Penhold’s Rich Knebel can truly say he’s grown up in the grocery industry.
Learning at the side of his father and grandfather, he was in their Blackfalds store from just eight years old, filling candy bags – if you found the “surprise bag” it was yours for free! – before graduating to working the till and assisting customers.
It’s a passion that has stuck with him to this day, and fuelled his own grocery career.
“I love working with the people,” says Rich, owner of the Penhold IGA with wife Anya. “And I learned from the best, my father, who also learned from the best, my grandfather.”
Owning his own store offers the independence to quickly adapt and innovate, complementing the timeless lessons learned with new ideas to meet shoppers’ needs today.
“You can buy the bread, butter and milk at any store – we want to do more,” he explains.
Coming into the holiday season, for example, you’ll also see a selection of popular toys and gift ideas, in addition to everything you need to make your holiday meals memorable.
And recognizing the local interest in seasonal and specialty foods, you’ll also find an excellent selection of your favourite items.
“We are a major retailer in town, so it is equally important to provide specialty products you won’t find elsewhere and be responsive to customers’ needs and requests,” Rich notes.
Looking for something you don’t see on the shelves? Just ask!
Eyeing the many younger families in the region, Rich looked to see what niches they could fill better.
“We took that opportunity to bring in an extensive selection of coffee,” he says. “Being independent, we have that flexibility.”
At the start of the pandemic, when supply lines tightened up, that independence also gave them the flexibility to seek out new resources.
When stock at other stores dropped to about 70 per cent, Penhold IGA shelves were about 90 per cent full.
How? “I picked up the phone and started calling people,” Rich says, recalling a new, independent local toilet paper manufacturer who when he broke his leg was unable to get his product to market. Rich and his crew drove over and bought the tissue – supporting both the manufacturer and their customers.
At the end of the day, it’s also about enjoying the work they do.
“We like to be different, be responsive and have fun, giving back to the community that supports us,” Rich says, pointing to the $75,000 donated to the local food bank each year. Then there’s the numerous fundraisers and initiatives like the $2,500 raised in-store for youth mental health. “As a family-run store, these are all so important to us.”