Wetaskiwin Co-op History Part III of III (Continued from May 15, 2014)

Pipestone Flyer

    As consumer needs changed, the service to the members and the consumers grew to include delivery services which again expanded their trading area. At first it was by horse and wagon but eventually the Co-op acquired a fleet of trucks to do the job.  They established a cream route pick up, distribution of farm fuel, feed, and fertilizer, livestock hauling and delivery of general merchandize. These trucking services were one of the first of its kind in the Province. By 1966 eight Co-op trucks were operating.

    In 1944 the Wetaskiwin Co-operative Association ventured to acquire a little country store in Falun just West of Wetaskiwin. They paid $32,000 cash for the store building, two residences, truck garage and shop, farm fuel building and bulk storage, two trucks, all inventory, wind charger, post office facilities, bus station connection, and two acres of land with a well – all of which faced the busy Pigeon Lake Highway. That investment paid for itself within eight years. Today the Falun Branch is a modern facility with groceries, hardware, tools, lumber, bagged feed, full service petroleum services and a cardlock.

    The Wetaskiwin Co-operative Association was approached to explore an undertaking in Bluffton in 1947, but it did not prove to be viable.  They pursued a branch in Millet on property that was acquired on a short-term lease.  This venture lasted until 1979 when neither a long-term lease agreement nor purchase of the property could be negotiated. The Wetaskiwin Board of Directors were instrumental in establishing the Camrose Co-op.  

    In Wetaskiwin, a fairly extensive addition to the original grocery store and main building resulted in a superb food market which opened in late 1960. The Lumber Division came next. They built a substantial lumber warehouse in 1955 three blocks to the south of the main store.  In 1959 the lumber division was moved again closer to the main store, but by 1964 they outgrew that location, too.  A deal was struck with Paul Moseson to purchase his lumber yard, workshop and land on both sides of 49 Avenue (previously Lansdown) and adjacent to the main Co-op store.   

    A brand new Service Center was opened on November 24, 1964 in Wetaskiwin.  Across the street from the Service Center the main store sold furniture, appliances, mattresses, televisions, wallpaper, all sorts of home decor items and food.

    Entering the feed business was a logical next step in expanding operations. By 1974 a brand new 5,000 square foot facility with 39 steel bins and 28,000 bushel outside grain storage bins was built.

    A report from the 1950's shows that the Wetaskiwin Co-op delivered 2 1/2 million gallons of fuel to the Wetaskiwin Co-op members in an eight year period.  The bulk petroleum division served both farm and commercial operations and until the fall of 2006 included a convenience store and full service gas bar.  Today, the modern Cardlock operations in Wetaskiwin and Falun are connected to 230 similar locations across Western Canada.  The bulk petroleum division's storage and a guaranteed delivery program make it a very busy year-round.

    Before the end of the 20th century the various facilities of the Wetaskiwin Co-op Association were again bulging at the seams.  In July of 2002 all of the Wetaskiwin Co-op Association's businesses moved into the present Country Junction (Wetaskiwin Co-op) location.

    Every entrepreneurial endeavour seemed to prove that the Co-op knew how to seize an opportunity and make it succeed.  Since the very first meeting in 1916  loyal farmers and residents have taken one bold step after another.  

    Halter is optimistic about the newest addition, the grocery store. “It’s another brand of food chain. It will bring a new brand of product, new brand of service and generally a new level of value to the community. We do really good in service. We will carry a very high standard in cleanliness, service and product quality.  We pride ourselves on staff training and just listening to people. There is not a great profit margin in food retail so really these are the features we can be competitive in.”

    When you walk into the new Wetaskiwin Co-op grocery store think about what that 1917 investment of $550 has produced.  As peoples' needs changed over the years, so has the Co-op.

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