“Local” and “family” are two words that come up repeatedly when talking to Brent Nicholas, a co-owner of Discovery Foods.
“We’re a big believer in supporting other businesses in town, local businesses,” said Nicholas, who owns the store in partnership with his brothers, Chris Nicholas and Don Nicholas, and with Martin Jager and Adrian Farmer. “We’re all about local. We’re a family business, we all have kids and we like to keep things local. We’re all about doing good things for the community.”
The five partners have two grocery stores – one at The Village at Willow Point, and one at Oyster River Plaza.
“We push for customer service here,” said Nicholas. “We take you right to the product. We’re all about get in and get out; we treat our customers like they’re family.”
Outside the store’s walls, Nicholas and his brothers and partners feel it’s important to support other local businesses and local schools, charities and organizations.
“My brothers and I like to support other things and we like to do coaching and like to help people out in the community, all of us do,” said Nicholas, who has three children under the age of six. “We like to give back to the community.”
Between the Willow Point and Oyster River stores, there are about 60 employees, and Nicholas says they don’t have a lot of turnover. They have a lot of long-term employees who have worked at the store for 25, 30 years – since Nicholas was a kid.
“We offer lots to our staff,” said Nicholas “We offer good health benefits. We try to work around our staff. We have some staff who have young kids and I let them leave the store and do things — a lot of businesses don’t do that. I make special shifts for people.
“We work around families. We’re all about family here. Our big motto is ‘if you’re happy at work, you’re happy at home.’ Family is No. 1 for us. The motto my dad always said was ‘family is No. 1 — a happy family man is a happy person at work.’”
Discovery Foods has a long history in this area, although the store has gone by different names and been owned by different families.
The Willow Point store was first built in 1939 and the current building was built in 1967. The Oyster River store was built in the early 1980s.
Discovery Foods started out as Adam’s General Store and then it became Lucky Dollar when Nicholas’ father took over.
Nicholas and his brothers changed the name to Discovery Foods.
“There’s a lot of history in our store,” said Nicholas. “We’ve been here for years. It’s gone through four different families — the Adamses, the Hickses, the Nicholases (two generations). There’s a lot of heritage between the two stores, which is great.”
Nicholas’ parents and their partners owned the store for 30 years and Nicholas and his brothers and their partners took over four years ago.
The three Nicholas brothers all started working at the store when they were about 15. Chris has been working at the store ever since and has been working there for nearly 30 years, while Don went away for five or six years for university before coming back. Brent started when he was 15 as well, but he went away for nine years to go to school and play football before returning to the store.
“I wasn’t going to come back here to work and then I came back to start working here again and I realized it was a good business, it was a family business,” he said.
When he thinks of Discovery Foods standing out as a business, Nicholas hopes people think of good quality, good customer service, getting in and out quickly and being treated like family — coming into a store where all the staff knows you by your first name.
“That’s huge here; you don’t get that in big stores,” said Nicholas.
Discovery Foods focuses on providing local foods and likes to get eggs, meats and produce from farmers from around Campbell River and the Comox Valley.
“People like that, local,” said Nicholas. “If people know you’re supporting local, it means a lot to them. It makes them feel good that they’re helping someone out.
“That’s what we’re all about. When a farmer comes to see us and asks ‘can you help us out,’ we like to help them out as much as they help us out.”
Nicholas says the focus on local was there when his parents owned the store but it has gotten even stronger in recent years.
“It’s always been like that, now more than ever,” he said. “With all the box stores coming in, it’s hard to compare to their prices, so you need an edge, and local is huge. I support all my local friends … I’m a big believer in supporting other local businesses. Try to keep it in town, right.”