PARKSVILLE – Serving its members and customers for nearly 60 years, Mid Island Co-op has evolved over the decades, routinely opening new outlets and introducing services and product lines that both serve the community and help to make the business more profitable. The opening of an expansive new liquor store near its Alberni Highway location in Parksville is the latest example of the company’s brand of forward thinking.

“Operating under the brand Mid Island Liquor, we’re going to be opening stand alone liquor stores – with the first example on the Alberni Highway. Obviously it would be more beneficial from a business point of view to locate these stores as close as we can to an existing gas bar to create a bit of an ‘all in one’ experience for our members,” explained Jared Brown, Co-op’s new Liquor Store Operations Manager.

While relatively new to Mid Island Co-op, having joined the enterprise last July, Brown is no stranger to the Co-op business model or to the operation of liquor stores. He comes to his position with 23 years’ experience working within the Co-operative business system, having worked previously for the Calgary Co-op.

About half of his time in Calgary was spent operating a total of six liquor stores for the organization, a division with sales of more than $30 million annually. A Vancouver Island native, Brown and his wife opted to return to the West Coast to raise their family in a quieter and more relaxed Island setting.

“Our first location is at 1415 Alberni Highway, right between Parksville and Coombs where we already have a large gas bar. The new liquor store is nearly 5,100 square feet, making it a fairly large operation,” he said.

“This is definitely a good sized store, making it very close to being the largest store of its type in the immediate area. Unlike the majority of the stores on the Island, this outlet has a nearly 1,000 square foot walk-in wine and beer room, which is an excellent feature.”

Operating with an initial staff of nine workers, the new Mid Island Liquor store is expected to add to its staff count once Co-op has a better idea of the outlet’s sales figures.

Based on the success of this prototype store Mid Island Liquor anticipates opening additional outlets in the coming years, once the test store proves its economic viability. “We’ll have roughly 2,700 items on the shelves, including a number of local beers and wines as well as spirits. There will be a definitely focus on selling local craft beers. It’s a part of the Co-op business model to support the community and this store will certainly do that,” he said.

Mid Island Co-op was first launched in 1959 and currently has a membership of more than 57,000. But like with the company’s gas bars, customers do not have to be members to shop. “This store will be a first for Co-op in BC so it’s exciting that Mid Island Co-op is the ground breaker here,” Brown said.