Innovative Grocery Chain Freson Bros. Discusses Growth Plans

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By Mario Toneguzzi

Freson Bros. isn’t just a normal grocery store chain in Alberta.

“We actually don’t want to call ourselves a grocery store,” says Doug Lovsin, president of Freson Bros., which is based in Stony Plain, Alberta.

“Our promise is to deliver a unique Alberta food experience. That’s our promise . . . . We’re a food market. We’re actually trying to create a space that we feel fits what it is that we do."

“The most successful businesses solve people’s problems and we’re trying to solve time-starved families’ problems by delivering high-quality Alberta meals as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” adds Lovsin.

The company has 15 stores - all in Alberta - and is currently building its 16th in Fort Saskatchewan. It has identified its 17th store which will be its first one in Edmonton.

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The Fort Saskatchewan store is expected to open in the spring of 2018 and the Edmonton store will open in the spring of 2020.

“The plan is to grow to 20 stores by 2026. We feel if we can continue to meet the needs of the consumer we will grow and expand in Alberta into larger markets outside of Edmonton metro and of course we will keep an eye on expansion even beyond major Edmonton markets,” says Lovsin.

Perhaps even outside the province.

Lovsin’s brother Mike is the chairman of the company and his other brother Ken is the vice-president of IT.

Freson Market Ltd. began on October 20, 1955 when Frank Lovsin opened a butcher shop with his two partners, Frank Resek and Frank’s father, Leo Resek from Edson, Alberta.

The company says the name Freson was derived from a combination of the letters in the respective partner’s names. The letter “F” in Frank, the letters “RES” in Resek and the “IN” in Lovsin were put together to form the name “FRESIN”.

“The bank manager at the time however, misspelled the name on the company documents, nobody argued the proper spelling, hence the name Freson Market Ltd. was born,” says the company’s website.

“The first butcher shop was in Hinton, Alberta and the cost of the building was $2700. The original building was built on skids and was on a thirty day ground rent policy. It was 24 feet wide and 30 feet long with a power plant in the back.”

Lovsin says Freson Bros. was born in 2008 and over the years it’s re-branded and re-modelled of all its stores.

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“My dad started in the meat business. He saw right away in the first year if he didn’t get into the grocery world he was vulnerable. Within two years he started selling groceries and he partnered with IGA. The growth of our company has been with IGA up until really we opened our first Freson Bros. store in 2009. We recognized that the future of our company depended on us creating some distinction in the market and being different. So we really embarked on looking at what people are looking for. What problems can we solve?,” says Lovsin.

“And people today are time starved. We knew that bringing high-quality, restaurant quality food into our store was what was going to solve a lot of problems. We’ve been working on this for a number of years.”

With that in mind, the company opened its first Freson Bros. Fresh Market store in Stony Plain in March 2013.

The concept has several unique features:

  • A root cellar where root vegetables are kept in a refrigerated room;

  • Banj’s Smokehouse makes a variety of products right in the meat department. Butchers cut all the meat in-house and the store only sells Alberta beef, pork and chicken;

  • Fresh fish is available Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday;

  • The bakery is what is called a “scratch bakery” anchored by a cold fermentation program - the old way of baking. It uses only Alberta flour;

  • The deli and the hot food area serves restaurant quality food cooked in the kitchen. Nothing is ever frozen and just heated up. All the meat is slow cooked;

  • The deli area has a hot buffet with the menu changing daily;

  • Every Friday is all you can eat fish and chips. Every Wednesday there is all you can eat pasta. There’s a 20-foot salad bar with a 75-seat restaurant with a fireplace.

“That makes us different. That’s our brand new Freson Bros. store in Stony Plain and that is to address the changing needs of today’s consumers,” says Lovsin.

The next store in Fort Saskatchewan will be a sister store to the Fresh Market concept.

“We call it version 1.5. Actually our Rabbit Hill (Road) location in Edmonton will be 2.5. It will be advanced from Stony Plain and Fort Saskatchewan,” says Lovsin.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: November 6, 2017

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.