Ontario-based FreshCo is coming to Abbotsford and four other locations in the Lower Mainland. (Sobeys Inc.)

Ontario-based FreshCo is coming to Abbotsford and four other locations in the Lower Mainland. (Sobeys Inc.)

Discount grocery store FreshCo to replace Abbotsford Safeway

Some uncertainty for 146 local employees who received termination notices Jan. 29

The Safeway store in Abbotsford is closing down Sept. 7 and will reopen as a FreshCo store a few months later.

The location at 32500 South Fraser Way is among five Safeway stores in the Lower Mainland that are undergoing the change, according to an announcement made today (Tuesday).

FreshCo is a Sobeys Inc. brand discount grocery store that has 95 locations, all of them in Ontario.

As many as 610 employees, including 146 in Abbotsford, may have already received termination notices.

On May 25, the Safeway stores on Yale Road in Chilliwack, Fraser Highway in Aldergrove and Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge will close, affecting 115, 123 and 129 employees respectively.

On July 23, the Delta Safeway on 48 Avenue will close affecting 97 employees.

Once the stores close, renovations will take four to five months, after which they will reopen as FreshCo.

“Customers love it in Ontario,” Jacquelin Weatherbee, director of external communications, told Black Press. “We’ve repeatedly been told that customers were looking for a strong discount shopping experience.”

RELATED: 9 Safeways to stay open till July 5 as company negotiates with union

RELATED: 10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close

According to a Sobeys press release issued today: “Our FreshCo stores reflect our customers’ growing demand for fresh, quality food at discount prices. FreshCo stores will feature a bold brand and clear tagline: ‘Lowering food prices. ’”

A letter Black Press obtained explains that Safeway is closing, the employees are terminated, and the notice is in accordance with the Employee Standards Act.

“It is with regret that we inform you a number of Safeway stores in British Columbia will be closing and ceasing operations on the dates listed below,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately the store at which you are employed is one of the stores which will be closing.”

Weatherbee explained the notices are issued as per legal requirements, but that many – or most – employees may find work at other Safeway stores or at the new FreshCo.

“Until this process is completed, we will not know the exact number of employees who will lose their job as a result of these store changes.”

One Safeway employee told Black Press that long-term employees will get buyouts, and those with seniority in the union may be able to bump employees out of jobs at other locations in B.C.

“We are working with employees and unions to ensure the terms of their collective agreements are met as we work through this transition,” the company press release said. “As always, we will expend every effort to place employees in other stores within our store network in B.C.

The company said pharmacy customers will continue to be served during construction via temporary locations, and when the store reopens “customers can expect the same great service from our pharmacy teams.”

The move to convert some Safeway stores in B.C. to FreshCo is actually not new. In December 2017, Sobeys announced it would convert 25 per cent of Safeways in Western Canada.