End of an era: Knox Mountain corner store up for sale | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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End of an era: Knox Mountain corner store up for sale

Brent Smith and his daugher Karley in the kitchen at Knox Mountain Market.
January 27, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Kelowna’s oldest independently owned convenience store is for sale.

Brent Smith bought Knox Mountain Market 14 years ago when he was unemployed for the first time in his life and came across a “business opportunity” ad.

“I thought it might be a fun thing to do,” he said.

“It was for the first 12 years. The hours aren’t so bad but I just can’t get away. I’ve had one week of vacation in 14 years.”

Even when he’s not at the store, it’s always on his mind.

At one time he even lived in the two-bedroom house that’s attached to it – which is just too close, he said.

The previous owner had tried to do the same and sometimes had people banging on his house door wanting him to open up so they could buy cigarettes.

As far as Smith knows, it’s one of only two independently owned convenience stores left in Kelowna, the other being Bankhead.

Knox Mountain Market is for sale.
Knox Mountain Market is for sale.

According to B.C. Assessments, Knox Mountain Market was built in 1942. Bankhead Store, on Bernard Avenue, was built in 1948.

Because of its relative isolation in the North End of Kelowna (on the corner of Ellis Street and Roanoke Avenue) there’s not a lot of competition for the local walk-in business.

“It’s surviving very nicely,” Smith said, noting it does about $1.2 million in sales each year. “There’s no one else around and we have a huge following from the industrial area from Monday to Friday.”

It’s quieter on the weekends except for the summer, when it’s busy all the time.

Part of Smith’s work career was 14 years working for Overwaitea but, he stressed, a convenience store is completely different since it stresses convenience items, things like pop, chips and cigarettes.

Early on he despaired as he watched grocery items sitting unsold on his shelves, so he pared them down to the bare minimum.

This a convenience store to groceries are kept to a minimum.
This a convenience store to groceries are kept to a minimum.

“You learn and you grow and you experiment and you change things,” Smith said. “You personalize it. There never was a kitchen in here but I could see a huge demand for food.”

He brought in a subway sandwich counter and a deep fryer for chicken burgers, fries and poutine.

He gets rave reviews for the subs that use fresh, local products and real chicken breasts.

That’s evidenced by a young man who came in for a sub. He’d been working for two weeks at a nearby plant and was told by his coworkers how great the subs were and came in to try them out while Smith was being interviewed.

Smith runs the store with the help of his wife and five employees. For the first time, he’s managed to carry the same staff for more than a year.

Since it’s entry-level work starting wages are low but, he noted, it’s great training. Staff has to learn to open and close, handle cash and customers.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said, noting that most staff move on to higher-paying jobs, except for his daughter Karley, who’s been working side by side with him in the kitchen for the past 10 years.

Brent and Karley work side by side making subs.
Brent and Karley work side by side making subs.

The store, house and business are for sale for almost $1.7 million. Since it’s across the street from the Tolko mill site. Now that the mill is closed there's bound to be great changes in the neighbourhood.

But, Smith doesn’t want to stick around for another 10 years – the time he thinks it will take before something happens on that land.

On the other hand, he’s doesn’t see himself just sitting around.

“I plan to semi-retire,” he said. “I can’t imagine not having anything to do.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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