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AG Foods buys Safety Mart

Calgary-based food wholesaler takes over ownership of Clearwater's only supermarket at the end of the month

Safety Mart, Clearwater’s only supermarket, has been sold to AG Foods of Calgary.

The deal will take effect as of Nov. 30, according to Wade Elliott, one of the three Safety Mart owners.

AG Foods has been the store’s major supplier for many years, he said.

The company apparently has been working with Safety Mart for some time to make the move and build a new shopping center next to Highway 5.

Safety Mart owns the property next to the new roundabout on the highway beside Clearwater’s courthouse.

The supermarket’s present owners also own a logging company, MW Sharke Contracting, which logged the property recently, in apparent preparation for construction.

He and his partners, Rob Sunderman and Kelvin Arndt, felt the risks involved in the move were too great, said Elliott.

Apparently an analysis they did showed they would lose money for at least the first five years.

They therefore sold the business and the land by the highway to AG Foods.

The deal involves the stock, store equipment and so on only, said Elliott, as well as the property by the highway.

The building presently occupied by Safety Mart, along with the rest of Brookfield Mall, continues to be owned by Sandy Reid, a Vancouver-based businessman.

Elliott said Safety Mart has a renewable five-year lease with Reid for the building. He was not sure what would happen with the lease.

He also did not want to predict what AG Foods’ plans would be, now that they have bought the business, saying that’s for AG Foods to announce.

It would have been 20 years ago this December when he, Sunderman and Arndt bought the store, said Elliott, but their roots in the business go back farther than that.

Elliott said he started working at Safety Mart when he was 14 years old. He went logging for a while when he was 20, came back to the store for a while, and then went logging again.

The three of them still own MW Sharke Contracting and Elliott said he expects they will continue logging for some time.

He also said he felt AG Foods would be good corporate citizens and would be in Clearwater for the long haul.

Besides being Clearwater’s only supermarket, Safety Mart is also one of the town’s major employers, with between 50 and 60 jobs involved.

Staff members at the store were advised of the sale at a meeting held Monday.

Safety Mart was established in Clearwater in the early 1970s by Ralph Sunderman and Ken Kjenstad.

According to its website, AG Foods originated in 1927 when a number of southern Alberta retailers came to together to form a buying group called Associated Grocers.

Within five years the company grew to 90 grocers.

In 1982 Associated Grocers moved to its present 423,000 square foot warehouse in South East Calgary.

Vancouver businessman Jimmy Pattison bought the company the company in 1989. For the next 10 years it operated as the wholesale division of the Overwaitea Food Group.

Associated Grocers became a division of British Columbia-based Buy-Low Foods in 2000. The Pattison Group had purchased Buy-Low Foods in 1995.

Associated Grocers and Buy-Low Foods today supply over 900 locations in Western Canada.

AG Foods is a program of Associated Grocers. To qualify, stores must have a minimum 5,000 square feet of selling area along with fresh meat and produce departments. Bakery and deli departments are recommended. The program supplies stores in more than 50 communities in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

No one from AG Foods could be reached for comment at this time.