Otter Co-op has been serving members at the same approximate location in Langley for 100 years.
On Wednesday, Oct 19, the co-op celebrated its anniversary at the Langley retail centre at 3650 248th Street with live music, food trucks and other attractions from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Co-op Chief Executive Officer Jack Nicholson was “very proud” to be celebrating the occasion, noting only a very small percentage of businesses make it to 100 years.
To mark the milestone, Nicholson said Otter was planning to distribute $100,000 to 100 deserving groups, who will be named later this month. That’s in addition to the more than $400,000 Otter already raises each year through donations, sponsorship and grants.
Otter board of directors president Charlie Fox said it was a “pretty rare thing” for a business to last 100 years, and still be in roughly the same location where it first started.
From “humble beginnings” as a farmer-founded cooperative, Fox said Otter has grown to where it will take in $400 million this year.
On Oct. 14th, as it does every years the Co-op distributed profits to Otter members in cash and equity for their 2021 purchases. This year it totalled $5.9 million.
Fox attributed the success to what he described as the “four F’s.”
“Food, farm and feed, fuel, and fine spirits,” Fox said.
Among the well-wishers who spoke, Elvizio Del Bianco from the British Columbia Co-op Association said co-ops are “resilient” — twice as likely to survive compared to other businesses, and they do it by providing “a real and democratic alternative to extractive corporations.”
Township mayor Jack Froese, a long-time Otter member, talked about the social aspects of belonging to a co-op, saying “this isn’t just a retail store where you go an buy things, it’s a community where you go to meet friends.”
Froese presented Nicholson with a certificate from the municipality, thanking Otter for “100 years of service and leadership in the community.”
MP Tako van Popta sent a message wishing the co-op a “happy birthday,” and calling the anniversary a “significant milestone.”
Opening with a blessing from Kwantlen First Nation’s Kevin Kelly and son Michael Kelly Gabriel, the event included live music by the NiTeHawks, a giant birthday cake, food trucks along with children’s games and a petting zoo by Aldor Acres.
A time capsule buried at the site in the 1980’s was opened for the occasion, and proved something of a disappointment, with the discovery that water seepage had destroyed the photos and documents tucked away inside the length of pipe.
“I can’t make it out,” Fox said, as he tried to separate some newspaper pages, so rotted it was impossible to identify the publisher.
Only a mildewed Otter baseball cap and pen, two corroded coins and what might have been a flyer for the co-op from that era survived.
Otter Co-op operates from locations throughout the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, including three grocery and pharmacy stores, clothing and hardware stores, 26 Angry Otter liquor stores, two feed mills, a feed and Hardware store, two gas stations and 35 gas stations/convenience stores.
Holding include the Angry Otter Tap & Forno, the Angry Otter Brewery in North Vancouver and the Highwayman Pub in Abbotsford.
More images from the birthday party can be seen online at the Langley Advance Times Facebook page.
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