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The next generation of grocers

Doug Pagett is easing himself out of the Elmira Foodland operation, handing the store over to his son Tyson. [Damon Maclean]

Like father, like son. After a long career in the grocery business, Doug Pagett is turning over control of the Elmira Foodland store to his son Tyson.

Pagett is easing into retirement at this point, now serving part-time at the store as an assistant while Tyson gets comfortable with running the operation in advance of a handoff next year.

At 62, the Elmira resident says he’s ready to enjoy some downtime.

His path in the food business began in 1973 when he began working at a Dutch Boy grocery store in his home town of Kitchener. He moved on to the produce side, and worked in the industry for a few years until he was offered a produce manager’s position, eventually working in that capacity in a few stores in the Kitchener area. Afterwards, he hit the road with Knechtel Foods, which was part of the Oshawa Group until it was purchased by Sobeys in 1998. Following that transition, Pagett stayed on the road as a produce specialist for the Foodland chain.

Asked by a friend to look into the perspective purchase of the Foodland store in New Hamburg, Pagett himself ended up buying the operation. He was there for two years until Foodland asked him to take up the Elmira franchise, at the time located at the former Freiburger’s grocery store site at the corner of Arthur and Church streets. The store eventually moved to its current site at the south end of town. It’s future is now being put into the hands of his 30-year-old son.

Foodland was at first hesitant about having someone so young at the helm of the Elmira franchise, but Pagett was able to assure them Tyson was ready to make the transition.

“My yearly company trip this year down in Mexico, the VP was there and I asked for a meeting down there to discuss Tyson taking over the store. We started the meeting down there, we pled our case as to why we think he should take the store over, because he knows everybody, knows management, knows the town,” said Pagett.

The conversation continued after he returned home, and they eventually agreed Pagett would spend this year assisting Tyson in the transition, with the company keeping an eye on developments.

That plan saw something of a curveball come its way, however, in the form of the COVID-19 crisis, which required Pagett to spend more time than anticipated in the store.

“It’s been tough lately, but we want to get down to part-time, and then he’s running the store. The staff all know they go through him – we’re here for support and to help him with any issues that he has going forward. He’s got good support. Our district manager really likes Tyson, and he’s a big supporter.”

Pagett said the community has been supportive through his entire time in Elmira, which he says has been a great experience.

“There’s a lot of neat things with the Mennonite trade that we have, and there’s something of everything right here in Elmira – and if it isn’t here, it’s 10 minutes down the road in the city. We really enjoy it here,” said Pagett, who’s always been happy to give back to the community, including donating food to fundraising events.

Filling his father’s shoes may be difficult, but Tyson says he’s excited to try some new things in the location to modernize it. He sends his dad off with one message: “Enjoy your retirement. Relax, you deserve it.”

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