Over the past five years of business in Magrath, Roosters Country Marketplace owner, Jay Mackenzie has started to notice that the community is catching on and realize the value of supporting smaller local businesses. In the last year, sales have started to look up as a result.
“It has taken years for things to click and for people to connect the dots … But I have seen a lot of people talking about it now, opposed to five years ago when you didn’t ever hear about it,” said Mackenzie.
The shop local movement is at its peak in North America, with huge government campaigns educating people about the importance of making purchases from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a national corporation. Several benefits to shopping locally include better customer service, a reduced environmental impact and unique product choices.
“It is small business that is such a large part of the Canadian economy in particulard, when you spend your money in a big box store, it disappears to some huge corporation where the CEO himself makes several million dollars each year … yet you could be supporting your own friends and neighbours.
“People are so focused on saving a dollar that they miss the bigger picture that comes back to them when they invest in their community … People need to look at it like they are investing in their community … Any good investment does not pay you back immediately, it takes a few years, but when you start to look at your investment a few years down the road, that is when you start to see the bigger picture and you are glad you put your money into it.”
Mackenzie admits that it was not easy at first, and there were early years that the local hutterite colonies kept him in business because they wanted to see him keep the doors open and realized the value of the service he provides to the community.
Another disappointing reality for him, was the fact that he had to make a decision to keep the business open on Sundays.
“I had hoped to keep the store closed on Sundays, but there came a time where I just had no choice … Truth be told, for almost a year, the only increase in sales I was seeing was on Sunday.”
It has been close to two years now that Roosters has been open seven days a week and an increasing number of new cliental are taking advantage of the Sunday shopping.
“If there was one obstacle I could put my finger on, it would be (customers) heading straight to Lethbridge without even thinking locally first.” There is also the fact that people travel to other places throughout the week, for work and leisure, choosing to buy groceries when they are there instead of closer to home.
Jay knows he cannot compete with the prices at the big box stores and has instead spent 50 – 55 hours a week making Roosters a great place to shop. Customer service is unmatched by Walmart or Costco. He even went as far as purchasing a pedal trike for patrons who come in and want to ride it home with their groceries in a basket, rather than carrying them.
Mackenzie prides himself on the unique selection of products available at Roosters, all of which are made within a 100-miles, including Screamin Brothers ice cream, Let’s Pasta Food Services, Red Engine Coffee, Weibs Sausage, Uncle Rays Jerky, Broxburn vegetables and Vibrant Sole soaps.
“I am still searching out more unique products like these.”
He is particularly excited about a lead he has for sausage stuffed pork tenderloin made locally in Seven Persons. And he is working with the Lethbridge College to offer fresh, organic, pesticide free produce from their Aquaculture program next spring once packaging is sorted out.
“That is what I want people to understand a little more going forward, Roosters is a little different, I have no interest in competing with the big box stores … But you are going to find a lot of stuff here that you can’t get there.”
Roosters not only features regular grocery items, but a big thing that his products that lines the shelves are starting to have in common are their quality, health benefits and unique flavours.
He is grateful to his loyal shoppers, particularly the Town Hall, Magrath schools, SASH and Diamond Willow who got behind shopping local early and have been big supporters, purchasing locally when they can.
“And it shows, here we are five years later. When I first got here I couldn’t afford to donate to hardly anything, but this is the first year where I have been able to buy a spot on the score board TV that they have at all the basketball games and I’ve donated food recently to teams … So it does come back (to the community), sometimes it just takes a little longer.
Jay wants people to realize that spending an extra dollar here and there to support local businesses will result in long-term benefits to the community that residents can’t necessarily put a price on.