INDEPENDENT supermarket chain Ritchies expects it will probably double its Beechworth staff when it opens the new doors to its rebuilt Loch Street grocery store in November.
Company chief executive Fred Harrison told councillors and store senior staff in Beechworth on Monday that construction on the site of the supermarket destroyed in an arson attack a year ago would start next month.
It has been a long road since January 16 last year – the night of ‘Opera in the Alps’ – when the supermarket building, owned by the McCormack family, was set alight.
There have since been numerous insurance assessments and engineering studies to determine if any of the walls left from the fire might be used again, but Mr Harrison confirmed that what will become a new supermarket will be built on the same footprint.
“One thing I will say about Beechworth is that it’s a community that’s incredibly passionate,” he told councillors, council staff and the media.
“I’m involved in 80-odd of our stores from Inverell to Kyogle and Dromana to Mount Waverley.
“We’re in a lot of regional places, but I have never come across a more passionate community than Beechworth, and I dip my lid and admire the locals for being passionate about what happens in their town.
“For us it seems like just another supermarket, but if yours is the only supermarket in town and it’s 25-30 minutes to the nearest and there are a lot of elderly people then that’s a terrible inconvenience (when it’s not there).
“So we probably learned a lot ourselves as a business and for 10 weeks we were up here looking for a site and being proactive and coming up with a resolution.”
Mr Harrison said all credit was due to people like Indigo council development and planning director Mark Florence, council chief executive Gerry Smith and the generosity of Mick and Jo Westra who vacated their plumbing business so a temporary supermarket could be established in the fire’s aftermath.
“People gave us every piece of encouragement to try to come up with a suitable outcome,” he said.
“And we did, but we all know it was only for the short term.”
Mr Harrison said the new supermarket would show a fresh internal design and layout.
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