Based on Quadra Island, Walcan Seafood Ltd. has been a producer and wholesaler of B.C. seafood products around the world since the 1970s.
But as of a few weeks ago, they have started offering it on a smaller scale to the general public.
While they’ve had a couple of retail market aspects for some time, with the opening of their new storefront in downtown Campbell River, they’re adding another dimension, according to sales manager Grant McNeil.
“We’ve had our SeaChange line of primarily smoked salmon and seafood paté products in retail settings across Canada since the mid ’80s,” McNeil says, “but what’s very new for us, that we have not dabbled into, is the frozen product.”
So why now?
McNeil says it’s an ideal time to make this move to a Campbell River-based retail outlet – located in the same plaza as Home Hardware, Thong’s Jewellery and JK’s Meat Cave – for a number of reasons.
“It’s something that has been percolating for a long time, but the impetus to do it now was the tipping of our workforce towards people coming from Campbell River that made this just make sense now,” he says. Almost half of the company’s approximately 100 employees come from this side of the water with the rest being local to Quadra. Combine that fact with what he calls, “a huge trend in food, certainly in the last five to 10 years, is that idea of eating local and supporting local business, and with a lot of our seafood products being caught right here in the Johnson Strait and all of it is from B.C. – we think that’s important for people.”
McNeil says he’s confident they will be able to offer a high-quality seafood product that people will appreciate out of the storefront – at a competitive price.
“Our offerings are going to be very seasonal,” he says. “You might come in every other Monday and see a completely different selection, but as of right now we have B.C. sockeye fillets, frozen B.C. sockeye steaks, and B.C. spot prawns.
As of next week, we’ll also have B.C. halibut. And Campbell Riverites know their seafood and they know quality, so we’re going to make sure we’re giving them our best product.”
And having an administrative office on this side of the water is important for employee convenience and hiring, as well.
“Having people’s first touchpoint not have to be going across to Quadra Island and going out to the plant – half of which is down a long dirt road – if we can have a meeting space here where we can showcase some of our product and showcase the West Coast vibe, especially for people who may be new to town, that’s really a huge advantage to us,” McNeil says. “This will be a big help in terms of being a place we can do interviews and meetings. A lot of our full-time office staff will have the flexibility of being here, but even for, say, a part time employee working maybe three days a week to not have to go over to Quadra to get a paystub or any other correspondence, it’ll be a huge convenience to have an office on this side.”
Speaking of employees, McNeil says there’s never been a better time to apply.
“The end of the super busy season will likely be October – that’s what projections look like right now – and starting a couple of weeks ago, we need to be hiring people every single week. If we don’t, we’re going to be really behind the curve and we won’t be as flexible as we need to be.”
McNeil says the first big splash the new location will make will be at Home Hardware’s 80th anniversary parking lot event on Sept. 16.
“They’ve been nice enough to ask their partners here in the plaza to join them as part of the celebration, and we’re hoping to get a barbecue going out there on the day and be a part of the fun,” McNeil says.
“So far, the response from the community has been great.
“We opened the admin aspect here before we had any of our retail product here, and during that process, we had a lot of people poking their head in the door who recognized the logo on the door asking what we’re doing. The interest level has been fantastic.
“We’re really excited to be trying new product and bringing in new things. I can’t say exactly what that’ll be, but let’s just say you never know what’s around the corner.”