It wasn’t that long ago that the Plevna Freshmart looked like it might be on its last legs. The attached North of 7 Family Restaurant had closed and the grocery store had become more of a convenience store/gas bar operation.
But on Sept. 1 of last year, Bill James bought it.
A Plevna native, James had run a successful diesel fuel business but had decided the time had come to sell. He had some commitments to diesel business up until the end of January but now he’s fully committed to his new venture.
“I saw it (the restaurant/grocery store) needed some help,” he said. “And I needed something to do.”
Well, he has plenty to do now.
He started by increasing inventory in the grocery and opened the restaurant in mid-December. He estimates he’s at about 25 per cent of where he wants to be with the operation.
“We still have work in the restaurant but we have the bakery up and running,” he said. “We’ll be adding a butcher shop and this will be a fully operational grocery.”
It’s not like James always wanted to have a restaurant or a grocery store, he just saw an opportunity.
“I’ve got six month’s experience,” he joked. “Every day I’m learning.
“But, I’ve worked in customer service my whole life and regardless of what you’re selling or promoting, at the end of the day, your customers are what matters.”
He said he’s just getting through his first year and the new year will begin May 1. He knows it will take time to build the business up to it’s potential.
“This started out as a hamburger stand you know,” he said. “It’ll take a couple of years to get it to where we want it.”
He has no shortage of ideas and plans however.
Like any successful northern rural businessman, he knows he has to make most of his money when the tourists are around.
“Right now, we bake bread twice a week,” he said. “In the summer it will be every day.
“In the summer, people will come in for meat and buy the rest of their groceries too.”
As for the restaurant, they have a varied menu within the family restaurant genre but once they get going he plans dinner specials on weekends and such.
“It’ll be seven days a week in the summer,” he said. “This is not a corner store any more.”
For example, he plans specials during the hockey playoffs this year and then “let ’er happen.”
Right now, the store is open from 8-6 daily and 9-5 on Sunday. The restaurant is open from 9-3 Thursday to Sunday but expect those hours to expand soon, perhaps as early as sometime in March.
But James certainly seems to be enjoying himself with his new venture.
Is there some part he likes the best?
“All of it,” he said.