The mouth-watering promise of freshly-roasted chicken may have lured shoppers through the automatic sliding doors of Prince George’s new 17,000 square foot Overwaitea Foods grocery store when it opened for business on April 23, 1969.
Located at 1601 Victoria Street, an address today occupied by Wholesale Sports, the bright new store featured Northern British Columbia’s first industrial-sized lazy Susan barbeque, capable of roasting 80 chickens to simultaneous perfection, plus a warming oven to keep the birds hot and tender until purchase. Shoppers also enjoyed wide, cart-friendly aisles; rapid service through eight checkouts; and post-shopping refreshments at an 18-stool coffee bar/cafe.
The new supermarket was one of two Overwaitea outlets then operating in Prince George (the other was in the Spruceland Mall). The modern new store replaced Overwaitea’s previous 11,000 square-foot shop on the same site, and was itself replaced in 1976 by a larger store at the corner of 15th Avenue and Spruce Street. Retail operations moved to the current Save-On-Foods location at Parkwood Place in 1997. The store began operating under Overwaitea’s subsidiary Save-On-Foods brand in 2003.
A History of Overwaitea in Prince George
The Overwaitea Food Group is now Western Canada’s largest grocery chain, but it likely owes its existence to a clever marketing strategy implemented almost a century ago. In March 1915, founder Robert C. Kidd opened his first grocery store in New Westminster and quickly became known for selling “over-weight tea” — 18 ounces for the price of 16. Business was good, and Kidd’s next store, established in Nanaimo in 1918, was the first to bear the Overwaitea name.
Prince George welcomed its first Overwaitea in 1934. Located in the 200 block of George Street, the shop sold a limited line of dry goods and cellar-type produce. It relocated to other premises along Third Avenue before moving to 1601 Victoria Street in November 1959. The Victoria Street store was the first to offer shoppers a full line of meat, produce, dairy and dry-grocery products.
As the population of Prince George grew, new Overwaitea stores commenced operations in the Spruceland Mall (June 1961), the Hart Shopping Centre (May 1974), and College Heights (October 1978).
In 1968, Overwaitea Foods was purchased by the Jim Pattison Group, which created the umbrella Overwaitea Food Group enterprise and its six brand subsidiaries, including Save-On-Foods.1
In 2003, all four Prince George Overwaitea stores began operating under the Save-On-Foods banner.
- Other Overwaitea Food Group subsidiaries include Bulkley Valley Wholesale, Cooper’s Foods, Overwaitea Foods, Price Smart Foods and Urban Fare.
- Christensen, Bev. Prince George: Rivers, Railways and Timber (Canada: Windsor Publications Ltd., 1989) “Overwaitea Foods,” page 151.
- E. F. Ted Williams History Centre @ The Exploration Place, Accession Numbers 2002.7.2119; P918.104.22.1686; P922.214.171.124.
- Overwaitea Food Group
- Prince George Citizen:
- 21 April 1969, Photo and caption, page 4.
- 22 April 1969, “Overwaitea’s new store offers best in service,” page 6.
- 10 September 1969, Overwaitea advertisement, page 7.