For the last 49 years from 1972, at the corner of the highway running through Keremeos, there has been a general store run by a member of the Rowe family
After over 30 years herself in the business, Shannon Forner (Rowe) is the last family member moving on.
From a Super-Valu, to a an IGA, independent as Valu-Plus and finally as Buy-Low Foods, the family store has been a fixture of the Main Street of Keremeos for decades.
Forner’s parents, Jeff and Pat, owned and operated the store until 2018, and for a period, three generations of the family worked at the store together.
“I have loved my job and I am going to miss all the people and doing what I love to do,” said Forner.
Over those years, the family’s store has received recognition and multiple awards in the grocery industry for the service they provide to the community.
The original store was much smaller when the family took it over, with the building originally located in the space that is now the Buy-Low parking lot. After years with the small produce and meat department stuffed into the space, Rowe wanted to expand.
“He had dreams of building a bigger store, because Keremeos was growing and he wanted to put in a new store for the community,” said Forner.
“He partnered with IGA and changed the banners, and they built this beautiful new store for the community. I think we opened that in ‘92.”
After a few years with IGA, Rowe made the decision to go independent, with the goal of being able to better service the community. Valu-Plus served the community for over 20 years under that name.
“It was expensive and a huge gamble, but he wanted to control his own destiny,” said Forner. “We produced our own flyers, we shopped the market, we bought where we could get the best deals to make sure we could bring the best pricing and products to our customers.”
Since then, the grocery industry has changed to where it’s now much harder for a grocery store to succeed without having a larger corporate entity backing them, she added.
It’s a difficult decision to step away, but she felt it was time to make a change.
“I’m a single mom, I raised two kids on my own, and I have dedicated the last few decades to this business,” said Forner. “I am ready for my next chapter.”
Both Forner and her father were past presidents of the Similkameen Country Chamber of Commerce, organized a Christmas hamper program, and Forner sat on the board of directors for the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers outside of running the store.
Buy-Low was the ideal chain that Forner had hoped would be interested when they put out the idea of selling.
For the last several weeks, she has been training the new manager, Matt Alba, who has come from the Osoyoos Buy-Low to take over.
No matter where her path takes her next though, it won’t be out of Keremeos.
“May 20 is my last day of employment at Buy Low, but Keremeos will always be home.”