Okanagan Falls will soon have a new family-run business in the community, and it’s one that residents have been looking forward to for years.
Work has been quietly unfolding behind the covered-up windows of the former IGA as father and son Mike and Kyle Belich prepare to open up their independent grocery store.
Running a grocery store has been a family business for three generations, starting with Kyle’s grandfather.
For Kyle, he’s been working in the business for 30 years, and his father for over 50.
“This is what we do, and we’ll run it the same as all our other stores,” said Kyle. “We always run a tight ship, and we see it no different here.”
When the lease on their previous store in Burnaby was coming to a close, they began looking for an opportunity. A friend brought up Okanagan Falls and the closure of the IGA there, and after multiple trips to the community, the pair began negotiations to take over and set up their own grocery store.
“Every time I came up here I liked it more and more. It’s paradise up here,” said Kyle.
It’s not just the locale that has been agreeable with the Belichs. So far, the feedback from the community has been incredibly positive.
“They make us feel so welcome, I can’t believe the support,” said Mike.
“They come in and they can hardly wait, my head can’t get any bigger for proudness.”
The community has been without a full grocery store since September of 2019 when the IGA closed its doors.
“The IGA’s been gone for long enough now that the town needs a grocery store again, and with the price of gas and all that, if you’re coming home and you want a steak and potato and garlic bread, you gotta drive 20 minutes out of your way to get it,” said Kyle. “We’re going to give the option to get that right in town.”
Kyle did give credit to other businesses in the community, such as the local convenience stores who tried to diversify and fill the hole left by the closure of the IGA, but said that it can’t compare to a full grocery store.
There wasn’t much left of the old IGA, with the shelves and fridge units sold off, when the Belichs began their work.
“This is the first time we’ve ever set a store up from zero,” said Mike. “We pulled this store out of the ground and now we’re getting a pulse.”
Much of the equipment was brought over from the Belich’s previous store in Burnaby, from the shelves to some candy stands.
Despite bringing in their own equipment and doing some remodeling, not everything is going to be changing in the store. The mural that sits inside the entrance is one thing that the Belichs had plenty of questions about and one that they are planning to keep.
The store currently has a rough opening planned for May, but no firm date as the Belichs don’t plan to commit to anything they can’t back up.
“I want to make sure I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” said Kyle. “With us, what you see is what you get.”
More information about the store’s opening will be announced online on the Belich’s AG Foods Okanagan Falls Facebook page.
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