to stick with the family-owned business. As for current Foodland employees, Leung said the company “does not anticipate” any impact on them.

Sobeys, meanwhile, is moving forward with its changes at the Deans’ Winchester site following rezoning approval from the Township of North Dundas. A strip of the property’s land and two nearby residential properties will be flipped to commercial status to allow the company to bulldoze the homes, opening up a better view of the building and increasing the parking area.

All of this is happening while Andy Hamel, Foodland’s longtime proprietor, prepares for his departure to Vankleek Hill and that town’s Foodland. Winchester’s store will be without an official owner until the search for a new franchisee gets underway later this year.

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