Tony and Michele Hendriks say they feel like they are closing one chapter of their life, and starting a new one.
“It’s been a great story so far, and this really does feel like a new beginning,” says Tony, who spent Monday watching a new sign replace the familiar Hendriks’ valu-mart name on his Queen Street store, which will now benefit from being part of a nationwide chain, with some renovations and updating to the building.
It remains part of the Loblaw market franchise division, which includes valu-mart in Ontario only, and has become Hendriks Independent, one of the Your Independent Grocer stores across the rest of the country.
These are owner/operated franchise stores, with owners living and working in their communities, personally invested in their business and striving to build lasting relationships within the towns they serve, explains Tony.
It’s a relationship that began for him more than 30 years ago, when he worked at the store for his uncle, Adrian de Laat.
De Laat eventually retired, and Tony bought the franchise in 1999.
He and Michele moved to town at that point, with their little girl Madison, then three. She’s now 25, with two younger siblings, including Connor and Payton, all of whom have worked at the store. Madison has just graduated from the University of Ottawa, Connor is there now, and Payton, in Grade 12, who still works at the store, has applied to the same university for next year.
Although it’s hard to have them away from home, says Michele, they love coming back to NOTL. Madison is now working for the government, but will always think of NOTL as home, and is always talking about coming back.
The older the kids get, the more they appreciate the town and what it means to them, adds Tony.
His brother Ken also has three children, all of whom have worked in the store, and his youngest is also still there.
“It’s really a family business, and since the beginning, we’ve felt like we were a part of the Niagara-on-the-Lake family. It makes me feel good to be able to offer this great new store for the community to enjoy,” says Tony.
Originally, the official opening celebration was going to be held this week, but with renovations delayed due to COVID, it is planned for February, when he hopes all the updates and changes will be completed.
Over the next three years, Tony says, “Loblaw has decided to transition all valu-mart stores to the nationwide Your Independent Grocer banner name. This transition allows for greater buying power, enhanced pricing and selection, and a unified marketing presence, similar to how Home Hardware operates across Canada.”
Both valu-marts in
NOTL are changing to the Your Independent Grocer banner name. Tony officially switched over Nov. 21, and Phil’s valu-mart in Virgil will transition on Dec 5.
“We are both undergoing renovations to varying degrees between now and next year. For our location, we have begun upgrading the look and feel of our store, with updated branding and signage, while ensuring comfortable and accessible shopping trips for customers, old and new.”
Phil Leboudec says his Virgil store will go through a major renovation and expansion in the spring, also delayed due to COVID.
Tony describes with pride the improvements to watch for at his store. “Keep an eye out for our larger produce and floral presence, more takeaway meal options, both hot and cold, improved deli and bakery prep areas, a new meat counter, and new checkouts.”
Some of those changes will occur in the near future, some in the new year, he says.
“Additionally, Your Independent Grocer stores have a very competitive flyer sent out every week to our local customers. Our great PC products remain, and the popular PC Optimum program will continue as it’s currently run, providing the greatest value to those customers that engage with the program to the highest degree.”
This week and next, The Local will include both flyers, until Phil’s valu-mart also transitions to the new name, branding and flyer.
Tony says his grocery, dairy and frozen departments have also undergone an extensive product selection review. “We’ve added hundreds of new items, focusing on current food trends, and appealing to those with a wide variety of diets and preferences. The new year will see the same process undertaken within our fresh departments.”
“Michele and I have been the proud owners of Hendriks valu-mart for over 22 years,” he says, “and we will continue to be the owners of Hendriks Independent for years to come.”
Having a business in a small town really makes you become part of the the fabric of the community, he adds.
“We feel great pride in living, working, and raising our family in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Being a part of and supporting many town community service initiatives and organizations has allowed us to feel connected to our community, and its diverse and flourishing citizens.
“Furthermore, our excellent staff will all remain with us. We are very thankful for all their great efforts and outstanding customer service, especially through the pandemic. We couldn’t continue operating and serving our loyal local customers without them stepping up day after day. As a team, we look forward to working together to always have a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for all our customers to shop in their community store.”