If the name Petawawa has become synonymous with the large military garrison located in this eastern Ontario town, the name Moncion is equally known in the area as a grocery family. Having grown up in his parents’ market in nearby Pembroke, Denis Moncion bought his own store in Petawawa with his wife, Debbie, in 1983. While life in a military town presents some challenges, it also offers opportunities. Here Moncion discusses how his business has grown in more than three decades in this special setting, and how the business has been serving those who serve.
Having grown up in your parents’ grocery store, what was the most fun job you had?
When I was young, probably in my teens, the groceries used to be delivered on the tractor-trailer, but all the groceries were on the floor—they were never on palettes. So the truck drivers would push the cases down rollers from the truck to the back room of the store, and I would help. I remember really looking forward to doing that when I was a young boy.
What was the most important business lesson you learned from your parents?
The biggest single one was to be very honest—honest with your suppliers, honest with your employees, and honest with your customers.
What are the challenges of serving a largely military community?
Most of my employees here are from the military, so one of the challenges we have is to keep them here for a long period of time because their spouse gets posted elsewhere or promoted within the military. The other challenge is you have customers from across the country, so they have different needs. For example, we have a lot of people from Newfoundland who want certain products, like Purity biscuits. So we try to cater to as many lifestyle preferences that we have from across the country.
As the community has expanded with the base, you’ve built a small mall with rental units next to your store, including a RONA that your family owns. Were you nervous about expanding into these new ventures?
It’s a calculated risk, but obviously the more customers we have on our site, the more customers come here. And among the businesses all the employees and owners shop here, too. It definitely helps our store, and our store helps their businesses, as well.
How has membership in CFIG benefited your company?
Going to the CFIG trade show, you learn a lot of new products and a lot of new equipment on the market. And you speak to a lot of fellow retailers from across the country and you definitely learn from them and their ideas. That’s how we benefit—from the shared knowledge.
© 2019 Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers