When the Endako Mine closed at the end of 2014, the Village of Fraser Lake lost its biggest employer.
About a year later, the only grocery store in the community closed too.
With just a convenience store in town, Fraser Lake residents had to drive almost an hour to the nearest supermarket to stock up for the week.
It was a long drive. And for residents who didn’t have a car? They relied on their neighbours for rides and in some instances, even hitchhiked.
It was a tough time for the town. That’s when Lori and Bobby Hurry decided it was time to do something about it.
The couple appeared on an episode of CBC’s Still Standing dedicated to Fraser Lake, and host Jonny Harris poignantly said they saw a need, and “stepped up to the plate and helped fill it.”
When Lori and Bobby moved to Fraser Lake in the 2000s, they bought a house with a storefront attached to it where they opened a dollar store.
In 2006, Fraser Lake had a huge snowstorm. There was a lot of snow and a lot of damage in people’s yards. Bobby helped a few people in town clean up their yards. As a result, requests for help flooded into the dollar store and Hurry Help Landscaping had begun.
Hurry Help Landscaping and Landscape Supply is now a full-service snow removal, landscaping and contracting company, which offers emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The landscaping business was doing well, and a chance conversation with a resident sparked another idea.
About one year after the SuperValu shuttered, Bobby noticed a fellow strolling by their house and struck up a conversation: “The man said he was going to the restaurant around the corner to grab a bowl of soup because there’s nothing else to eat in this town.”
It struck Bobby how much of a need there was for fresh food in the community.
“If you didn’t drive or if you were a senior and couldn’t get out of town, I couldn’t even fathom what they had to go through, until that gentlemen walked by the front of the house,” Bobby said. “I immediately walked back into the house, and I looked at Lori and I told her we had to do something about this. We’ve got to get tomatoes, and we’ve got to get lettuce.” Within two weeks the Hurrys had the corner store up and running.
Eventually their 1200-foot corner store couldn’t keep up with demand, so they moved into the approximately 20,000 square foot space where the SuperValu used to be. They employed everyone who used to work at the SuperValu and still wanted a job.
“When we opened the corner store, Lori and I took most of our savings at that point and threw them on the table – win or lose,” Bobby said. “But only because we felt there were people in need of having produce or other fresh food.”
The Hurrys have helped the community before – in 2007, they provided 123 families in need with turkey and ham for the holiday season.
Today, the Hurrys employ more than 20 people between their landscaping business and Canada’s Grocery Store and More, and hope to keep growing so they can create more jobs in the community.
“As long as our employees are paid and the business moves forward, in our minds, things are good,” Bobby says.
Bobby and Lori are both proud of being the second largest employer in Fraser Lake.
Lori says it took a lot of trial and error to get the grocery store to the success it is today. But they already had experience running their own businesses, and they knew the demand was here.
“We’re entrepreneurs, we don’t let anything hold us back and we move forward,” Bobby says.
Their advice to small business owners is to live within your means, keep several months of cash reserves, and set up an emergency fund if you run into an unexpected shortfall that requires you to tap into your savings.
“Live 30% within your means,” Bobby says. “You always want to have a safety net. Make sure that you stay at 30% within your means because you never know. In our case, if one refrigeration unit breaks down it could be $11,000 just to fix it.”
When Bobby and Lori are not physically at work, they’re still thinking about how to move the business forward.
“Lori comes home from the office, just to sit down with a cup of coffee and make sure that the budgets are all balanced,” Bobby says with a laugh.
While their work is all-consuming, they love providing people in Fraser Lake a place to go for fresh groceries and that their employees can earn a living for themselves and their families.
“You only get out of life, what you put into life,” Bobby says. “We don’t like to sit around and do nothing. We started employing people because we felt there was a need for that.”
With dozens of employees, Lori and Bobby rely on FBC to handle payroll for all their employees: “Get FBC to help with your payroll. Don’t do it yourself. You can probably make it work yourself but just one wrong number and it’s just catastrophic.”