What’s the secret to staying in the grocery business for 60 years?
Dick Dar, proprietor of Liberty AG Foods since 1957, says it’s all about serving the community, being part of the community.
Now 83, Dick still pops into his Fruitvale grocery store almost every morning, but these days it’s mostly to greet his staff, chat with patrons, and check on his “baby” – the produce department.
“Customers (are my favourite part) and people young or old, we respect and treat them all equal,” said Dar. “My wife, the same thing too. All our effort (has been) into the community, bringing new customers in and bringing new people to Fruitvale to (visit) the store.”
This weekend the Dar family is thanking the community for 60 years of patronage.
“When people come back to town they come down for groceries and say, ‘You are still here?’” Dick beamed. “So this is for all the families that we dealt with the past 60 years.”
Dick and his wife Susan have events running Friday, Saturday and Sunday and hope community members, no matter the age, will stop by with smiles and well-wishes.
And in true Dar family style, the gatherings will serve as a community fundraiser with all proceeds benefiting Age Friendly Beaver Valley, an initiative that ensures ongoing programs and services for seniors.
On Friday, the Dars will hold an open house with hors d’oerves, drinks and door prizes at the Fruitvale Memorial Hall from 7-10 p.m. They are encouraging everyone who has worked at the store to come and share their favourite memories. Tickets are $5 and available at the village office or at the grocery store.
Then on Saturday, the community is invited to Liberty Foods from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. for an all-day event that includes 60th anniversary prize giveaways and at noon, a 60-second shopping spree that was won by Bathie Schmidt of Salmo.
The celebration weekend winds up with coffee and pastries on Sunday at the Fruitvale Memorial Hall. Tickets to the open house are $2, and all ages are welcome.
For information on 60th anniversary specials, check out Tuesday’s Trail Times Page A8.
Dar first came to Canada from Canton, China, in 1951. His grandfather had arrived from China earlier to help build the railroad from Vancouver across the country, and later, Dar’s father came to be a railroad camp cook.
Dick’s uncle was the first member of the family to begin the grocery legacy.
Liberty Food Centre was originally founded in 1939 by Tom Wong and became the first supermarket in Nelson. Along with shareholders, George Kaiway and J.D. Hingwing, president and secretary, Liberty Food Centre boasted a number of modern amenities, including a refrigerated self-serve produce section.
After three years of working at the Liberty Food Centre in Nelson, Dick and Susan set out to establish Liberty Foods in Fruitvale.
The couple purchased a small grocery store on the outskirts of town and together with Susan’s brother Dennis, they took that tiny little store on First Street, built it up and relocated it to where it is today in the heart of Fruitvale on 1950 Main Street.
Dick recalls a very different Beaver Valley when he took ownership of the store back in 1957.
“When I got to town there was 400 people,” he said. “All these years my mind has been in this valley … we’ve renovated eight times and gone from 2,500-square feet to 12,000-square feet … (it’s been) hard work but all my effort has been for the community.”
In 2005, the Dar’s son Derrick became managing director and helps run the store from his Vancouver base.
“Obviously I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without my parents’ and family’s hard work, establishing the business before me,” Derrick told the Trail Times. “There are always challenges in a family business, but I certainly hope to be running the business for many years – maybe not another 60, but for the foreseeable future. For now, I’ll just focus on continuing to do what works for us.”