Sheldon Ibbotson did something new on Sunday. He slept in.
Rimbey’s mayor is adjusting to life without the daily demands of operating a grocery store.
That’s because he and his brother Quinton sold their longtime family business, Rimbey Foods, effective June 2.
That’s meant the end of responsibilities like having to go to the store every Sunday morning and afternoon to ensure the compressors that run its cooling systems were functioning. After 25 years in the grocery business, Ibbotson is happy to put his feet up and enjoy some time with his family.
“Basically, I want to take the summer off and maybe in the fall paint my house and think about what I’m going to do in the future.”
Steven Yoon, who now owns Rimbey Foods with his wife Junnie Chung, said customers won’t see any changes.
“Everything will be exactly the same.”
Yoon said the store is well-organized and has a good selection of products, including organic foods.
The Ibbotsons had plenty of time to shape Rimbey Foods, with the family buying it in 1986.
Sheldon and Quinton’s parents, Garvin and Betty Ibbotson, were initially involved.
Sheldon Ibbotson described how the store was a local institution long before his family took over.
It occupies the space where two other stores once operated — an earlier grocery store and a hardware store that Rimbey pioneer Jack Beatty opened in the 1920s.
Reflecting on his own time in the grocery industry, Ibbotson commented on how the region’s consumer base has increased, but so has the competition.
“You didn’t have Walmarts and Targets in 1986.”
Back when the Canadian dollar was trading well below par with its United States counterpart, it was also common for people to travel south to do their shopping — including some groceries.
“They’d stock up on stuff that wasn’t perishable.”
Ibbotson also saw his customers’ eating habits evolve.
“People are much more health-conscious today than they were in 1986,” he said, describing how Rimbey Foods went from four large coolers full of pop to three small ones with about a third of their space dedicated to the sugary beverages.
“People are much more careful about how they plan their diet.”
Rimbey Foods responded by offering products like pasture-fed beef, organic foods and, gluten-free items. That helped keep local shoppers from going elsewhere to buy their groceries.
Ibbotson said he’s leaving the business with some misgivings. He praised his staff, some of whom were with him for as long as 24 years, and said he’ll also miss many aspects of his work.
“I really enjoyed the buying and the selling, and dealing with people.”
But there are other things Ibbotson is happy to be done with — like responding to false alarms at the store in the middle of the night.
His and Quinton’s motivation for selling, he said, was to allow then to consider career alternatives while still young enough to do so. Ibbotson, who at 52 is the older of the two, had thought 50 was a good time to start looking.
Yoon said he and Chung are happy to step into the Ibbotsons’ shoes. The owner of a textile trading company in South Korea before coming to Canada in 2009, Yoon said he and his wife wanted to operate their own business.
The transition to a small town from their previous home in Calgary, and Seoul before that, has gone well, he said.
“It’s a nice place to live. I love this town.”