Taking the cake
Russell Foodland owner Karine Hamel and her managers took a quick break to show off the in-house made vanilla cake to celebrate the store’s first year.      Courtesy photo

Russell Foodland owner Karine Hamel (third from the left) and fresh cut station employee Sabrina Sabourin Bethune (far right) offered chips and salsa samples to regular customers Miriame Martin and her daughter Emilie Martin (8) of École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph. Hamel is back from maternity leave just in time to celebrate the first anniversary of the store. Sawyer Helmer photo

Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
Villager Staff
RUSSELL – Russell Foodland celebrated their one-year anniversary this past weekend on Sat., April 7. Store owner Karine Hamel spent much of the first year on maternity leave but was thrilled to be back at work and proud of the store’s first year. Hamel worked a few days a week starting at the end of February to get her son used to daycare and to get back into the work life. She is now back full-time as of March 27. “It feels good, it is very exciting. [The year] went very well, there are still a lot of challenges opening a new store and going from 20 to 130 or so employees. But it feels good and it’s nice to be back especially as we are celebrating at the same time,” she said.

Avery Frobel and deli manager Denise Legrouxl (right) offered perfect bite-sized samples to customers during the Russell Foodland one-year anniversary celebration on Sat., April 7. Sawyer Helmer photo

The anniversary celebration included cake, refreshments and free samples all throughout the store. The store managers were even given gift cards to give to some of their favourite customers. With such a successful year, Hamel said it has a lot to do with the local environment. “I think it’s about community support. It is such a small town and I thrive on offering the best service to all of our customers. We are a big store in a small town and that extra service and those extra smiles and acknowledgements are really important. My staff is on board with me and understands how important customer service is for us and I think that plays a big part in our success.”

Denise Legroulx, deli manager added, “The first year was wonderful. There were a lot of bumps, but we learned a lot and I think overall we’ve come a long way. Great customers, great staff. It takes a lot of patience [to be successful], and you have to the love of the job. You need to have a lot of pride in what you do to make it work.”

That pride was on display throughout the store this weekend as the staff welcomed each and every customer that walked through the doors.

Now that Hamel is back to work, interim manager Jeff Goulding has stepped aside and onto a new endeavour. Hamel told The Villager that Goulding has purchased his own store in Walkerton. Hamel said the community thanks Goulding for his year of service in Russell and wishes him the best on his new journey.