The Quality Foods founding partners gathered at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre Friday

Quality Foods founders step down

Original owners transfer interest in Vancouver Island grocery chain 35 years after opening first store

For the first time since growing from an 8,000-square foot grocery store in Qualicum Beach into a 13-store chain spanning most of Vancouver Island, Quality Foods will no longer be owned by its original founders. On Friday evening, Quality Foods management announced founders Ken Schley and John Briuolo are transferring their controlling interest in the company to the Jim Pattison Group.

The announcement came after QF management held a meeting with staff Friday evening at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre to notify them of the transfer of ownership. They also contacted suppliers and mailed letters to customers letting them know there would be no changes in the daily operation of the grocery.

“Day-to-day operations will be led by Quality Foods co-founder Noel Hayward in the tradition of putting our QF customers, our QF people and our QF communities first,” Schley said in a written release. “It’s a people-based business and John and I leave the company in the capable hands of some of the most talented people in the industry.”

Quality Foods president Noel Hayward, far left, joins other management and staff at the company’s headquarters in Parksville Friday, March 24, 2017. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

The Vancouver-based Jim Pattison Group group is a diversified holding company with ownership in businesses operating internationally across a spectrum of industries including SaveOn Foods, which has stores competing with Quality Foods in multiple communities on the Island.

The Jim Pattison Group first purchased a non-controlling interest in Quality Foods eight years ago.

“Each one of Jim Pattison’s companies is a separate business, given the autonomy to maintain their own culture,” said Hayward, who assumes the role of company president for Quality Foods. “We’ll be accountable for what we do, of course. But we intend to carry on with our culture, our supplier relationships, our community involvement and hope to maintain our customer loyalty.

“What we’ve seen in the last eight years with the Pattison Group being strategic partner, they’ve never once been involved in day-to-day operations.”

Over those eight years, though, Quality Foods has undergone a substantial investment in both expansion and improvement of properties, Hayward said.

QF made its first foray into the Victoria grocery market with the opening of two stores on South Vancouver Island, and has completed or commenced major renovations at its stores in Comox, Qualicum Beach at the Turner Road location in Nanaimo, Hayward added.

Next up is a large reno in Port Alberni, followed by the construction of two new stores. A new Nanaimo store, on Harewood Road near Vancouver Island University, is scheduled to open in September of 2018. After that, QF will construct a flagship store in Parksville, at the corner of Despard Avenue and Alberni Highway, to replace its existing store on Highway 19A.

“For me, this is kind of like a celebration of what they’ve been able to accomplish over 35 years, going from one store with 14 people to now, over 1,000 people in our company,” Hayward said of Schley and Briuolo. “We didn’t realize it at the time, but Ken is a visionary leader, and has been for the last 35 years.”

Among its innovations in the industry, Hayward said, Quality Foods was the first grocer in Canada to introduce a points card, was the first to to offer online grocery shopping, and introduced a phone app that lets customers enter an item directly to the check-out till.

Hayward said the company is proud of a cultural heritage that includes part-time employees sharing in its benefits package and a fully funded pension plan.

“Ken and I will always be grateful for the relationships we have made in the community and proud of the accomplishments of our people,” said Briuolo. “We appreciate everyone who has worked alongside us, inside and outside the company, to build something special.

“It’s a unique company and a unique story, and this isn’t the end of it by any means.”