has corner on gas
Store has corner on gas
Sunday, November 7, 2010
By Natalie Appleton
Special to The
The Little Kingdom Gas and Grocery is perched along the north arm of Okanagan Lake, on the side
of the water where the sun shines all day.
To get there, along Westside Road from Vernon, you would first pass the Okanagan
Indian Band‘s rodeo grounds, the ball diamond, and the spot near Six Mile Creek where the area‘s last convenience
Robert Marchand used to play there; his aunt and uncle owned the store.
For years after it closed
more than three decades ago, people who lived on the Westside didn‘t have a place nearby to get gas, cigarettes or milk.
They had to drive to town, to Vernon or Kelowna. By 1984, cabins had started shooting up along the shore and Marchand decided
to get into the family business.
In the beginning, Little Kingdom was nothing more than a "10x16 box. There wasn‘t
Marchand had trouble getting start-up money, so at first he sold mostly gas.
"I had a few hundred
bucks, so I got some cigarettes and pop and chips and chocolate bars. Some of them melted."
From the start, business
was good. Over the years, Marchand added on again and again. Today, Little Kingdom is a 15,000-square-foot building housing
birthday cards, rakes, fishing rods, fridges, steak, suckers, wool, women‘s sweaters and freshly baked Danishes.
"I decided to give it a try, and it‘s worked out so far."
It‘s worked out so well that last week,
Little Kingdom was named Business of the Year in the 2010 Aboriginal Business Awards‘ two to 10 person enterprise category.
A few days after hearing the news, Marchand sits at a cafe table in the grocery/bakery section of his store, flipping
through the itinerary for the awards ceremony in Vancouver on Dec. 1.
"I was surprised," said Marchand, a soft-spoken
man with thick, white-grey hair.
It‘s hard to hear his voice over the whirr of the bread slicer, the bell set
off by vehicles fuelling up out front, and the clock-like chimes that sound each time someone moves from one store section
- gas, deli/grocery/bakery and hardware - to another. At mid-morning on a Tuesday, the store is
the summer, it just goes crazy," Marchand said. "In Jan-uary, you‘re talking to yourself."
the True Value roof, which also includes a set of stairs leading to a women‘s fashion store, one man is looking for
plumbing parts while two more are at the counter buying paint thinner and asking about dog treats.
A customer comes in
and one of the clerks in the bakery wishes him a happy birthday.
"Thanks," he says. "What are you doing
He can‘t hear over the grinding metal, either. "What?"
On his way out the door with a bag of chips, he walks past a drinks
fridge. The side is covered in community posters, including an upcoming OKIB meeting and another advertising a $5-spaghetti
dinner to raise money for two local ringette players.
Jack Hampson, an elderly fellow who has lived down the road full-time
for six years, folds a newspaper under his arm at the till. He comes into Little Kingdom every few days.
have to go to town," he said, right hand on the glass door.
Marchand relies on customers like Hampson.
can‘t compete with the grocery stores in town, but people come in for milk."
Whatever customers come in for,
they usually end up at the racks of pastries and cooling dough.
"Everyone loves the bakery," said Cindy Koch
- Marchand‘s cousin - who has worked at Little Kingdom for almost 13 years. "They fight over our buns and bread."
Koch‘s ovens face several aisles stacked with food. This is not just convenience store extras.
just about everything people need," says Koch, leaning over the new produce cooler. "People are shocked at how much
Between the grocery and the gas station till, customers can find an array of items: long johns, an Elvis
hoodie, flannel shirts, fireworks, Baffin rubber boots, hats stitched with the words NATIVE PRIDE above feathers and a Corner
Marchand was wearing a T-shirt from the Saskatchewan-produced program.
He laments that CTV cancelled
the show, which features the goings-on of a gas station in the middle of nowhere.
"I like it," said Marchand.
Behind him, gas clerk Donna Daponte compliments a customer on her new hairdo.
"Just getting fuel, hon?"
"Gas and some smokes."
"Kings?" asks Daponte, pack already in hand.
Little Kingdom may not be as isolated as the station in Corner Gas, but Daponte said she and her regulars couldn‘t
live without it.
"It‘s certainly convenient for the people who live out here. It‘s like a little community."
Some old pics .... :)
LITTLE KINGDOM * 11284 Westside Road * Vernon * BC * Canada * V1H 2H1 * Website
URL: http://www.littlekingdom.biz * Phone: (250) 545-2515 Fax: (250) 545-8644
Designed by: Daren Soldrzynski & Co. ...250.307.8840