Brokenhead Ojibway Nation has built a full-service grocery store and pharmacy to serve both its own residents and the nearby East Beaches cottage country.
The Anishinabe community, located 60 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg on Highway 59, has spent $2.7 million through its development corporation on a 5,000-square-foot grocery store and a new 2,500-square-foot facility that replaces an existing medical clinic.
Slated to open today, Brokenhead Grocery is the first retailer of its kind for the First Nation, where elderly residents and other people without cars previously had to find a 37-kilometre ride to Selkirk to purchase fresh produce.
“There is a smaller community store, but they had very little healthy choices. Not many elders have driver’s licences, so they were paying $30 for people to drive them to Selkirk, do their shopping and drive back,” said Kyle Tanner, manager of the new store and pharmacy. “This will definitely cut times.”
Brokenhead, whose on-reserve population is listed at under 700, is the only indigenous community that sits within the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area. That means more than half the adult population goes to work or attends school in the Manitoba capital and thus have easy access to retail services.
A grocery store on the First Nation was deemed viable because of the high volume of motor-vehicle traffic on Highway 59, which connects Winnipeg with communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg’s southern basin.
The store plans to sell fresh meat during the summer to cater to cottage-bound motorists, many of whom already patronize Brokenhead’s gas stations or South Beach Casino.
“It’s amazing how many people stop at Brokenhead,” said Frank Suraci, CEO of BON Development Corp., the Brokenhead-owned company that built the new store, pharmacy and health clinic and is also building 20 homes for the community.
Suraci said market studies suggested Brokenhead could support a store larger than the one that opens today, but chose to adopt a more conservative business plan.
The grocery store has added seven new jobs to the community so far, Tanner said.
It does not sell alcohol or tobacco products.
Courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press