Meridian Meats president Josh Penner. Photo contributed via Meridian.
With 200 employees scattered across the Lower Mainland in their six stores and one head office, Meridian Meats president Josh Penner says some customers assume they're an American grocery chain. But the family-owned and run business comes from humble and local roots, with a community-minded philosophy that has carried on since the first store was opened in 1989 in Port Coquitlam.
"It really is a true family business," says Josh. "Over the years we've had aunts and uncles and siblings and neighbours and friends. But we kind of say to people when they're hired—and it's a part of our culture—if you're not related by blood, well, consider yourself adopted."
Meridian Farm Market in Tsawwassen opened up in 2013 after a space became available at the old Jack's TV and Stereo at the corner of 56th Street and 12th Avenue. Like so many businesspeople and families that have relocated to Tsawwassen, Josh says they fell in love with the location right away.
"We went downtown Tsawwassen and we just felt like we'd taken a bit of a trip back in time. The community was just a little quieter. A little more inviting and warm and welcoming. It had this sort of nostalgic feel to it."
Instead of snatching up the property right away, Meridian spent some time speaking to local businesses and people, and analyzing parking to ensure they wouldn't be creating congestion.
"The reception was so great and it just sort of felt like this community needs a market like what we hoped to build," recalls Josh.
Tsawwassen became the first "farm market" for Meridian, which up until then had been strictly a butcher shop selling old-fashioned style service and quality meats. It was the culmination of a long vision for the Penner family and a "dream come true." In the past, when searching for store locations in other communities they would try and find a nearby grocery store for convenience. But Josh says it soon became apparent they could offer local produce in Tsawwassen, especially given the proximity of local farming here in Delta.
"We wanted to be a community market that has those essential things. Fresh foods that people need on a daily basis. We knew we weren't going to be huge like a grocery store but we wanted to have those fresh daily essentials and be the type of market where we could get to know the customers."
When the store opened in 2013, Josh's younger brother Kevin became the store manager and chief of operations when they opened in Tsawwassen. Working with family is just another part of the Meridian culture.
"Business isn't all about making money. It's really a way of life so we have the privilege of working with family. We're not just owners. We're very involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and we're in all of the locations a fair bit and we know everybody.”