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St. Mary's First Nation grocery store closure blamed on national suppliers, N.B. government


A popular full-service grocery store on St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick is scheduled to close permanently on June 30.

St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Allan Polchies Jr. said the St. Mary’s Supermarket was shutting down for two reasons: rising costs from product suppliers, and the provincial government's withdrawal from a communal Tax Revenue Sharing Agreement amounting to over $1 million in losses.

“Now that we have all those dollars off the table, I don’t have the capacity or am able to sustain the operation as an independent supermarket,” said Polchies, in an interview Thursday.

Polchies said there’s been additional challenges in purchasing staple products due to uncompetitive pricing from national suppliers.

“We don’t have buying power like box stores do,” said Polchies.

Polchies said the St. Mary’s Supermarket’s planned closure would be cancelled if the province’s tax-sharing agreement was reinstated.

“We’ve been, for the last two years, speaking with the government,” said Polchies. “It’s not going anywhere.”

Premier Blaine Higgs responded Thursday to the store’s announcement, telling reporters “businesses have to find a way to be competitive without a subsidy from taxpayers.” Higgs also suggested the decision to close St. Mary’s Supermarket was made based on unconfirmed speculation about a “No Frills” store being added to the local area.

About 50 employees at the St. Mary’s Supermarket were informed about the store’s closure on Wednesday. Polchies said restructuring within St. Mary’s First Nation Retail Sales would see meat and produce sold at the community’s Two Nation One Stop convenience store.

The announcement Thursday that Loblaws would sign on to a national grocery code of conduct may help small food retailers eventually, according to Dalhousie University’s Sylvain Charlebois.

“This is actually very good news for independent grocers out there. Unfortunately, for this particular case, it may be too late,” said Charlebois. “We’ve seen many independent grocers disappear in this country, including the one in St. Mary’s.”

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