Owners of the Quality Food chain of grocery stores — Ken Schley, John Briuolo and Noel Hayward — have come a very long way since 1982.
Thirty years ago, the trio revitalized a failing grocery business in Qualicum Beach and began innovating in ways the industry had not yet imagined. In fact, for these three decades, the trio and their dedicated employees have led the way among grocery stores throughout Canada.
Their willingness to embrace technology when others would not, and their dedication to staff — making Quality Foods a top employer in B.C. — has helped create a chain of Vancouver Island-based grocery stores second to none.
The young trio re-opened a grocery store in Qualicum Beach on May 27, 1982, renaming it Qualicum Foods. The early ‘80s were tough, economically, but they had the support of suppliers, wholesalers and the community. Customer service was a major focus for them, as they had to build a base of support before they could even think of being able to add — or even afford – frills.
By 1986, Qualicum Foods was doing well and looking for other opportunities to improve. When Bruce Robertson’s FoodMaster store in Parksville became available (they knew each other quite well, as independent stores) for a partnership that year, they jumped at it. After merging, they had to come up with a new name. Luckily, the partners had had the forethought to register the name QF, and from there it was a simple matter of coming up with Quality Foods – the name that has become synonymous with the stores outside of Qualicum Beach.
Into the early and mid-1990s, a vacant Nanaimo IGS grocery store became available to the partners. Adding this new store led relatively quickly to the acquiring of two more stores in Nanaimo, along with locations in Nanoose Bay, Courtenay, Comox, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Powell River. In all, QF has 11 stores, a headquarters and warehouse operation in Errington, and a company that employs around 800 people.
Throughout their 30-year history, the partners remain involved in the community.
They pump sponsorship dollars into local sports teams, community groups and events.