The landmark 49th Parallel Grocery store in Chemainus has been sold to the Penelakut Tribe. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Penelakut purchases 49th Parallel General Store in Chemainus

Ownership takes effect in early February

The original 49th Parallel Grocery Store in Chemainus has been sold to the Penelakut Tribe.

Situated near the Penelakut/Thetis Island ferry terminal, it became known as the 49th Parallel General Store after the company’s new location opened in Chemainus Village Square. The sale takes effect in early February.

“The property’s been for sale for quite a while actually,” said Peter Richmond, president and chief financial officer of 49th Parallel Grocery. “We’re excited for Penelakut. We think it’ll be a good fit for them.”

The completion of the sale is a bit bittersweet for 49th.

After some 40 years at that location, “it’s the end of an era,” Richmond conceded. “Up to six years ago, it was our primary store.

“It wasn’t an easy decision. These things never are. We have a new store planned in Duncan. We need to reinvest in our grocery stores.”

The 49th Parallel also has another store in Duncan that used to be Bruce’s Grocery many years ago plus modern stores in Ladysmith and Cedar. The older Duncan location will remain after the new store is built there.

The General Store in Chemainus housed an extensive section for Tour de Rock Cops For Cancer garage sale items under the jurisdiction of Ron Neubauer that will have to be moved to another location.

“Tour de Rock fundraising, it’s been wonderful to do that from there,” said Richmond.

The Penelakut Tribe is working on a business plan for the store.

“Our plan is to continue to run a store there,” said band administrator Jim Chisholm. “We’re in the final stages of figuring out what we’re going to have in there.”

He expects it to be a combination of grocery, confectionery and convenience items.

The sale also includes the parking lot behind Chemainus Family Dental.

Chisholm said there’s a whole dynamic behind the sale for the Penelakut.

“Chemainus was traditional territory for the Penelakut,” he explained. “There is a historical tie for Penelakut to that area.

“As far as economic development for our island, we’re limited. We want to increase our economic depth and the place to do it we believe is right across from us in Chemainus.

“We’re going to have a footprint in Chemainus. Hopefully, it’s the first of many.”

Staffing issues are to be determined. Current employees could either remain at the store or take a position offered elsewhere with 49th.

“Nobody will lose any hours or anything,” said Richmond.

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